Shannon Knapp: Working for and against Dana White, I learned a lot
This is number twenty-nine in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature, Invicta FC President, Shannon Knapp.
Knapp and Invicta have a huge week coming up in advance of their next event, IFC 5. The event will be held on Friday, April 5th, live from the Ameristar Casino Hotel, in Kansas City, Missouri. Headlining the card will be a fight for the atomweight (105lbs) championship, with challenger, Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson, taking on champion, Jessica Penne. The co-main event features the promotion’s inaugural flyweight championship fight between Vanessa Porto and Barb Honchak. Also fighting on the card are many other notable WMMA fighters including, Cyborg Santos, Sarah Kaufman, Zoila Frausto Gurgel, Julia Budd, Bec Hyatt, Jasminka Cive, and Rose Namajunas. It will be a must-watch event! Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jack Brown: You have been an executive with several other major MMA promotions in the past. How did you first get involved with MMA?
Shannon Knapp: I have always had a fascination with combat sports since I was very young. I aspired to be a ninja through most of my youth, going as far as to plead with my mother to send me to the ninja camps in the back of Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Thank goodness I outgrew that career path. It was that passion for combat sports that lead to my involvement in MMA. I started out in the business and the broadcasting and production side of the sport.
JB: What were some of your most rewarding experiences with MMA prior to Invicta FC?
SK: I have always been a huge advocate for the sport and the athletes, so having the opportunity to help the sport gain the acceptance it deserved was extremely rewarding for me. I have been very blessed to be able to take my passion and make a career out of it.
JB: What led to you and Janet Martin eventually founding Invicta FC?
SK: It came from identifying the need for a consistent platform where women could showcase their skills across multiple weight divisions. We believed that building a promotion where female athletes could compete in their legitimate weight classes would build the depth needed to support female athletes in the sport.
JB: Looking back at Invicta FC 1, last April, 2012, how do you feel that key first event influenced the current success of the promotion?
SK: I believe that the first event had a tremendous amount of influence on our current success. If we would have come out of the gate and had a lackluster event, we might not have gotten a second chance with the fans or the media. There were a lot of eyes watching and speculating with the first event because it was an all-female fight card. You know what they say about first impressions.
JB: You now have a tremendous roster of great WMMA fighters. I assume that you’re proud of all of your athletes, but who are just a few that you hope fans will take the time to learn more about?
SK: LOL! That question is like asking a mom to pick her favorite kid! I hope that fans take the time to learn something about all of them. However, if they don’t, I am extremely confident that the athletes’ performances will prompt them to want to know more.
JB: Invicta FC veterans, Liz Carmouche and Cat Zingano, are both making their UFC debuts this year. What is Invicta FC’s current relationship with the UFC, and how do you feel WMMA will fare with UFC fans?
SK: We have a great relationship with the UFC, and respect what they are doing for the female athletes. I thought that the way they promoted the first female fight in the UFC, and the work that they put into producing the Primetime shows, was amazing! True fans enjoy great fights, and with the female athletes that the UFC has signed, fans will definitely see great fights.
JB: Of the four Invicta FC events that have been held thus far, what were some of the highlights for you?
SK: Honestly, every card has exceeded my expectations and the shows have only gotten better each event. Watching the growth of the promotion, and the seeing the athletes perform, have been the highlights for me.
JB: Invicta FC 5 will be your next event. What can fans looking forward to seeing on April 5th in Kansas City?
SK: Invicta FC 5 is an incredibly stacked fight card. Every fight on this card will be amazing! I think it will be the best fight card yet!
JB: Both the UFC and Bellator use reality television to help promote their fighters. Does Invicta FC have similar plans or are there any other creative projects in development?
SK: I get calls every week about doing a reality show. We are interested, but we want it to be the right type of reality show. I have no interest in imitating The Ultimate Fighter format.
JB: Last question, Shannon, and thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Who or what has helped you to be so successful in your career thus far, and do you have any guiding principles for how you conduct business?
SK: I think that I have learned valuable lessons from ever promotion that I have worked for. If I had to give credit to one person or promotion, it would have to be Dana White and the UFC. Regardless of whether we were on the same team or I was working for a rival promotion, I have learned a lot watching how they have run their business over the years.