After years of fighting harder just to be accepted, after being constantly demoralized by ignorant doubters and after outperforming their male counterparts at almost every turn, women will finally step foot inside the UFC’s Octagon this Saturday night. UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will defend her newly appointed crown against former U.S Marine Liz Carmouche in the main event of UFC 157 in what has all the makings of an instant classic.
While UFC President Dana White and the press have made it abundantly clear that their focus is on Rousey, she is not the only one responsible for the growth of women’s MMA. Women from all over the world and from a variety of weight divisions have been on the scene for years. Rousey certainly deserves a lot of credit for attracting a large scale audience and shifting White’s stance on WMMA but this is not just a one-woman show.
If you are crediting Rousey for the UFC creating a women’s division, you also have to thank Shannon Knapp and her entire team as well. As the president of the Invicta Fighting Championships, Knapp and her crew have given women the ultimate platform to showcase their skills and do what they love without dealing with any negativity. The organization was founded in April of 2012 and has generated an enormous online audience through four events.
On Friday April 5, Invicta returns with quite possibly the biggest all-women’s fight card ever assembled. Invicta FC 5 features two title fights as atomweight champ Jessica Penne defends her crown for the first time against Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson and the organization will crown their first flyweight champion between Barb Honchak and Vanessa Porto. The card also features two former Strikeforce champions, a former Bellator champion and a plethora of elite female talent.
“This card just keeps getting better and better and I think we are at that point where we are not going to do anything different to it. We are ready to roll out and just knocking on wood that there will be no injuries because this is a ridiculous card,” Knapp told BJPenn.com Radio.
“From top to bottom there is not one fight that I am not confident will be amazing. We are just extremely proud of our athletes and the movement that we’ve done. It hasn’t even been a full year since we’ve been in business yet so it’s an exciting time and it just keeps getting better.”
Based out of Kansas City, Kansas, Knapp has hosted all four of her events in the Memorial Hall but is looking to change things up this time around. Although due to the recent influx of fights on the card, she may have to switch the arena again to another location. She also hasn’t finalized the online PPV viewing but assures that the issue from the last show has been eliminated.
“The only obstacle that I’ve run into because we have 15 fights on the card now is we [might have to switch to a bigger venue]. We originally planned on doing it in Ameristar but I’m thinking of bringing it to the Independent Events Center. Tickets haven’t gone on sale yet and it’s so big that we’ve got to kind of amp it up to a bigger arena.”
“We’re going to do a PPV model but I’m not sure exactly because we’re still finalizing those details so I don’t want to talk much about it yet. One thing I can tell you is that this time I purchased satellite time so this will be a whole different ball game when it comes to the quality and what the viewers are going to be seeing.”
Recently headlines were made when Knapp announced the signing of former Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion Christiane “Cyborg” Santos. After back and forth negations with the UFC, Santos opted to get out of her ZUFFA contract and sign with Invicta.
Dana White shook things up even more when he announced that he offered “Cyborg” the option of fighting for Invicta while under UFC contract and that he even reached out to Knapp to make the deal happen. Santos declined White’s offer and will fight top ranked Ediane Gomes at Invicta FC 5 in April.
“I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little surprised [that Dana White reached out to me about Cyborg] but I was very honored and flattered that he would think we were competent and capable enough of an organization [to promote one of his fighters],” Knapp said.
“I definitely didn’t expect that though but I was surprised that Cris didn’t [take their offer]. Even though she’s signed with us she still has opportunities to reach an agreement with them and not damage that relationship.”
Santos hasn’t fought since December 2011 and is returning to MMA after a yearlong suspension due to testing positive for the banned substance stanozolol. Many fans have turned on “Cyborg” since then but Knapp believes everyone deserves a second chance and Invicta is the right place for her.
“I think we’re an organization that will welcome Cris in because everybody makes mistakes. Everybody deserves a second chance and I think we are an organization that will help give her confidence back and get her back on the road that she needs to go on.”
To listen to the full interview you can do so below:"cris cyborg", BJPenn.Com Radio, BJPennDotCom Radio, Christiane "Cyborg" Santos, Dana White, Invicta, invicta fc, Invicta Fighting Championships, Liz Carmouche, Ronda Rousey, Shannon Knapp, ufc 157, WMMA, Women's MMA