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Paige Vanzant: UFC gave me an eating disorder

Paige Vanzant in action at the UFC Fight Night Image copyright Getty Images

One of the biggest upcoming stars in the UFC has told Newsbeat the extreme measures she took to reduce her weight gave her an eating disorder.

Paige Vanzant is a 23-year-old fighter from Oregon, United States.

She's been competing in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for more than a decade.

Fighters losing, or 'cutting' weight, before a bout has become controversial with some people suffering serious consequences.

"I was having different issues with myself and my body," Paige tells us.

"I was giving myself an eating disorder to make the weight."

Image copyright Getty Images

Her experiences trying to make the 115lbs (52kg) limit in the UFC Strawweight division made Paige realise she needed to change her weight limit for the good of her health. She normally weighs 135lbs (61kg).

"I recently went up to the flyweight division which is 10lbs (4.5kg) heavier, which is a huge difference.

Paige revealed she recently saw first-hand the dangers that fighters who drastically cut their weight can expose themselves to.

"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.

"It's because of that I'm like 'I cant do this anymore'."

Image copyright Getty Images

Paige says the UFC is trying to introduce new rules to help reduce the risks of serious weight loss, but accepts the final decision is ultimately made by the fighters.

"It's our decision to cut weight, it's our decision to fight at those lower weight classes."

Once they've successfully made the weight, there are a whole different set of injuries a UFC fighter can pick up inside the octagon. Something Paige can relate to.

"In my last fight I broke my arm pretty bad and had to go and have a titanium plate and seven screws put in my forearm.

"I have broken my nose in one of my fights and got cut open pretty bad. It's just something you accept as a part of it.

"The biggest concern for me is just getting the injury healed as soon as possible, so I can start training again."

Image copyright Getty Images

Paige has won seven of her 11 professional fights and says her passion for combat sport is only getting stronger.

"I don't think anybody loves getting hit in the face, but I guess I love punching people.

"For me it's not even violence, it's one person's skill over another."

The UFC takes over London's O2 on Saturday 17 March.

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