On her 21st birthday last week, UFC strawweight Paige VanZant wasn’t planning a party or calculating just how much alcohol she could imbibe after midnight struck.
Instead, she was training for a main-card fight at FOX UFC Fight Night against Felice Herrig while contemplating shaving her head for a cancer charity as a way to give back and show her appreciation for all the things she’s been given while others are fighting to survive.
"I feel so blessed. I have so many opportunities handed to me, and I’m able to wake up everyday and not have to go to a 9-to-5 job. I get to go to training and do everything I love. It’s like as blessed as I am, I want to do something for those aren’t as blessed as I am," VanZant told FOX Sports.
"A lot of people are fighting cancer, and that’s something I don’t have to go through. I don’t have to wonder when it’s going to be my last day. I just feel like I’ve been blessed by God by all these wonderful things. I wanted to do something to give back."
VanZant made the announcement on March 30, and she said she was shocked by the amount of backlash she felt when she suggested shaving her head for charity.
Rumors are true:) I will be shaving my head for charity!!!! Dates aren't set yet but I am ready to do something to give back. Stay tuned!!!
"I’ve had a lot of negativity from the head-shaving idea, so maybe I’ll rethink it and try to think of something else I can do to give back. Maybe I’ll donate money because it’s an amazing cause," VanZant said.
Before she was in the UFC, VanZant was a dancer and model, and her gold locks are certainly a signature part of her look, but the way she approaches the idea of shaving her head for charity is her hair will certainly come back and this is a great way to raise a huge amount of money for people in need.
"I’m fine with it. Looks aren’t everything, and hair grows back," VanZant said. "I would love to do something, and I think St. Baldrick’s is an awesome charity. I want to help out those families and raising money for those families so they don’t have to worry about it. So they can focus 100 percent on their family member that’s fighting to stay alive."
A potential preview of what’s to come?
St. Baldrick’s Foundation routinely holds head-shaving events, and the organization has raised over $154 million in nine years, with the money going toward research and assistance for children’s cancer.
VanZant said she couldn’t think of a better way to give back, especially with a chance to help children in need.
At this point, her decision to shave her head isn’t set in stone, but VanZant said once her fight is over on April 18, she’ll make a final call and either way plans to do something major to support the charity.
"I’m in a sport. I didn’t think it was going to matter if I have hair or not. Maybe it would be easier. I wouldn’t have to braid my hair before a fight!" VanZant joked.
"I’m going to completely focus on this fight right now. Once I have a little bit more time to organize a fund-raiser for charity, I really want to raise money and then we’ll focus on that."