All female Invicta FC debuts on April 28, with Marloes Coenen

by Robert Sargent | source: mmarising.com
 

Invicta Fighting Championships, an all-female mixed martial arts promotion led by former Strikeforce executive Shannon Knapp, will hold its first event on April 28th at the famed Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. The debut card is headlined by a bout between Marloes Coenen and Romy Ruyssen.

Knapp, who serves as co-owner and vice president of the new company, spoke exclusively with MMARising.com on Thursday and outlined her plans and goals for Invicta’s immediate future. The promotion is expected to stage at least three events in 2012, with fights contested in five weight classes.

Invicta FC will serve as Knapp’s first experience in leading a promotion that showcases women’s bouts exclusively, but she brings a wealth of knowledge into the new venture from time spent working for many of the top mixed martial arts promotions in the world. During her lengthy tenure in the sport, Knapp has been employed by King of the Cage, Sportfight, the World Fighting Alliance, the International Fight League, Affliction and even the UFC itself.

Most recently, Knapp served as a matchmaker and talent relations manager for Strikeforce prior to its acquisition by Zuffa subsidiary Forza, LLC. In the weeks following the purchase, Knapp received her release from the company. She began to shift her attention from the men’s divisions, where the majority of her matchmaking duties has been focused in the past, to the fledgling women’s divisions that were slowly attracting more attention in promotions all over the world.

Together with business partner and Invicta FC matchmaker Janet Martin, Knapp began to forge a plan to develop one strong women’s mixed martial arts league that would provide female fighters with a platform to showcase their skills under one promotional banner. Earlier this year, Invicta Fighting Championships was born and the date and location for its first event were determined this month. Knapp’s primary goal for the short-term is to address and overcome the lack of depth among female MMA fighters today; an issue often noted by UFC president Dana White.

“A lot of people criticise Dana White for what he says about how there’s a lack of depth in these [women's] divisions,” Knapp says. “Some of them claim that Dana hates women. I can tell you right now that Dana doesn’t hate women, and a lot of what he says about the lack of depth in women’s divisions is absolutely true. I agree with what Dana says and back him 100%. Without him, none of us would be where we are in the sport today. He deserves a lot of respect for that and I can understand where he is coming from there when he says that [about depth].

“I can tell you that, 10-12 years ago, there was still a lot more depth on the men’s side then than there is on the women’s side now. Right now, you’ve got girls who are moving up and down in weight just to get fights. You’ve got other girls who will fight [in one country] but nowhere else. You’re not seeing the depth because it doesn’t exist. There isn’t a platform that displays that depth in one place so that it isn’t scattered all over the place.”

Knapp believes that one of the biggest keys to creating that much-needed depth on the women’s side of the sport is to establish strong divisions where fighters can stick to one, optimal weight class and are not forced to move up or down just to secure a fight. As such, catchweight bouts will not be permitted in Invicta FC. Fighters will compete in professional bouts in each of the five major women’s weight classes ranging from 105 to 145 pounds. Fights at weights above 145 pounds are a possibility for the future if a division can be established with a sufficient number of competitors.

“One of the problems with the women’s side is all of these catchweight fights,” Knapp says. “It’s hard to solidify a weight class when you’ve constantly got girls jumping up and down [in weight] and fighting catchweights. This happens because the girls just want to fight, but it’s really kind of sad. I understand why these girls make these choices – it’s a lack of opportunity – but one of our goals with Invicta is to build that platform and establish these divisions by giving [the fighters] that opportunity.”

At present, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion for male fighters. Knapp strives to one day build Invicta FC into the premier promotion for women, but she understands that doing so will not be easy. She adds that Invicta’s goal is not to try to compete with the UFC – Knapp notes that she remains a big fan and supporter of UFC events – but rather to strive to become the best platform available for female fighters.

“One of the most valuable things that I think I took away from my time working with the UFC was a standard of professionalism,” Knapp states. “Every promotion that I have ever worked for, I’ve held to that [UFC] standard because that’s the way that I feel that they should be run. They [UFC] run a tight ship over there. If we can provide a platform that is professional and provides the fighters with the opportunities they need, we’re going to be happy because we will have fulfilled what we set out to do.”

