The Invicta Fighting Championships return to action this weekend in Kansas City, Missouri for the promotion’s first pay-per-view. Invicta FC 6: Coenen vs. Cyborg II is an anticipated, and historic, card for the all-women’s MMA promotion and the promotion’s CEO, Shannon Knapp, could not be more excited herself.
MMAFrenzy caught up with the former UFC and Strikeforce executive to discuss a variety of topics including Invicta FC 6, transitioning to PPV, UFC 162, and more.
Saturday will mark Invicta’s first pay-per-view, what has that transition been like? Is there anything different about moving to PPV and why make the move now?
It came down to the fact that we wanted as many options for our fans to view the card as possible. It also is a chance for us to gain some new fans that are not necessarily the die-hard MMA fans but the fans that typically look for pay-per-views during the weekend.
As for the transition itself, it hasn’t been that different. There are a few added things; we’re doing the same thing we did on [Invicta FC 5], just on cable. So in that respect it hasn’t been troublesome in anyway.
The MMA world has experienced a bit of a collective hangover from Chris Weidman’s knockout of Anderson Silva at UFC 162, What were your thoughts on the upset and how do you deal with something like that as a promoter?
I’ve known Anderson for a long time and I really like him. I said before the fight that if Anderson shows up, and he’s got his head in the game, I think nobody can beat him BUT if he doesn’t, he is going to get caught. I think Anderson has come to a point in his career where he hasn’t felt as challenged as he needs to be. I saw it happen with Matt Hughes too. You keep winning and you get comfortable, and it takes that spark out of you. Now did I see it going that way? Not at all.
From a promoter’s side, you can look at it two ways. Yeah, it’s bad to see a champion go down like that, but look what it did. It opened that weight division up to multiple possibilities for fighters to challenge for the belt. Whereas for Anderson, I mean it’s like us trying to find people to fight Cris “Cyborg,” choices are limited. So I don’t look at is as a negative. Would it have been a negative if the fight had gone five rounds like that? Sure, but the way it happened is one of those “Oh Crap!” moments and that’s always good for promotions.
I wish Anderson much happiness and success. If he wants to focus on his family and his gym, I get it and understand.
It somewhat reminded me a lot of when Fedor Emelianenko lost to Fabricio Werdum, where both seemed to accept they got caught and it snapped them back to reality after taking too many risks. Did you sense that?
Yeah, you hate to see a champion go down like that, but if you’re asking for it, it will find you. That’s a fact!
Speaking of title fights, Invicta FC 6 is a pretty stacked card, how excited are you to be able to put this fight on?
This is my all-time favorite rematch! I think both athletes have grown and are both bringing new sets of skills from the first time they faced each other. I know people don’t like it when a promoter says “it’s going to be a war!” but I tell you that this will be a battle! This fight is one of those fights where it’s going to be action-packed and I can’t tell you who is going to win.
Cris is tough but Marloes is tough too. Plus, she’s [Marloes] been in there with her once before and she has poured her heart-and-soul into training for this rematch. So she is, in many ways, a different fighter than Cris faced in their first fight. Marloes is one of those people that Cris has to take very seriously.
Invicta seems to have a good working relationship with most MMA companies in order to give women opportunities, how do you maintain such a good working relationship with the various promotions and balance it with putting on your own shows?
Honestly, that is it right there. It is about doing what is best for the athletes. You know, as for working with other companies and promotions, I find that if you’re respectful it works. It’s like that old rule, “treat people how you want to be treated.” Not to mention, we’re different, we’re an all-women’s promotion and we’re really not competing [with them] on any level.
So if you’re open to working with us and vice versa, then the bottom-line is that we’re creating more opportunities for our athletes. I think it’s healthy for us to have these relationships. Hopefully, these relationships continue to be healthy and we can continue to provide opportunities.
How do you guys handle matchmaking, because it seems Invicta FC produces a “Fight of the Year” candidate on every card you have?
We do have a matchmaker and we discuss it all together too. We the look at the talent available and lately they’re all knocking on the door. Which is a good thing for us.
Showtime General Manager Stephen Espinoza spoke about your promotion recently stating, “[Invicta] knows how to make noise and do good sized events on a budget,” Espinoza said. “It would be interesting to see what they can do on a bigger platform.” What are your thoughts when you hear that?
I think it is extremely flattering, first of all I have a lot of of respect for Stephen Espinoza, and to hear people like him say we’re doing it right that’s amazing. I worked with Showtime for a couple of different promotions and they’re very professional and they believe in our female athletes. So it is very flattering to hear.
What is on the horizon for you guys? New cities?
Honestly, I am going to be taking a look and evaluating that after this next card. It was always our purpose to stay in Kansas City and build our foundation. People don’t realize this but when you pick up and move from city to city you incur a lot of added costs and sometimes a lot of surprise costs. So for us, since we’re a not a huge company with smaller backing, we have to make decisions based on our budget.
So I will be evaluating that. We’re also working on a reality show, which will be nothing similar to TUF or Fight Master: Bellator MMA. It’ll be completely different, where it won’t be everyone living in the house. So we have a lot going on, and we grew so fast that it is sometimes hard to keep up with.
Are there any details on the reality show at this time?
We’re still working on everything right now, so I don’t have a lot of details that are solid enough that I can talk about it but there will be news in the future.
Invicta FC seems to be cultivating some talent with fighters like Bec Hyatt becoming sensations and budding rivalries between [Invicta FC atomweight champion] Michelle Waterson and Jessica Penne creating stars. How do you feel about being able to help raise your own stars?
Yeah, I agree. There’s a lot of hype with Bec, Joanne [Calderwood], Rose [Namajunas], Tecia [Torres], Leslie Smith, and the list goes on. That’s kind of the cool part since we’re an all-WMMA promotion and we’re able to build stars. How often do you get to see that happen in MMA now? It’s amazing.
Is Invicta FC looking to add any new weight classes to accommodate lighter or heavier talent (such as 2012 judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison)?
I think as we continue to grow and move forward we are open to a lot of different opportunities. Where we can add divisions or have super fights between the divisions. My big deal is getting to the other side this show and then after I’ll be able to take a step back and evaluate everything.
If you can imagine this, it seems like we have been going, from the first of the year, ninety-to-nothing and it makes it hard to take a step back. That’s where I am right now. I figure I’ll be able to sit back and look at where, or if, we need to make changes and then see where we go from here.
Anything you would like to add?
Honestly, we want to thank everybody for all of the support. Also thankful for the amazing performances our athletes deliver. We couldn’t do this without the fans or the media, basically all those that support us and I just want to say thank you to everybody.
Invicta FC 6 will air as a pay-per-view in the US and Canada, with the card airing via Ustream outside of those countries. The billing will still be available as an online showing for those without cable in the US and Canada. Invicta FC 6 will be headlined by the inaugural Invicta FC featherweight title fight between Coenen and “Cyborg.” A strawweight bout between undefeated fighters Claudia Gadelha and Ayaka Hamasaki will serve as the night’s co-headliner.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Photo via Invicta FC