Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp Says TV Deal Likely in 2013; Ronda Rousey’s Popularity Motivates Her To Grow Women’s MMA Beyond One Athlete
By Joshua Molina
Just days before staging its fifth Internet Pay Per View this Friday, Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp said her all-female mixed martial arts organization is in negotiations with a broadcast partner to bring the year-old company to television by the end of 2013.
“There are a lot of possibilities,” Knapp told fcfighter.com. “The demand for the promotion and the product is fairly high. We have a lot of issues on the Internet. It’s a priority for me to find a good home.”
January’s Invicta show was plagued by Internet connection problems. Knapp eventually gave the show away for free because of so many complaints that viewers couldn’t get a consistent video feed from her Internet broadcast partner Ustream. Friday’s $9.95 show, Knapp said, will feature a satellite feed, which will bring more clarity to the stream.
Going forward, however, Knapp said she is “in dialogue with three or four” television broadcast outlets to move from the web to television.
“I love Showtime,” she said, as an example. “I have worked with them for years. They get it. I think they do a good job of promoting the events, whether boxing or MMA.”
Knapp said the company’s focus was to build an audience during its first year and now it’s time to move to the next level.
“The plan was to give the content away and build a brand and do it quickly and effectively,” Knapp said. “As we roll into 2013, we look at a year of monetizing.”
Friday’s Internet Pay Per View event from Ameristar Casino in Kansas City, Missouri is very well the biggest all-female MMA card in U.S. history.
Along with established stars such as Sarah Kaufman, Julia Budd, Zoila Frausto and Jessica Penne, the 13-fight card features the Invicta FC debut of Cris Cyborg, the former Strikeforce 145-pound featherweight Champion who is widely regarded as the best female fighter in the world not named Ronda Rousey.
Cyborg,10-1, never lost her championship, but was stripped of it after she tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Strikeforce eventually folded in 2012.
“Everyone knows who Cyborg is,” Knapp said. “When you find an athlete who has that kind of exposure it’s great for the promotion.”
Cyborg will step into the cage against Australian Fiona Muxlow. Knapp said she is looking forward to Cyborg’s redemption.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” Knapp said. “There’s always a bunch of critics out there. I feel confident. I believe in her. I have worked with her for a long time.”
Knapp, a former executive for Strikeforce as well as the UFC, said she knows the “real” Cyborg.
“Cris is a very, very kind-hearted person outside of the cage,” Knapp said. “She’s a caring person. She’s caring about animals, children. She is just your all-around nice female.”
The Invicta show comes two months after the UFC promoted the first and biggest women’s MMA match in history between UFC Bantamweight (135 pounds) Champion Ronda Rousey and challenger Liz Carmouche. Rousey won by first-round armbar, surviving an early submission attempt.
At a time when Knapp is spending every waking hour trying to promote the concept of big-time women’s MMA in Invicta, Rousey in a different, more popular promotion, is the face of women’s MMA.
“Who cares?” Knapp said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. My thing is, UFC has been around for a long time. They are certainly the biggest and the baddest on the playground. I understand the business side. It motivates me to make sure that fans see not just one athlete out there.”
Knapp, who worked for the UFC before working for Strikeforce, said she learned a lot from both companies, but credits the UFC with being the more professional organization.
“I think the UFC is a well-oiled machine,” Knapp said. “It’s very professional in terms of the way the business runs. I always like the atmosphere of how they treat the athletes like athletes. Of course I learned a lot of things working for them and as a rival promotion. Strikeforce was run on a completely smaller staff. It didn’t feel as structured, whether it was making sure the athletes had bottled water behind the scenes as opposed to having to fill a cup.”
If Knapp lands the television deal, one of her goals is to start a reality show that puts the spotlight on the female fighters. It won’t, however, be a copy of the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter.
“For us, there is more of a story to tell and that is not the format I would be looking to sell,” Knapp said.
Knapp hopes the interest in women’s MMA continues and that it is not a fad, like has been seen with other women’s sports such as basketball via the WNBA, where there was a big buzz to start before interest faded.
“This past year, the numbers that we have pulled, and the performance of the athletes, have been a whirlwhind,” Knapp said. “Our ticket sales are good. Our prebuys are good. Hopefully we will be blessed with continuous success. There is an appetite for women’s MMA.”
Email reporter Joshua Molina at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Joshua Molina’s interview with Cris Cyborg’s opponent Fiona Muxlow by clicking HERE.