Dancing with the Stars will feature their first female Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter, Paige VanZant, in their new season that begins this Sunday. Paige has shown the world her strength in the fighting cage, now she’s out to show them that strong women can be feminine. She told the Los Angeles Times the following.
“I’m excited to show that woman can be strong and be feminine at the same time. People like watching me fight because I don’t look like the typical fighter and people can relate to that…. [They’re] really surprised to see that women fighters are so technical and we leave everything out there.”
Dancing with the Stars has included two other UFC fighters in previous seasons: Chuck Liddell in Season 9 and Randy Couture in Season 19. Liddell and his dance partner, Anna Trebunskaya, placed 11th. Couture and his Dancing with the Stars partner Karina Smirnoff also placed 11th. Both men were retired when they competed on DWTS. Paige will be the first active UFC fighter to compete.
Paige VanZant is breaking ground as both the first female UFC fighter and the first active UFC fighter to compete on Dancing with the Stars, and the popularity of female UFC fighters is growing, thanks in large part to the success of Ronda Rousey. VanZant commented on the increasing popularity of women in the UFC.
“I think the reason people love women’s MMA is because it’s something they haven’t seen before. It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s different and I think that’s why it has gained such a rise in popularity among girls in the last few years.”
Paige brings some dancing experience to Dancing with the Stars. Her mom owned a dance studio when she was a child. She’s eager to show what she knows about dancing, something else people haven’t seen before.
“I’m really excited that they picked me to be on the show and it’s an honor that they reached out to me. I kind of grew up in the [dance] studio because my mom owned [one] and I danced since I was little. I’m excited to see if I still have a little of that dance side left.”
Paige is eager to show that female fighters are more than the violence people see when they are in the cage.
VanZant won’t be the only athlete competing on Dancing with the Stars. Other athletes in the lineup include Broncos linebacker and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, and former quarterback Doug Flutie. Athletes tend to do well on Dancing with the Stars. Past champions who were athletes are football player Emmitt Smith from Season 3, Olympic speed Skater Apolo Ohno from Season 4, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi from Season 6, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson from Season 8, football player Hines Ward from Season 12, football player Donald Driver from Season 14, and Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis from Season 18. Quite a lengthy list of athletes who have shown they have the moves not only in sports but on the Dancing with the Stars dance floor. Some have attributed this success to the fact that they are used to long training sessions, which gives them an advantage when they step into the studio with their Dancing with the Stars professional dance partner.
Dancing with the Stars has aired on ABC since 2005. It’s based on a British series called Strictly Come Dancing. Carrie Ann Inalba and Bruno Tonioli have served as Dancing with the Star judges from the beginning. Len Goodman sat out the last round of competition, but returns to the Dancing with the Stars judging table starting this Sunday.
[Photo by Bryan Steffy]