Paige VanZant is quickly becoming the celebrity to beat on Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars, and the UFC fighter is really bringing out the competitive streak of pro partner Mark Ballas. However, Mark isn’t just focused on taking down the other DWTS couples—he actually wants to beat up on his partner.
TVLine has declared Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas the early favorites to take home the Mirrorball trophy, and the oddsmakers over on the Bovada betting website agree that the pair has a 2-1 shot of winning Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars.
“Not only has VanZant’s UFC background given her the athleticism required to slay in the DWTS ballroom, but she’s got years of dance experience under her belt, as well,” TVLine writes.
Paige VanZant didn’t just dabble in dance when she was younger—she was actually a competitive dancer before she was a MMA fighter. The Fumble reports that Paige’s parents own a dance studio, so the 21-year-old was able to learn a wide variety of dance styles. She spent more than half her life—13 years, to be exact—dancing jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. The video below shows Paige showing off her ability to spin, high kick, and move her hips. She also incorporates a few fight moves into her choreography.
As you can see, Paige VanZant is going to be a very formidable foe on DWTS. It also helps her cause that Mark Ballas is extremely excited to be partnered up with someone so talented and tough; Mark is known for his incredible choreography, so perhaps his new muse will help him come up with some amazing stuff for Season 22 of Dancing with the Stars. Mark shared a few kind words about Paige on his Instagram page.
“I couldn’t be more enthusiastic for this season,” Mark wrote. “I have been a fan of this girl in the cage for a while & am thrilled to be her partner for this next chapter of her life. I’m a firm believer in everything that she stands for, which is to never be put in a box.”
“She will be an excellent role model for young Girls that want to expand their horizons & do more than one thing.”
Mark Ballas is a massive fan of Paige VanZant’s line of work, and his MMA love has possibly inspired his mouth to write a check that his body won’t be able to cash. Paige told TMZ that Mark wants to face off against her in the octagon, and he’s made a bet that he can last one minute before he submits to his strawweight partner. Paige says that she’s pushing Mark to make good on his promise to face off against her, but he keeps pushing their battle royale back because he’s afraid that he’s going to get hurt.
“He told me I’m not allowed to hit him,” Paige revealed. For the record, she thinks Mark will only last 30 seconds before he taps out.
Below you can see an example of what Mark doesn’t want Paige to do to his face.
If Paige VanZant helps Mark take home his third Mirrorball trophy, maybe he’ll feel obligated to make good on his promise. In the meantime, he needs to stop fretting about their fight and stay focused on helping Paige perfect her fox trot. According to TV Guide, this is the first dance that Mark and Paige will be performing on DWTS, and their ballroom beatdown will be to the beat of Jess Glynne’s “Ain’t Got Far To Go.”
It’s important to point out that Paige VanZant’s past dance experience could actually hinder her just as much as it helps her on Dancing with the Stars—the judges will be tougher on her, and some fans will think that it turns Season 22 into an unfair fight. According to OK! Magazine, many DWTS fans complained that Alfonso Ribeiro’s experience tap-dancing on Broadway as a kid gave him an unfair advantage over the other Season 19 celebrity contestants. However, the backlash wasn’t big enough to stop The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star from taking home the Mirrorball trophy.
According to Wetpaint, Paige’s partner doesn’t think that fans should get up in arms every time a celebrity with dance experience joins the show.
“At no point ever did anyone say that the show is about people that don’t have dance experience,” Mark Ballas said during a 2013 Spreecast chat. “It’s not called Dancing With the Inexperienced of Dance Stars, it’s called Dancing With the Stars. And it’s virtually impossible to find 12 people in the entertainment industry that don’t have dance experience.”
You can see if Paige VanZant uses her past dance experience to solidify her spot as the Dancing with the Stars favorite when the show premieres March 21 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
[Image via Mark Ballas/Instagram]