“This is a platform that belongs to [the fighters],” Knapp says. “It’s not about me or my business partner, or about either of us getting rich or famous. It’s about them and providing the opportunities and equality that they deserve. If everyone gets involved and puts their shoulders under it, I think that we can do something big here to change the perception and landscape of the [female] side of the sport.

“I have been in this sport for a long time and I have helped out a lot of [male fighters],” Knapp continues. “A lot of the guys that you see now fighting in the UFC or Strikeforce, I worked in promotions where those guys were just having their first fights. Looking at [Invicta FC] and knowing that this is going to be a lot of work is very gratifying to me. I am going to embrace this and apply myself to really make a difference, just like I’ve done with the men, because that is why I got into this business. I wanted to make a difference and help to move the sport forward.

“If I can teach these girls one thing, it’s to get out there and fight for what they believe in.

Invicta Fighting Championships 1 takes place on April 28th at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.
 

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Recent Comments »

Dominicf site profile image  

2/22/12 6:31 AM by Dominicf

Thanks for the info Cindy.Hope it's a success.

Cya site profile image  

2/22/12 6:03 AM by Cya

ttt

Glovegate site profile image  

2/22/12 4:17 AM by Glovegate

Jesus, Cindy. Relax.He's right, it probably won't do very well.Look at Jewels. It was bought out and rebranded in 2008 (originally Smackgirl) after it failed financially. Average attendence over all Jewels events since inception is about 600 with most of the smaller numbers in recent years.What is carpet bombing the UG with walls of text going to do about the fact that people don't like watching female combat sports or most female sports for that matter?Also I don't know about anyone else but the signing of the screen name really annoys me. I tend to ignore people who do it. If I'm not alone on this you might be harming your cause.

MMALOGIC site profile image  

2/22/12 3:43 AM by MMALOGIC

 ^ the argument isnt about Shannon Knapp... The argument is whether or not there are enough people willing to watch and buy tickets to an all Female MMA show...  There have been all Female MMA shows and the answer is an emphatic NO.

CindyO site profile image  

2/22/12 3:16 AM by CindyO

 Annnnd what Shannon had to say about Women's MMA 2 years ago when she was matchmaking for Strikeforce: http://www.mmabay.co.uk/Story%20A%2000907.html Women’s MMA on the rise due to Strikeforce? Shannon Knapp thinks so Women’s MMA has certainly emerged over the past few years, helped in no small part by California based promotion, Strikeforce and their fighter liaison and matchmaker, Shannon Knapp thinks it’s only the beginning. Speaking via MMAWeekly.com this past week Knapp explained: Kaufman is set to compete against Takayo Hashi tonight to determine the first ever women’s Strikeforce champion at 135 pounds in San Jose, California. The bout headlines the Challenger event. By Michael Pepper. (Follow me on Twitter) Cindy

CindyO site profile image  

2/22/12 2:33 AM by CindyO

 And a good read from 2008: Shannon Knapp new director of IFL Fighter Relations Posted 03 Jan 2008 in Uncategorized The International Fight League today announced that Shannon Knapp has been promoted to the newly-created position of Director, Fighter Relations.  Knapp, who has been with the IFL in various roles since its formation in 2005, will take a more expansive role in working with fighters, agents and business partners on growing the IFL brand in the mixed martial arts community and in local event markets. “Shannon is a significant part of the IFL.  There are few individuals who have the knowledge and fluency in MMA that she possesses,” IFL President and CEO Jay Larkin said.  “She has accomplished a great deal for the sport, and we are elated to be able to give her this opportunity to expand her duties.  She is a great role model for women in sports management.” One of the most highly-connected individuals in MMA, Knapp has filled a myriad of roles during her career. A self-defense instructor herself, Knapp has worked with both Randy Couture and Bas Rutten on the business side, as well as being an accomplished broadcaster, producer and fighter liaison. Knapp has handled play by play, color commentary and sideline and feature reporting for MMA events for outlets ranging from Comcast and Spike TV to Fox Sports Net, and was a part of the IFL broadcast team in 2006 before moving into a managerial position with athletes and coaches in 2007. The Kansas City, Missouri, native began her broadcasting career when she earned a broadcasting scholarship to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.  She worked in various outlets on both the television and radio side throughout the East and Midwest before deciding to pursue her passion for mixed martial arts and combine that with her passion for broadcasting.  She also added numerous managerial duties along the way, leading to today’s announcement. http://www.themmadigest.com/2008/01/shannon-knapp-new-director-of-ifl-fighter-relations/ Cindy

