Despite not being a dominant champion of the calibre of Conor McGregor or former UFC and WWE star Ronda Rousey , Paige VanZant is one of the most popular stars of Ultimate Fighting Championship. She has more Instagram followers than champions Amanda Nunes and the Bruce Lee-inspired Zhang Weili combined, and in 2015 she signed a sponsorship agreement with Reebok after just a single UFC fight – a deal that some sneered was more about the American’s physical attractiveness than her abilities in the ring. Either way, VanZant is undoubtedly one of UFC’s most recognisable competitors. On July 11 she faces Brazilian fighter Amanda Ribas at the launch of the UFC Fight Island, a new venue specially constructed in Abu Dhabi for the purpose of hosting international fights during Covid-19. If you’re not familiar with her, here are five things to know about UFC’s most popular female star. 1. She is a survivor of sexual assault View this post on Instagram Bad to the bone. A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on Mar 16, 2020 at 1:49pm PDT Whatever fame and success VanZant has now achieved comes after overcoming a horrific crime perpetrated against her. It took a while for VanZant to talk about what transpired that night and in the mean time she was seriously bullied at school. At the time it was difficult for her to open up and discuss the assault but VanZant has said that the rise of the #MeToo movement made her feel less alone. How 5 of MMA’s best female fighters reached the top It was in her 2018 biography, Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life , that she revealed to the public what happened, but in the immediate aftermath, when the true account of that night was not known, she was seriously bullied at school. 2. Her real name is Paige Sletten View this post on Instagram I’m not a gangster but I can tell you I love to throw hands A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on Dec 12, 2019 at 3:06pm PST Much of the bullying at school centred around the rumour that VanZant had willingly slept with boys at school. Her original surname, Sletten, was twisted into Slutten and used to smear her. One day when she returned home from school, trees outside her house had been decorated with condoms. The bullying became so intense that the family left their hometown in Oregon and suggested Paige change her name. 3. These hard experiences led to her taking up fighting View this post on Instagram Follow your dreams.... lol ☠️ A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on Dec 21, 2019 at 10:56am PST Understandably, VanZant was tremendously shaken by the events that took place in her youth. She described herself as a “hidden, shy, timid person” when younger. Her father nudged her into fighting by taking her to a gym to try and help boost her self-esteem through exercise and fitness. These 7 kick-ass Asian women don’t need a man to save them The move paid off with VanZant embracing the challenge of competitive fighting. She told The Guardian it was this that helped her escape a “victim mindset”. 4. She believes she could make more money on Instagram than battling in the ring View this post on Instagram I just want to take some time to thank the people who got me here. Even with 2 arm surgeries 2019 was one of my favorite and most successful years. Thank you to my amazing management team @janus_sports thank you to my coaches and team at @americantopteampdx , my amazing husband @austinv170mma , my beautiful family and of course all the #FANZANTS for continuous love and support. Here are some of my favorite memories. I can’t wait to for 2020 because the things we have in store are going to be HUGE. Starting off the year right with a fight camp for one of the biggest fights of my career. Love you all. What are your favorite memories of my 2019??? And again, what’s in store for 2020??? A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on Dec 29, 2019 at 12:43pm PST VanZant has been critical of the wages fighters make at UFC. Earlier this year she revealed she earns “US$46,000 to show [at a fight] and US$46,000 to win” and claimed that she could make more money promoting brands on Instagram than scrapping it out in the ring. UFC ‘karate hottie’ Michelle Waterson serves body goals Countering accusations that she is too focused on life outside of UFC – she has taken time to feature in TV shows like Dancing with the Stars – VanZant is foregoing any sponsorship deals in the run up to her fight with Ribas so that she can focus entirely on her training. 5. She is tough as nails having competed with a broken arm View this post on Instagram Well... I broke my arm in the first! I was able to finish the fight but as you can see, had a hard time recovering and throwing my right. Thank you to the @ufc and to my opponent. Thank you to my coaches and most importantly my head coach’s @therealburkecamp and @fabianoscherner . I’ll be back better and stronger than ever! it’s all apart of the fight game. God had other plans for me. darn spinning back fist. A post shared by Paige VanZant (@paigevanzant) on Jan 14, 2018 at 9:54pm PST Although her detractors claim VanZant is not dedicated to fighting, her guts in the ring demonstrate otherwise. Her 8-4 record is not the most impressive – and she is a significant underdog going into the Ribas fight – but in January 2018 when she fought Jessica Rose-Clark, VanZant broke her arm in the second round. How Bruce Lee inspired China’s UFC champ Zhang Weili Although aware of the damage, VanZant was determined to fight on and lasted until the end of match, losing on points. She has fractured her right arm twice since then. Although a life outside the ring might appear easier and more lucrative, VanZant is determined to fight on. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .