Written by: Karim Zidan
Upstart MMA organizations are not rare to come by; many have attempted to follow in the footsteps of the UFC and carve themselves a share of the rapidly-expanding international MMA market, and most have failed miserably in the process. This is why it is always refreshing to witness the birth of an organization that is not only looking to separate itself from the pack, but is tapping into a largely untouched reservoir of fighters: women fighters.
InvictaFC is certainly catching the attention of the MMA world. The all-female MMA organization’s sudden arrival along with the unveiling of their inaugural card–which happens to contain a star-studded line-up of female fighters–made a significant first impression on fight fans internationally and acted as an unspoken declaration of “we’re legitimate, and we’re here to stay.”
InvictaFC is the year-old brainchild of Shannon Knapp and Janet Martin. With the seemingly meteoric rise of MMA as a international sport, Shannon believed it was time for an important change in the MMA scene. In an exclusive interview with Shannon Knapp, the Flying Knee MMA was able to gain some insight into the birth and development of this unique organization.
“I got into this sport because I am an advocate for the sport and the athletes,” Knapp stated. “This side of the sport needs somebody that isn’t afraid to fight this fight and is willing to take a risk and this is my kind of fight.”
When Invicta was first founded in 2011, Shannon knew that starting an all-women organization would not be an easy task, but she was motivated. “My reasoning was a need for change and someone willing to take a risk to make a difference in this side of the sport,” She said when asked what pushed her to create InvictaFC, “I am not a cookie cutter kind of female; I am used to the deck being stacked against me as a female in this business.” She added, “I understand the business and I know that this is an uphill climb, but I am in for the long haul.”
It’s not as if Shannon Knapp is new to MMA; she has been inside the industry in various positions for over a decade now. “I started out in the business as a sideline reporter/commentator,” Knapp recalled, “I was a matchmaker and athlete relations specialist at Strikeforce. When I first started there were not a lot of jobs available so at times I had to work 5 and 6 jobs just to make a simple living. At one point I was Bas Rutten’s assistant, Randy Couture’s assistant, I worked for Sportfight, King Of The Cage, UFC and other random small promotions.”
When Shannon is questioned about the depth of the talent pool in women’s MMA and Dana White’s reasoning for keeping WMMA out of the UFC, she responds with: “What Dana says is true, but here is the flipside to that statement… There is a lack of depth in the women’s side of this sport, but the lack of depth comes from lack of organization.”
“The female athletes have limited opportunities to fight so many of them are jumping up and down in weight divisions or fighting at catch weights which makes it very hard to gauge, or build depth in these divisions. We at InvictaFC are committed to building legitimate weight classes which will in return help to build and stabilize depth in the different weigh divisions.”
Another interesting aspect of InvictaFC is their decision to hire Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal to do color commentary for their fight cards. Shannon’s reasoning behind this decision came from her past experience working with Lawal during her time with Strikeforce: “I worked with Mo at Strikeforce and I have always found him to have an amazing ability to breakdown fights identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the matchups. He has an extensive wealth of knowledge in this sport and many sports for that matter.”
Mauro Ranallo will be doing play-by-play and Julie Kedzie will also be a part of the broadcast team. When asked to comment on this, Shannon stated: “I think the diversity of the commentating team that I have put together will surprise a lot of people in a very positive way. Each one of the commentators brings something unique to the group and many years of experience in this sport.”
When it came to discussing her wish-list of signees, Knapp laughed and told us: “There are a lot on that list. There are so many talented young athletes out there that just need an opportunity to be seen.” She also expressed enthusiasm for their second fight card, and even thinks that it may rival their first.
With the inaugural event only days away, the MMA world eagerly anticipates the arrival of the promotion that hopes to one day become the premier destination for Women’s Mixed Martial Arts.
InvictaFC 1 takes place April 28th and will be available for free on the InvictaFC official website.
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