Competing with the UFC has not to date proven to be a lucrative business model. That path is littered with the bodies of the explorers:
WFA - Bought
Pride - Bought
WEC - Bought
ProElite XC - Beaten
IFL - Beaten
Affliction - Beaten
Strikeforce - Bought
And while your company is being beaten, UFC president Dana White often adds insult to injury with gleeful epithets like "Djork, "Bjork," "Strikefarce," "Vadummy," and "36,000,000 million dollar losing retards."
The UFC now has two divisions, 115 and 135, which with weight cutting and diet covers 105, 115, 125, 135, and 145. Thus the UFC and the all women's INVICTA FC are competing directly.
However, relations between the companies are warm, even fraternal.
"Basically, we’d been in conversations [with the UFC], and there was interest shown in that [115-pound] division, and we cut a deal," Knapp told MMAFighting after the announcement was made. "That’s basically it. We were able to come to an agreement, cut a deal, and we moved forward."
Knapp describes the shift of 11 Invicta strawweight fighters to the UFC variously as "moving forward," "graduation," "advancement," and "opportunity." Knapp also described it, a little poignantly, as "bittersweet," likening it to seeing her kids off to college.
In sum, Knapp's goal is not to crush the UFC, or anyone. Her goal is to make a difference. And in this regard, she is succeeding, to an extraordinary degree.
"I think the opportunity that these female athletes have right now will do amazing things for the sport as a whole, and for future female athletes. This is an opportunity to change their lives. And it’s certainly not one that I can match at this moment in time.
"My goal has always been -- always, from day one and from the moment I ever stepped into this sport -- to make a difference. And when I had the opportunity to start Invicta, and to build Invicta, the goal professional and personally was to still make a difference. And to create opportunities. So for me, this is an amazing thing not only for Invicta, but for athletes and for future athletes. Because these girls are going to go in there and continue to break down those barriers that we’re fighting hard to break down everyday, and they’re going to get the opportunity and the recognition that they deserve."
"I can go out there and fill out that roster and division again. Because, if you think about it, how many people knew those girls before? You really know their names because of Invicta, and that’s an astounding thing itself. From a company that’s only a year-and-a-half old, with only seven shows. To be able to do that that quickly, and have [the UFC] take notice that quickly…they’re the biggest show in the world. For them to give me that amount of acknowledgement, it’s huge. I think there’s a lot of things we both get out of it, which is what a good relationship is all about."
"How can I stand in front of my girls and say go in there and fight your heart out for me and this promotion, but at the same time tell them I’m not willing to stand in front of them and fight for them to get their dreams and the opportunity that they deserve? I can’t do that. And if this ever comes down to nothing but money for me, I’ll pack it in and pack it up. That’s not how I got in."
"If you’re asking me what does this deal do for Invicta, I can think of many things. I think it gives us recognition for what we’re doing over here and for our accomplishment. Aside from the great things and opportunities that it’s going to provide the athletes, you know, I was stacked in that division. And I have a ton of young athletes that are coming up through the ranks that need a home. I can fill that division tomorrow. I have a platform that makes it easier for me to build stars and fill divisions out."
As conscientious as her goals are, Knapp is a fighter to the core, and defiantly rejects the label of "feeder" for Invicta.
"I don’t know that I would look at us as a feeder so much as I’d look at us as a game-changer," she said. "I’ll never look at us as a feeder. We’re doing exactly what we wanted to do, which was build these divisions out and give these girls opportunities. If they moved on and graduated that doesn’t make me a feeder.
"The UFC has two women’s weight divisions, we have five. And I’m planning on adding one more. I was going to look to a 155-pound division. A feeder? No, we’re game-changers. We’re making a difference."
An example of the opportunity created by Invicta was revealed Wednesday on FOX Sports live. Each of the strawweight fighters signed will receive $32,000 to appear on TUF 20, win, lose, or draw. Invicta strawweight champion Carla Esparze gets $40,000.
It is believed the season will begin shooting around May of 2014, and will premiere on FOX Sports 1 in September.
So what do you think UG? Did Shannon Knapp achieve her goal, or what?