Paige VanZant won her UFC debut fight on Saturday, continuing on her meteoric rise to MMA stardom.

Paige VanZant vs. Kailin Curran

VanZant, a 20-year-old former model, beat fellow UFC newbie Kailin Curran on Saturday with a third-round TKO. The duo won the title of Fight of the Night, which comes with a $50,000 bonus each.

Paige VanZant Wins First UFC Fight

VanZant stumbled into UFC after she picked up boxing at 15, and eventually working her way up to MMA fights when she was 18. At 20, she was unable to compete in The Ultimate Fighter: 20 because there would be alcohol in the reality series’ fighter house, and Vanzant seemed proud to make her mark in a fight, rather than on the show.

“I definitely proved myself in this fight. I proved that I didn’t need to be on The Ultimate Fighter to make a name for myself. And I’m really excited to fight whoever comes out of the The Ultimate Fighter house as soon as possible,” VanZant said after the fight.

At 5’4” and 115 pounds, VanZant is making history as the second youngest female in the UFC, and her fight with Curran was one of the first in UFC’s women strawweight. When she was declared the winner of the fight, VanZant burst into tears.

To prepare, VanZant revealed that she studied tapes of Curran’s previous fights to get a read on her signature moves and practice how to evade them.

“It’s an unreal experience. I worked so hard for this. I worked hard on my conditioning and it really paid off. I’m so excited – it doesn’t feel like it’s real yet. I knew she [Curran] was a really tough fighter and I knew one of us was going to land the first punch. I wanted to go for it and was able to do it,” VanZant told reporters following the fight.

She may still be in shock of her first win, but VanZant already has her eye on the ultimate prize: to be crowned the strawweight champion. “I can be the star of this weight class. I have the potential to win every fight the UFC offers me. I want the belt and I definitely have the mindset of a champion,” she said in a recent interview.

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