THE war of words between Paige VanZant and Dana White shows no signs of abating.
The 26-year-old MMA star used to be the UFC president’s darling, and was part of his inner circle of trusted fighters.
However, a run of defeats, injuries and a row over pay – has soured their relationship.
And with 26-year-old VanZant’s UFC contract set to expire, and White refusing to engage in discussion to renew it, it appears that their relationship has never been frostier.
It seems like a long time ago White, 50, showered praise upon the Oregon native – claiming she could beat Floyd Mayweather.
There was a time when VanZant could do no wrong for White.
One of the youngest fighters in the UFC stable, and pretty to boot, it wasn’t difficult for White to market her fights.
She was, and still could be, a great face for the brand.
Earlier in her career, she was handed great fights – winning four of her first five bouts.
It was claimed she was in White’s ‘inner circle’, with the likes of Jon Jones, Conor McGregor and Derrick Lewis also getting favourable contests in the past because of their marketing pull.
An appearance on US TV show Dancing with the Stars helped build her profile and introduced a UFC competitor to a mainstream audience who was sweet, charming and inoffensive.
In 2015, before Mayweather and McGregor locked horns in their exhibition boxing match, White made a claim that any UFC fighter could “kick Mayweather’s a**”.
“Do you not believe that?! [McGregor would beat Mayweather], White told TMZ.
“Of course. Any of these guys – [Dana points to UFC fighters passing by] he’d beat Mayweather……he’d beat Mayweather.
“All of these guys would beat Mayweather. Not just Conor, she’d [Paige VanZant passing by] beat Mayweather right there.”
With 2.6m followers on Instagram, VanZant has built an army of fans who enjoy a sneak-peek into her life – making her an advertiser’s dream.
Last year, she moaned that she makes more money on the social media platform than in the octagon.
“I make way more money sitting at home, posting pictures on Instagram, than I do fighting,” VanZant said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.
She even said that taking a fight could hinder any future earnings, should she get injured.
“If I were to stop everything I do outside of fighting and take a fight, I would be at a loss financially,” she said.
“With TV endorsements and all the things that I do, and coming off of Sports Illustrated, if I’m gonna keep breaking my arm, if I’m gonna keep sacrificing for this sport – I feel like it’s all fighters and all female fighters need to be recognised.
“When I did my contract negotiation the last time, the talk was, ‘I can’t pay you more than a female champion.’
“OK, but why are comparing me to just women? All of us should be getting paid more in general. Especially the women and especially based on your star power.”
“Yeah, good for her, that’s awesome,” White responded when he heard VanZant’s comments.
“If a fighter can make more money doing other things, good for her.”
After VanZant was comprehensively beaten by Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 over the weekend, which was the last fight on her contract with the championship, White was pretty adamant where her future lies.
He said in a press conference: “When you talk all that stuff, ‘I’m not being paid enough,’ and you’re fighting inconsistently, one time in the last year, (suffering) injuries, and then got smoked in the first round of the fight?
“She should definitely test free agency.”
To put it mildly, White wasn’t exactly forthcoming with offering VanZant a new deal.
VanZant has since cryptically fuelled speculation that she could make a sensation return to the UFC.
She posted a smiling selfie to her Instagram page alongside the caption: “The sun will rise, and we will try again.”
It would certainly begin a new chapter in the VanZant/White relationship.