If last year cast a shadow of uncertainty over women’s MMA, this year could represent the parting of the clouds thanks the recent announcement that a new all-female fight promotion is set to debut in April.
Co-founded and spearheaded by longtime MMA insider Shannon Knapp, Invicta FC is an idea several months in the making, inspired by what she saw was a lack of direction in women’s MMA.
“When I parted ways with Strikeforce, I took a moment to evaluate what’s going on in the sport,” said Knapp. “Looking around, the UFC has really solidified its spot and the guys are okay (because of that), but I looked over at the girls’ side and thought that I had never seen that side of the sport so disorganized.
“Nobody’s really trying to help it move forward and organize it, and I decided it was a job for me. I’m a huge advocate for the athletes and equality (among them). That is my number one priority and always will be. This is something I’m passionate about and it means something to me.”
Having honed her skills in MMA working for the UFC, Strikeforce, the IFL, and others, Knapp feels she has an advantage over others who have tried to start all-female MMA promotions before and struggled.
“I think one of the things I bring to the table is experience in the industry,” she said. “I think if you take a look back at all the different promotions and types of people that I worked for, that’s something you’re not going to get anywhere else.
“I’ve seen what works. I’ve seen what’s failed. Does that guarantee me success? No, it absolutely doesn’t. But the one thing it does is it gives me a leg up getting into the business and having the experience to know how to apply what I’ve learned.”
Knapp told MMAWeekly.com that Invicta is not in it to make a quick buck and disappear. By focusing on building the promotion’s legitimacy rather than short-term goals, she hopes to build a foundation on which Invicta can have sustained success.
“We aspire to be looked at and viewed upon as a professional sports platform for female athletes,” she said. “I think that these girls are great competitors and athletes; and I think by marketing them as that will prevail.
“I’ll be honest; this is not going to be easy. Starting from scratch, creating depth in these divisions, and building an audience is going to be a lot of work, but me and my business partner are very committed to the long haul.”
While new promotions in the past have struggled to fill their ranks with established fighters, Invicta’s April 28 card will feature fighters under contract to Strikeforce and Bellator, as part of a talent exchange thanks to Knapp’s positive ties with people involved in those promotions.
Former Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen headlines the card in a rematch with Romy Ruyssen.
“There’s certainly no conspiracy; I have a really good relationships with Sam Caplan, Joe Silva, Sean Shelby, and Dana White,” said Knapp. “Having open relationships (with other promotions) is very important to the success of the women’s side. If we can provide opportunities for those girls who are not able to be kept busy, we want to help accommodate that and vice versa.”
Knapp acknowledges that without the support of everyone involved with Strikeforce and Bellator, along with her longtime contacts within the industry, none of this would be possible.
“When we made the announcement, it was amazing all the support we got, and we really appreciate it,” she said. “It’s going to take all of us to put our shoulders underneath this and make it successful. If everybody continues to keep paying it forward and showing their support, it’s going to make all the difference in the world.”