Invicta FC 6 will take place this Saturday night at the Ameristar Casino Casino Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, and for the first time, it will be available on television pay-per-view.
The main event features a clash between Marloes Coenen and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos for the promotion’s inaugural featherweight title.
Invicta president Shannon Knapp spoke to Bleacher Report recently on a variety of topics including: Invicta FC 6, looking back on the challenges and proudest moments from the first year of the promotion, moving to television pay-per-view, Stephen Espinoza and Showtime, losing bantamweights to the UFC, and protecting and supporting her athletes.
The full transcription of the interview is below.
Bleacher Report: Invicta is now heading into its second year. Have you stopped to think about that the first year has gone by and you have already put on five events?
Shannon Knapp: You know I did. After our last event—number five—I had a few moments where the realization that a year had passed came. It was like wow, just wow. This year has been incredible. We’ve by far surpassed any expectations that we had hoped or I had going into it. It was a reflection.
It was a proud moment to think about all the amazing fight cards we have put on and how hard all the athletes have worked and how we are all in it together. That’s the part that makes it a proud moment.
When you look around and see your athletes are extremely happy to be where they are at and that we are growing together. They are growing as athletes and we are growing as a promotion. It’s kind of like a big family. It’s certainly something to feel good about.
B/R: What was your biggest challenge in your first year of existence, and what was your proudest moment?
SK: The biggest challenge has been breaking the Internet. We seem to have a history with that. Joking aside, like crashing the paywall servers at Ustream and crashing a couple of servers on one show. That has been kind of a struggle, but you know—I know this is going to sound crazy, but the rest of it hasn’t been anything like I thought it was going to be.
It hasn’t been the uphill battle that I thought it would be, fighting day in and day out. We have received support from the fans, colleagues of mine from years of being in this business and former athletes that I have worked with. That part has just been probably the most amazing thing to see the fight community come out and embrace us.
To me, that has been probably one of my more prouder moments is just how much support…I’m always proud. Every time we do a show and the athletes compete, I’m just proud of all of them. They just give their heart and soul and they do everything—not just to help themselves—but to help each other and to grow this company. They are our business partners and they really work hard.
B/R: As the Invicta president, you are not just sitting cage side on fight night. You are or have been involved in all aspects of how the show is run.
SK: I have a hard time sitting cage side. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been in this business for 15 years now and it’s an uncomfortable thing for me to just sit there. A lot of times I don’t. I’ll get up and stand back in the crowd. I think it gives me a better perspective of what the fans' experience is. I’m watching the fights and watching reactions of people and I’m always trying to make it better.
B/R: You had a problem with the manager Brett Atchley after your last event. You handled that from a business sense, but were your maternal instincts kicking in to protect your fighters?
SK: Oh yeah. If you mess with my athletes, you’re going to mess with me. I may be a really nice person, but I am not a fun person when you are on the bad side. I take it seriously. To me, somebody came into my home and terrorized my family and you don’t do that. I took it very seriously. I make a commitment to protect and to do what’s in the best interest of my athletes.
I’m certainly not going to stand by and let someone abuse the power or put my athlete or any athlete for that matter…If you’ve ever fought for me once, you are my athlete for life it seems like. I just take it extremely seriously. I mean it would be like doing something to my daughter. You don’t mess with my athletes.
B/R: You also had an issue with the writer Eric Holden from Examiner.com acting inappropriately toward Invicta atomweight Cassie Robb. There may be other issues like this in the future. Is it frustrating to know that these kinds of incidents may very well continue to happen to the women in your promotion?
SK: I think it’s just society sometimes. When women have jobs or compete in what is more accepted as a male job or the male side of the sport, I think that they are always going to have to deal with the sexist comments and things like that.
I think that we as females, we can certainly remove ourselves from those situations, or those people that talk like that or offend us and things like that. I worked with men my whole entire career and I’ve never had any of these issues, ever, not once. It’s strange, but I didn’t. I didn’t have those kind.
I had the issues, maybe I was doing the job, but the boy got credit or something like that. Never that kind of stuff with the disrespect and that kind of thing, and the sexual innuendos and all that…I think it’s a problem, but I also think that we as females need to stand up for ourselves and educate ourselves within the business that we are working.
No one has the right to treat you that way or make you feel uncomfortable in a sexual way. I think standing up for yourself is the first part of the process of taking your control back. I was just appalled that a person had wreaked havoc in my organization before I was aware of it.
B/R: How do you go about handling those types of situations with your athletes?
SK: I think that I needed them to understand more than anything is that I answer my phone 24/7. If you call me at three in the morning, I pick up. I want to have that open communication with them that I don’t care, if they have a problem I need them to call me and let me know.
Let me know because I want to fix the problem, whatever that problem could be. I want to help with that. I want the athletes…This is their home. I want them to be comfortable in their home. It’s my commitment to do everything that I can and is possible to continue to make that happen.
And help them to know and realize that I may be your employer, but you are important to me. It definitely—if they had any reservations—hopefully with everything that transpired, it was very eye opening for a lot of them. They are now more educated in terms of what management does do and what they shouldn’t be doing and all that kind of stuff.
And when in doubt, pick up the phone and call me. If someone is telling you they can get you a fight here and it’s not happening and they just keep strong arming you in position, just pick up the phone and call me, I’ll always take the call.
B/R: You made the big announcement a few weeks ago that Invicta FC 6: Cyborg vs. Coenen would be the promotion's first event on television pay-per-view. How did this come to be?
