August 17, 2022

Paige VanZant is adding something new to her combat sports resume – pro wrestler.

The former UFC fighter signed a contract with All Elite Wrestling, the promotion’s president Tony Khan announced shortly after VanZant’s appearance on “AEW Dynamite” on Wednesday night.

“Wanted to give the world one more reason to hate on me: PVZ TAKING OVER!!!!,” VanZandt tweeted after the news broke.

The 27-year-old VanZant debuted in AEW in September along with other high profile member of her MMA gym American Top Team and founder Dan Lambert, who has become the on-screen manager for Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky. That relationship opened the door for VanZant’s first official storyline feud in the company after Khan tweeted last week that she would sign her contract on TV.

She came out of the crowd on Wednesday’s Dynamite to attack wrestler Tay Conti – the real-life girlfriend of Sammy Guevara. It led to Guevara losing his match and TNT championship to Sky. VanZant signing her contract on a beat up Conti, a black belt in judo who spent time in WWE, to close the show.

Conti stirred the storyline pot early Thursday morning tweeting, “she’s gonna get her ass kicked just like she did her whole fighting career” in response to the official announcement of VanZant’s signing.

VanZant, who was on the outside looking in of a feud last summer between Sky, Page, Lambert and American Top Team against Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle faction, appeared to be heading toward signing with AEW even earlier than Wednesday. She made a surprise appearance last month and got into it physically and had a pull-apart in the ring with Brandi Rhodes, AEW’s chief brand officer at the time. But Rhodes and husband Cody left the company less than two weeks later.

The Oregon native’s first match could take time to materialize. ESPN reported that there is a plan in place for her to begin training in pro wrestling and AEW’s next pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, isn’t until May 29 in Las Vegas — the home of so many UFC events. The company is, however, known for putting high-profile matches on its television shows.

VanZant, who currently lives in Florida, gives AEW a chance for further crossover appeal through American Top Team, with UFC star Jorge Masvidal and former champion Junior dos Santos already appearing on its programing. She left the UFC after six years as a free agent in 2020 after going 5-4 and signed with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship where she is 0-2. VanZant has also appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2016 and has more than 3 million Instagram followers.

Former WWE star Jeff Hardy also debuted on the show, coming to the aid of bother Matt, who signed with the company in March of 2020. Jeff was released by WWE in early January.

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