UFC fighter Paige VanZant says the constant push to cut weight gave her an eating disorder

UFC fighter Paige VanZant no longer wants to diet down to a lower weight class after doing so led to an eating disorder.

VanZant, who competes in Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, said the constant push to cut weight before a match was hurting her health.

“I was having different issues with myself and my body,” the fighter, 23, told BBC News. “I was giving myself an eating disorder to make the weight.”

VanZant is most comfortable at 135 lbs., but she would diet down to 115 lbs. to compete in the Strawweight division. In January, though, she witnessed a scary moment with another fighter that made her reconsider.

UFC Fight Night Weigh-in UFC Fight Night Weigh-in
Paige VanZant
| Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty

“I was at a fight where a fellow UFC fighter, Uriah Hall, was cutting weight and he pushed himself just to the brink of death. He had kidney failure and started seizing in the hallway right in front of me,” she said. “It’s because of that I’m like ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ ”

Hall has since recovered and was set to compete again in April until he suffered an arm injury. But the incident set VanZant on a new path.

“I recently went up to the Flyweight division which is 10 lbs. heavier, which is a huge difference,” she said.

UFC Fight Night: VanZant v Clark
Paige VanZant
| Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty

VanZant doesn’t fault UFC for the diet-related health scares, though she said the organization is working on rules that better ensure the safety of their fighters. She believes that most of the pressure comes from the individual.

“It’s our decision to cut weight, it’s our decision to fight at those lower weight classes,” she said.

VanZant, who finished second during the 22nd season of Dancing with the Stars, previously talked to PEOPLE about her past experiences with bullying, and her desire to speak out to help others.

“There were so many days I just want to give up, but I made it and it feels really good,” she said in 2016. “Now, hopefully some people connect to my story and it will help them.”

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