SK: I’ve been approached a few times and I’m so old school in this sport. It will always be in my head from coming up with all the other promotions, "never go into pay-per-view until you are a big solid brand." It was kind of hard for me to come outside of that and view it from a different perspective. This fight card is absolutely television worthy.
I made the commitment a long time ago when we first started that I was always going to be conscious and making sure that they had options at what I would call a fan-friendly price point. So when I was approached again and of course I had used satellite time already and things like that.
I was looking and evaluating and it wasn’t going to cost me more, and it was certainly going to provide more options for the fans and opportunity possibly for the athletes to put more sponsorship dollars in their pockets. It was kind of a no-brainer from that point. We are ecstatic.
The card is stacked. Thirteen fights that I will tell you, each and every one of them will deliver. It’s an amazing fight card and it deserves the recognition, and my athletes deserve the recognition because they are tremendous.
B/R: Are you relieved now, that you don’t have to worry about firewalls, paywalls and servers crashing this time around?
SK: Well, we are still streaming for the international fans and if you can’t get or maybe you don’t have cable you can still view it on the Internet here and on the website as well. We are giving you the option: You can watch it on the computer or you can watch it on television. Canada you will also have the pay-per-view option; internationally it won’t be available.
B/R: Were you flattered when you heard the kind words spoken about Invicta from Showtime Executive vice president Stephen Espinoza?
SK: Absolutely. I’m always flattered when someone is looking over and saying you are doing a good job. That’s what you aspire to do is do a good job and make a difference. It’s always very flattering.
However, I will say this. Every time he says something, because there is that open spot there, every time he says something nice or flattering about us, the rumors just start going and going and going.
I think they are great people over there. I like Stephen. I think he is doing amazing things at Showtime. I believe that they get it. I believe that they believe in the female athletes. Of course I’m flattered when they say nice things.
B/R: Could Showtime be a potential landing place for Invicta for the future?
SK: Would I aspire to be at Showtime? The answer would be yes. I love Showtime. I think they do an amazing job. Is that where we will end up? Who knows? We’ll see as time goes on. I think they are a great company. We would be honored. The rest we will just have to wait and see.
B/R: Are you looking at this pay-per-view card as an audition for when you do go to television?
SK: It’s possible, but is it the reason we are doing it? No. We are doing it because it absolutely made sense and it provided more options to the fans and more opportunities for the athletes.
Will Invicta land a TV deal after the next event?
B/R: How excited are you to have Marloes Coenen vs. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos for the inaugural 145-pound title as the main event for Invicta FC 6?
SK: This is my all-time favorite rematch out there. I have wanted to see this rematch for a really long time. To be able to have this fight happen under our banner is amazing for me. I think both of these athletes are incredibly talented and they are both very competitive and they both want this belt.
The one thing I can tell you about this fight is that it will be a battle. It will be nonstop action from start to finish. It gives me goose bumps when I think about it because knowing both of these athletes inside the cage and outside the cage, I know how driven both of them are.
When you are that driven and that competitive and you want something, you fight hard to get it. I guarantee you this is going to be one heck of a fight.
B/R: After Invicta FC 6, all the divisions will have champions except the bantamweight division. Will there be a titleholder soon, and has it been difficult with losing some of the 135 roster to the UFC?
SK: The 135-pound division we kind of let things shake out, to see where things are at. I feel like we are going to crown a champ here soon. Sarah D’Alelio is fighting Lauren Taylor, that is a fight for who could be up for a title shot and then we will match accordingly.
Does it make it a little more difficult (the 135ers who left for the UFC)? Yeah. There is a lot of talent out there. We will build that division back up and crown a champion.
B/R: How is it for you to watch some of the fighters you have had in Invicta compete in the UFC? Does it make you proud? How is it for you outside of Invicta, to be a fan and cheer for those you’ve worked with?
SK: I love it, but I’ve been doing it for years. I still root for all my guys from Strikeforce. The thing is that I love the sport so I root for everybody. What I root for more than anything is for them to put on an amazing performance. I want whoever is the best that night to win and it’s a competition. I always look at it that way as opposed to being a fight.
I’m proud of each and every one of them. I’m proud of a lot of my guys. I’m proud of Daniel Cormier. I’m proud of Tyrone Woodley. I’m proud of Luke Rockhold. I’m proud of them as well as I am my female athletes. It’s amazing to watch an athlete grow and to achieve what they want to achieve in their career. That’s a very rewarding time.
When like I said you can say, "Oh I remember that kid when he fought when I did a show years and years ago and it was up in Portland…" Or Urijah Faber, when he was on top of his game and I worked a show that he fought on in King of the Cage and Quinton Jackson…You make friendships and connections with these athletes and it’s hard not to root for him.
B/R: As big as women’s MMA has become in the last year, a lot of it roots back to Invicta. Fighters who are now in the UFC, fighters who will be on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, they have come from Invicta. How does it feel to be a huge part of that growth and to be one of the reasons behind the popularity and success of women’s MMA?
SK: It has grown. Women’s MMA in this past year has grown by leaps and bounds. I’m honored to be a part of it and to be able to help make a difference. To provide some opportunities to the landscape of this sport for female athletes, it doesn’t get much better than that.
To be able to be making a difference right now, it’s amazing. To be part of it and to actually be making contributions that are helping the sport is the only thing I ever aspired to do in this sport. It’s very rewarding. It’s very gratifying. It’s amazing.
Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Lead image courtesy of themmacorner.com.