The first year for Invicta Fighting Championships couldn’t have gone any better.
Sure, there were doubters and naysayers, plus a few bumps along the road, but nothing that any start-up organization doesn’t face. What there always has been, however, is an immediate impact on women’s MMA and in the mixed martial arts market as a whole, as Invicta has quickly established itself as a company that delivers the goods each and every time they hold an event.
Through four events, the all-female fight promotion has built a deep and talented roster, and cultivated a loyal fan following. They’ve become a consistent platform for exciting fights, and helped build fighters like Jessica Penne, Bec Hyatt, and Rose Namajunas into burgeoning stars.
“I think that the growth that we’ve had and the notoriety that the athletes are getting really goes back to what I said initially when we started the company, and kind of proves the point: the depth is there; these women just need a home,” explained Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp, speaking with sportsnet.ca earlier in the week. “They need a platform that is dedicated to giving them the opportunity to showcase their skills. I think you’re definitely seeing that we’re achieving that because now that these athletes have a home and are competing on a more consistent basis, people are becoming more aware of who they are.
“We’re building some stars fairly quickly, that are getting some recognition fairly quickly, and I think that’s always a good sign. You can gauge the growth because these girls are becoming known; people are becoming invested in their careers, and what they’re doing. I think it has been huge for us.”
The company takes another step forward next Friday with their fifth event, a show that features one of the best collection of fights from top-to-bottom of the month -- which is saying a lot because there are a lot of events on the calendar in April.
In the main event, atomweight champion Jessica Penne defends her title against Michelle (The Karate Hottie) Waterson, while Barb Honchack and Vanessa Porto battle to become the inaugural Invicta FC flyweight champion in the co-main event. The event will also serve as the return of Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos, the former Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion, who takes on late replacement Fiona Muxlow, while former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion and UFC signee Sarah Kaufman takes on Cesar Gracie Fight Team member Leslie Smith in a bout that has serious Fight of the Night potential.
“I think this card has to be the best ever,” admitted Knapp while making sure to praise the efforts of every organization that has contributed to the development of women’s MMA over the years. “When you look at the talent that is on it, the way it’s matched up, the big names -- yes, I’ve never seen a card (like this), and I even went back and looked at a bunch of the cards from years ago. I think we nailed it.
“Honestly, and I say this every time we do a show, but I really believe in my heart of hearts that this show is going to be amazing from top to bottom. I believe it’s going to be one of those shows that you’re definitely not going to want to miss anything.”
Missing some of the action has been one of the issues fans of the organization have had to deal with at various points over the course of the first four events.
Invicta has streamed each of its previous shows over the Internet, and have run into problems with connections and delays multiple times. They teamed with Ustream to offer the January show as an “Internet pay-per-view” event, but ended up refunding all purchases and broadcasting the fight card for free when viewer demand caused tremendous delays with the Ustream pay wall.
As much as the broadcast problems have been an ongoing and a repeated headache for Knapp, she’s still able to joke about the situation now, and recognizes that having problems with being too in demand isn’t a bad problem to have for an upstart promotion like Invicta.
“It’s going to be an amazing event, so buying in advance is always better, so that if you’re going to have any stumbles, you have them way out before the event,” laughed Knapp, referencing the last-minute rush to purchase this year’s first Invicta event. “Even as bad as UStream was -- as bad as it was crashing -- I was more upset that our fans had issues trying to watch Invicta. Even with that happening, it was just another validation that what we’re doing is really drawing the numbers.
“We’re blessed to have that problem,” she continued. “There are a lot of promotions out there that are trying to do streaming now, and they’re not having the struggles we’ve had, so I look at it as we’re incredibly blessed. I’m not going to complain about that.”
With a successful first year under her belt and the spotlight on women’s MMA at an all-time high, Knapp is eager to take Invicta FC to new heights in 2013 by continuing to do the things that have earned them a dedicated and committed following thus far, while converting more critics and doubters into believers and supporters along the way.
“We’re still ‘The Little Engine that Could.’ We’re holding our own out here with the big boy. If you think about it, all the other promotions out there -- the UFC, Bellator, World Series of Fighting -- we are definitely holding our own. We’re hanging right in there, and that’s exciting. To really see that you’re making a difference, and that’s why we got in here, so that’s the cool part.
“We’re (still) the new kid on the block. We’re something different, and something unique. We’re the underdog. Nobody thought we were going to make it coming out of the gate. We picked the hardest thing to sell in the sport. We came in, built this platform, and stayed consistent with it. We haven’t even deviated from the reasons we got into the business. We’ve continued to deliver on what we’ve promised, and I think that’s important too. I think that’s refreshing. I think we’re a breath of fresh air in the sport.
“We’re dedicating this event to the memory of Ramon Dekkers, who made tons of contributions to fight sports. I feel like there is a great energy surrounding this event, and the athletes -- it’s almost like a whirlwind that you can feel building. I think there are going to be some really good things coming up for Invicta shortly.”
That includes next Friday night’s event.
Invicta FC 5: Penne vs. Waterson airs live on Ustream. Check out invictafc.com for further details.