CindyO site profile image  

2/22/12 12:36 AM by CindyO

@MMALOGIC:  Oh hush, negative Nancy. Half of your "predictions" on this board (if not more) are wrong. They are coming out of the gate slow and will only do 4 shows a year, mostly regional, so cost will be controlled. Shannon Knapp has literally done it all and she has tons of support. She's smart and is well respected in the world of MMA. Of course, you already knew that since you consider yourself to be an insider.The BEST thing about this league is that her solid working relationships with the leaders of the bigger shows will no doubt help advance these girls to a bigger stage when the time comes. Here's her "resume" from 2005 when she was making the move to the UFC. You can Google what she has done since- she's smart and impressive as hell.CindySHANNON KNAPP TO WORK FOR UFCby Mick HammondShannon Knapp, also known affectionately as "Bas' Little Sis," has been hired by the UFC to work on their upcoming August shows. Knapp is no stranger to MMA Weekly readers as she has worked with us on video segments and has been profiled here as someone to watch for in the industry. And now she has been given her opportunity in the major leagues of MMA.When asked about her new job with the UFC Shannon, a veteran of Sportfight and King of the Cage, commented, "I'll be working both the live Spike TV broadcast on August 9th and the UFC 54 PPV on August 20th. From what I understand I'll be handling the celebrity interviews and predictions and hopefully I'll get an opportunity to do some post-fight interviews with the fighters. I'm really looking forward to the experience of working for one of the top MMA promotions in the world."Most recently Shannon has handled broadcast duties on the Sportfight TV series which is currently airing in the northwest with hopes of being syndicated nationally. The show features fights from all previous live events segued together by Knapp and Randy Couture's introductions and unique chemistry."I've worked for Sportfight for almost two years now," said Knapp. "Randy Couture and I co-host the TV series that's now airing on Comcast in the northwest and if it does well they are going to put it in other markets. Before Sportfight I had worked with KOTC, Bret Moses and Fight Party in Atlanta, and the Freestyle Fighting Championships."Over the years the UFC has tried unsuccessfully to integrate a female into their broadcast team. With Knapp however they have someone who is coming from a MMA background as well as a professional broadcasting background that should make for a much better experience this time around."I think there is always going to be people that are hard to please no matter what you do," commented Shannon. "But I'm coming in with a lot of knowledge and experience in the industry. I've been the Vice President of Bas Rutten Enterprises for over three years and I run the Bas Rutten MMA System. I've also worked with Randy Couture as his assistant for the last several months. I'm a graduate of Brown University with honors and was accepted to the school on a broadcast scholarship that I had to compete with other top candidates to get."Knapp continued, "My background is in both MMA and professional commentary and broadcasting and this is what I do every day of my life. Every aspect of my life is associated with MMA, my background is specifically in the areas that will complement the broadcasts.When asked if she had seen the work of her predecessors and how her work with the UFC will differ, Shannon seemed sympathetic to their situations but confident she can bring a whole new aspect to the position. "Truthfully I saw Lisa Dergen, and didn't see Carmen Electra and saw a little of Kerri Kasem, and to be honest I felt sorry for them. It's a hard job if you're female, I mean MMA is still very new and especially in the commentary aspect for females. The only thing I can do differently or be different in is that I actually do love the sport and come from it rather than other backgrounds. I train, live, and breathe it every day, for me MMA's second nature."For Shannon working with two of the sports most beloved legends in Couture and Rutten has allowed her to have a solid support base as she takes on one of the most scrutinized positions in MMA broadcasting."They are my biggest supporters and they're both very happy for me and excited that I'm getting this opportunity. What can I say, they are two of the greatest people you'll ever meet and I know they want the best for me. Even though Bas and I have 