When she steps into the cage on Saturday at UFC Brooklyn on ESPN+, Paige VanZant will have been away from the Octagon for more than a year when she faces Rachael Ostovich.
While she’s had similar layoffs in her career this extended time off has been the toughest of her career. One of the ways the UFC flyweight has helped with being sidelined is enlisting a mental coach for this training camp.
“This was by far the most challenging, especially because I was forced to not train.” VanZant told MMAJunkie. “I’ve been working with a mental coach, with an athletic coach to try to get the mental side stronger. It’s hard to come back from such a significant injury and significant layoff. That’s one thing I think is going to be a huge addition to my coach. Going into every fight I have those doubts and those questions and those fears, but I feel, for this one, it feels right. Everything feels right, and it’s falling into place perfectly. This is my moment to show I really belong right here, right now.”
Paige VanZant (7-4) had to endure two surgeries to repair her broken arm following her loss to Jessica-Rose Clark at UFC Fight Night 124. It’s the first time in her career she’s dealt with an extended layoff due to injury. She’s also in the midst of the worst losing streak of her career, heading into Saturday’s contest off back-to-back losses. One battle she won’t have to face is the weight cut, where she’s much happier competing at 125-pounds.
“I cannot believe that I ever used to make 115, especially cause I’m walking around, and I don’t see myself as being much smaller than anybody in the 125 division. My coaches and my husband, I’ve never cut to 115 with this camp, and they were like, ‘There’s no way.’ I can’t believe I used to do 115. I’m getting so hungry, and I don’t know why they do these media days on Thursday, the hardest weight cut day. I feel like I’m really cranky, and I’m snapping at some people. I’m not trying to. But I feel good. It’s typical. This is the way I feel every weight cut, and cutting any amount of weight is miserable. But I’m looking forward to getting through it and performing on Saturday.”
The 24-year-old will be looking for her first win since Aug. 2016 and her first victory in this new division.
“Winning this fight, I will have my first win in this division. I’ve got to continue to climb up the rankings. I would love to fight somebody in the top 15, continue to fight someone ranked and move my way up.”
This debut UFC on ESPN+ card takes place this Saturday at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY and is headlined by flyweight champion Henry Cejudo defending his title against bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw.
Who do you think will win between Paige VanZant vs. Rachel Ostovich?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/18/2019.