The Dancing with the Stars Season 22 cast hasn’t been officially announced yet, but information about who is joining the show is slowly starting to leak as the pros begin meeting their celebrity partners.
It should come as no surprise to Dancing with the Stars fans that Mark Ballas is returning for Season 22. The pro has competed on the show every season starting with Season 5, and he’s probably getting pretty desperate to win another Mirrorball Trophy—he hasn’t finished first on DWTS since Season 8.
According to PureDWTS, Mark Ballas has been paired with a very talented young woman who might help him finally score that elusive third win: MMA fighter Paige VanZant. Paige dropped a hint that she was joining Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars when she shared the tweet below about heading to Los Angeles for “training and photo shoots.” Many of her followers likely assumed that she’s about to start training for an upcoming fight, but Paige’s timing was suspect—this is the week the DWTS pros begin meeting their celebrity partners.
Sparkles for days Off to LA. Training and photo shoots pic.twitter.com/ibb0CvY1CJ
— Paige VanZant (@PaigeVanzantUFC) February 25, 2016
Mark Ballas has won Dancing with the Stars twice, and he was partnered with athletes both times he took the Mirroball Trophy home. His first win came during Season 6 when he was paired with Olympic ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi, and his second came during Season 8 when he was partnered up with Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson. Mark obviously does well with athletes, and PureDWTS reports that he should really enjoy working with Paige VanZant because he’s a big MMA fan.
Paige VanZant is obviously used to training hard, so Mark won’t have to worry about the fighter needing to take too many breaks during their grueling rehearsals. Paige also comes with a huge added bonus: She has dance experience.
During an interview with Fox Sports, the 21-year-old UFC strawweight contender credited her past as a competitive dancer with helping her stay poised after her MMA fighting career turned her into an overnight celebrity.
“I don’t think people really understand how much of an athlete you have to be to do dance. I was in it competitively and did a little bit of professional dance,” VanZant said.
Right now, there seems to be only one negative to Mark Ballas’ Season 22 partner. Whenever celebrities with dance experience compete on Dancing with the Stars, they do have to worry about the fans who will complain that they have an unfair advantage. You can see just how much of an advantage Paige VanZant might have by watching her show off a few of her moves in the video below.
Paige VanZant isn’t the only athlete who is rumored to be joining the Season 22 cast of Dancing with the Stars. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, PureDWTS founder John Lynn believes that there’s an 80 percent chance that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown will bring his “Bennie Biggle Wiggle” touchdown dance to the DWTS ballroom. As The Inquisitr previously reported, Brown sparked buzz that he would be joining the show when he started following the official DWTS Twitter page and pro dancer Sharna Burgess. Because Sharna is the only pro that he’s following, there’s speculation that she will be his partner.
Other celebrities rumored to be a part of the Season 22 cast include Jodie Sweetin, who actually danced with DWTS pro Val Chmerkovskiy on an episode of Fuller House, and The Facts of Life star Kim Fields. Entertainment Tonight confirmed that The Real Housewives of Atlanta star would be joining the show.
The complete cast of Dancing with the Stars Season 22 will be announced March 8 on Good Morning America, and the show will premiere March 21 on ABC.
[Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Variety]