Before reading Paige VanZant’s book, Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life, I did not know how well I would relate to her story. After all, aside from our affinity for mixed martial arts, there wasn’t much that I knew we had in common. It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t need to share commonality with her to appreciate everything she had been through. Like everyone else, VanZant has her own unique story. Her life came with its fair share of challenges—challenges that I feel she overcame admirably.
Surviving the Fight of my Life
VanZant was sexually assaulted by four boys. The boys who committed this horrendous act instructed her to keep quiet about it in the aftermath. On the next school day, one of the boys told her that they had burned her outfit to get rid of the evidence. These were the clothes that she had abandoned while escaping from the house where the rape had taken place. In typical high school fashion, the word about this incident got around quickly. Students presumptuously concluded that this event had been consensual and decided it reflected poorly on VanZant. As a result, she was relentlessly bullied by her peers.
She describes how the traumatic sexual assault and the resulting exile at her high school became dual catalysts to her suicidal thoughts. She candidly reflects on times when she considered shooting up the school where she was being mistreated. While she never acted on these feelings, she did make an attempt on her own life. Luckily, she survived.
To reclaim her happiness from bullies, Vanzant moved to a new town and even changed her name from ‘Paige Sletten’ to the name we all know now, Paige VanZant. While these changes marked a new chapter in her life, additional hurdles would present themselves in the coming years.
She found herself dating somebody who was extremely controlling. After seeing more and more of her new boyfriend’s darker side, she abruptly ended the relationship. She immediately cut off all contact with him; going as far as changing her own phone number. As one might imagine, this didn’t sit particularly well with him. The next time she ran into her ex, she was forcefully kidnapped by him. You read that correctly. Paige VanZant was kidnapped by her controlling and enraged ex-boyfriend. She describes this terrifying experience at length in her book. And in yet another shocking tale of bravery and misfortune, Paige VanZant prevailed.
Father and Finding MMA
Her dad was a rugged man. He passed a lot of his tougher qualities onto his only daughter. In fact, her father even facilitated her initial MMA exposure by introducing her to Ken Shamrock. The girly girl who doubled as a tom boy, found mixed martial arts at a time when she needed to feel powerful. Not only did MMA feel like an outlet to sort through her negative feelings, it also showed her that she had a gift. As it turned out, she wasn’t half bad at this fighting thing.
MMA opened many doors for VanZant. She ended up training at Team Alpha Male, she signed a UFC contract, competed on Dancing with the Stars, and even gained some lucrative sponsorships along the way. Most importantly, MMA helped give Paige VanZant her life back.
Nowadays, VanZant is looked upon as somebody with a positive and upbeat personality. Learning about the pain she suffered through while growing up, it’s surprising to know that both timelines are shared by the same person. ‘Rise: Surviving the Fight of my Life’ is a book that calls upon readers to lift one another like MMA has lifted up Paige VanZant.
Paige VanZant is slated to compete against Rachel Ostovich on the first UFC on ESPN card. This match-up takes place on January 19th, 2019 on ESPN+. Paige will be aiming to get her first divisional win at flyweight.