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Celebrating Women & Girls In Sports

Celebrating Women & Girls In Sports

How Invicta FC Made A Home For Female Mixed Martial Artists

In the mid 2000’s, mixed martial arts promotion Strikeforce was considered the home for women’s MMA. The promotion had the best female fighters around at the time, with names from Gina Carano to Cris Cyborg.

Strikeforce had been a major player in the MMA scene, holding some of the sport’s biggest stars, male or female. That was until the UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, purchased the promotion in 2013. 

Athletes in Strikeforce were expected to be merged into the UFC’s divisions. However, the female fighters on the roster were understandably concerned, as the UFC’s president Dana White was a vocal critic of women’s MMA.

Shannon Knapp saw the uncertainty that surrounded WMMA fighters at the time, and sought to correct it. Knapp had already been involved with some of the biggest MMA organizations, working in the UFC, Strikeforce, Affliction, and several others. 

“There was this paranoia that had set in place,” Knapp explained to Bleacher Report. “Nobody really knew what was going to happen and what was going to happen to the females.”

The paranoia was justified, as UFC President Dana White said on several occasions that he had no plans of introducing women’s divisions in the promotion. Of course, he ended up walking back on this statement with the signing of Ronda Rousey in 2013. But before this, WMMA fighters were plagued with uncertainty, especially those who were on the Strikeforce roster. 

Knapp received calls from several women that were concerned about losing their roster spot once Strikeforce was purchased by the UFC. She knew that there was a market for WMMA, and she had the experience necessary to capitalize on this opportunity and potentially save dozens of female fighters’ jobs. 

Because of this, Shannon Knapp teamed up with Janet Martin, a former VP with MMA organization Blackeye Promotions to start Invicta FC—a first-of-its-kind all-female MMA promotion. The goal Invicta was simple: provide a stable home for women’s MMA for as long as they can. 

“We’re not in this to make money,” Knapp said. “We just want to be home to female athletes. We want to have a solid, solid promotion giving opportunity to each and every female athlete out there that wants an opportunity. As long as we can keep the lights on and provide the opportunities, we’re successful.”

On April 28, 2012, Invicta FC held its first fight card and streamed it online for free. Since this inaugural event, Invicta has expanded its roster to include 5 weight divisions and has had over 150 women fight in the promotion. It has produced some of the biggest names in WMMA from Cris Cyborg to Carla Esparza, both of which went on to win championships in the UFC.

Photo CreditTwitter

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