'sibling rivalry" between the two of us, he is one of the best commentators in the world and if I'm half as good as he is I'll be happy."People looking to see Shannon in action before making her UFC debut can do so at the upcoming Sportfight 11 in Portland, Oregon on July 9th. Knapp will be handling the post-fight in-ring interviews with her Sportfight TV co-host Randy Couture at the event. This show marks the biggest ever in the company's history as they move the show to the Rose Garden Arena, the 10,000+ capacity seating home of the NBA's Portland Trailblazers.According to Knapp, her involvement with Sportfight will in no way effect her new position at the UFC. "Both shows run on separate schedules and neither happen the same week as the other so there shouldn't be a problem. It's Matt (Lindland) and Randy's production and they do a great job with it. We've moved up to the Rose Garden Arena, the tickets are selling great and fight card looks really good. Randy and I interact very well with each other."For Shannon the opportunity to work with the UFC is both a realization of a dream come true and an opportunity to help further the roles of females in MMA in a positive manner."I think the UFC puts on a great production and I'm honored to be working with Dana White, the Fertitas, Joe Silva, Steve Tornebene and the whole production crew," exclaimed Knapp. "I'm looking forward to all the learning opportunities and I hope to help move forward female involvement in the sport. The success of the UFC brings about good things for everyone involved in the sport. The more successful we are the more we bring public awareness of MMA into the mainstream. At the end of the day it's helping gain mainstream acceptance to ensure everyone, especially fighters, is successful in this industry."Shannon concluded, "I always say it, but I do what I love and I love what I do. I hope the fans support the sport by watching the live show on Spike TV and the PPV broadcast. The cards the UFC put together are great. The live show especially features a lot of the best young fighters around as well as members of the TUF 1 reality series. I'm going to go out and do my best and bring what I think the fans are hoping for."If Shannon's background and passionate enthusiasm about the sport aren't enough to show what an asset she can be to the UFC, both Bas Rutten and Randy Couture were more than happy to give their thoughts on her hiring."I'm not surprised she's getting this opportunity," said Rutten. "It would have been a bad idea if they hadn't have brought her in. She's got the broadcasting background needed and knows MMA. I think people will be stoked when they see how well she does."Couture furthered those comments by saying, "It's been my privilege and honor to work with Shannon in Sportfight and the other entities we've worked together on. I'm very happy for her opportunity with the UFC, it will be nice to have a female on board that understands the sport and represents it in a positive way." http://www.mmaweekly.com/shannon-knapp-to-work-for-ufc

MMALOGIC site profile image  

2/21/12 9:57 PM by MMALOGIC

an all female MMA promotion will die very quickly... the only reason people care now is because it takes place inbetween male competition.  People can handle the novelty of one female fight per card but an entire card? It's gonna die.   Invicta is negotiating to be televised on showtime so it's gonna be a prolonged death.   

CHILLITACO site profile image  

2/21/12 9:50 PM by CHILLITACO

I really hope you are right, as wmma is great to watch just like mens. That being said ANY ship can sink, even the wealthiest backers wont keep throwing money at something that doesn't show potential in a market (mma) that is proven to generate profits for more than just the big boys. (ie still room to make money for others) it will always come back to business $_$ unfortunately.

CindyO site profile image  

2/21/12 5:21 PM by CindyO

 Shannon used to work for the UFC, IFL, Sportfight, KOTC, Affliction and Strikeforce. She's one of the most competent and experienced folks in the fight game- always has been. She's also one of the most well respected. You rarely hear about her because she's stays in the background like she is supposed to. She's smart as hhhhell, too. Anyone would be very hard-pressed to find someone in MMA who has something bad to say about her. Shannon has ample support and very good money behind her and will do great things for WMMA. Cindy



 

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