"I made it and it feels really good," the UFC fighter says of surviving her bullying
Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin

Paige VanZant doesn’t like talking about her painful high school memories.

But on Monday’s episode of Dancing with the Stars, the UFC fighter spoke in depth for the first time about her experience of being bullied during high school.

“I feel like it was an important moment for myself because I’ve never opened up about it,” VanZant told PEOPLE at Mixology in Los Angeles after Monday’s live show. “I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me, and it was really a big step for me.”

VanZant, 22, revealed that after making the varsity cheerleading team as a freshman, she was subjected to name calling and had trash thrown at her by upperclassmen who had not made the team.

Eventually her father moved the family from Oregon to Nevada to allow his daughter a fresh start.

“There were so many days I just want to give up, but I made it and it feels really good,” said VanZant, who will compete for the 22nd Mirrorball trophy next week. “Now, hopefully some people connect to my story and it will help them.”

Dancing with the Stars‘ two-part finale airs Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.