When I started fighting, initially I didn’t know I was going to make it a career and then after I had my first pro fight, I was talking to my dad and I said, “We really need to think of a fight name.” I posted on Facebook and asked people to think of my name. When I read the list to my dad and he heard ‘12 Gauge,’ he just knew that was the one that fit me the best. I grew up in a very, very small town in the middle of nowhere in the country while hunting and fishing so 12 Gauge just kind of fit my personality. It’s who I am. I’m a small town girl who grew up hunting.
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I’m a very, very girly person. I think that’s why people … have really connected to me in the fight world because I am different than a lot of fighters. I definitely like to have my nails manicured pretty much at all times just because I love getting them done, but I think it’s cute and I pretty much always get pink. Pink’s my favorite color.
I have just the most supportive parents in the world. They’ve given up a lot for me to make this a career before any of us could even think that I would be successful in MMA. I told them I wanted to do it and they moved me out to Las Vegas, it took them a long time to pay off those bills. They helped me get an apartment in Las Vegas and then they helped me move to Sacramento because I told them Vegas wasn’t working. My parents drop everything to help me with my career and that’s the only reason I’ve been able to be so successful. My dad goes to absolutely every single one of my fights and my mom babysits my dog—an American Eskimo Chihuahua named Dennis–while I fight. He’s the cutest thing ever!
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4. VanZant says she’s kitchen savvy.
I was in college pursuing my business degress before I decided to just pursue fighting and go pro. I also really love cooking, so if I wasn’t a fighter, maybe I’d be some sort of chef. I’m very passionate about a lot of different things, but even at a young age I kind of knew I was going to be successful. I practiced my signature when I was starting at 5 years old! I always had a desire to be bigger than life but didn’t know how, then I found that through fighting.
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5. Her DWTS costars inspired her.
While on Season 22 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, I was able to meet a lot of successful athletes. I would say a big inspiration was [former NFL player for the New England Patriots] Doug Flutie. I looked up to him because of his character—he’s just a stand-out guy. He was very successful in football, but just meeting him, he’s very humble. He is one of the nicest athletes, you would never know how successful he is. Doug was awesome to be around.
If you think you want to try fighting, start with a cardio kickboxing class. You can get an idea of whether you like the movements. It’s definitely a great work out! My best friend Alexa used to take some classes here in Reno with me when I first started. I have a competitive fighter side, but every now and then, I can convince people to take a class with me.
7. VanZant ditched her previous sports superstitions.
I used to [have a pre-fight routine], actually, which is really funny. I always wrapped my left hand first, I always used the same walk out song [“Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy]. I had a lot of … not superstitions, but I went into the fight always doing the same things before every fight and then after I lost my last fight [against Rose Namajunas in December], I told myself I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I just told myself that I’m going to break all of those habits, so when I got hands wrapped I let whoever was wrapping my hands pick what hand he wanted to wrap first and it was the right hand. I picked a new walk out song, I wore different clothes, I made sure I broke all of my habits just to prove to myself that those things don’t matter. I went into the fight against Bec Rawlings in August, broke all of those habits and won.