Invicta Fighting Championships will hold Invicta FC 30 in Kansas City, July 21. The event will stream live on UFC Fight Pass, but before it does, Tony Reid of MyMMANews.com speaks with the woman behind it all, Shannon Knapp.
Tony Reid – You spent years in basically every major MMA organization on the planet including King of the Cage, the WFA, the IFL, Affliction, Strikeforce and the UFC. What knowledge and on the job training did you take from all that experience to utilize with Invicta FC?
Shannon Knapp – “I think you learn something from everyone, regardless of whether you are working for them or watching them. You are in that mix, professionally. They are all good lessons because even the bad stuff will prevent you or teach you what not to do in the future, so I have learned valuable lessons from everyone I have worked around good, bad or indifferent. The one thing I did learn is that each person you deal with does not come with a disclaimer. That’s one thing that would have worked out better, if everyone came with a manual.”
Tony Reid – After Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce you fielded numerous calls from female mixed martial artists concerned about their future. What call in particular or moment put the wheels in motion to do what you decided to do in launching or creating Invicta FC?
Shannon Knapp – “It was a combination of things. I had spent my entire career to that point working with men. I had worked with a few women as they were added to Strikeforce cards but primarily I had worked exclusively with men and that side of the sport. I had never really taken the time to explore or evaluate the landscape for women. I think after getting calls and hearing that panic in their voices, I have dealt with that panic my entire career because when I started females in the sport where almost unheard of especially in the business side of the sport. I heard the stories, took time to evaluate and realized, wow, there a ton of female athletes out there that want to compete. The one thing that was really missing was a platform, with multiple weight divisions, where women could come in and compete without jumping weight classes to get any opportunity they could. After evaluating the landscape I knew there was a want and a need here and we wanted to bring it all together to make a difference. That is really what prompted Invicta. We were willing to take that risk, to spend money to make money the bottom line is that this was a need for so many people.”
Tony Reid – How important was it to you to make a difference and chart a new course for women in MMA?
Shannon Knapp – “It’s something that I take very seriously. When I got in the sport, it was never about me, personally, it was never about making tons of money, I genuinely got into the sport because I was a huge advocate for the athletes themselves. So building a company and making the commitment that you are all in and you are going to try to help move the sport forward, I take that very seriously. To aspire to be a part of that growth or change is a huge responsibility. There are a lot of people relying on us. It’s a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly.”
Tony Reid – With all of your past experience there is still something to be said for having an event or promotion that you are in charge of. What was the biggest surprise or unexpected scenario you experienced putting on your first Invicta event?
Shannon Knapp – “Well, to clarify, when you have a partner you are never completely in control (laughs). There are always moments where you think ‘I could have used that information yesterday’. With the growth we are trying to attain you will always run into obstacles. We are trying to grow and brand and all that but in reality we are still a tiny company.”
Tony Reid – You were known as “Bas’ Little Sis” at one point. What does it feel like to be the “Big Sis” or even motherly figure to so many great female athletes now?
Shannon Knapp – “I have kind of always been that figure. Back then I don’t know if I would have used the maternal term but now that I’m so much older it makes sense. Even early in my career I could always develop that connection. I think the athletes realized I care. I can’t tell you how many times I was threatened with being fired. I can hear it now ‘You don’t work for the athletes, Shannon, you work for us.’ OK, well you put me in this position to build relationships and I’m a straight shooter. If I was wrong, I was wrong but if I wasn’t I would fight it till the end. That’s how I have always been.
“You want to know what the most difficult hurdle or obstacle is for me now? Not being able to have that same relationship with the athletes. I’m an open book. Here is my phone number, call me any time. With the title I have in the company I think the athletes are more apprehensive to just pick up a phone and call me.
“When I was working with predominantly men, I wouldn’t go in there and pound on my chest and scream and yell, it was always more that you could just tell I care. I can’t really verbalize how or why but I could always get 300 pound athletes to do stuff that other people couldn’t get them to do. I showed respect and they always gave it back. It comes back to what you were taught by your parents. Respect, decency and all those good things.”
Tony Reid – Similarly, you have been a pioneer in many ways with the positions you have held and the work you have done in the sport. What are your thoughts on being a pioneer in so many ways?
Shannon Knapp – “I guess I don’t really look at myself like that. I do what I love and love what I do. I’m the luckiest person in the world.”
Shannon Knapp – “My business partner is no longer with the company and I own the company now. I am cleaning up a lot of messes. I will say to you in a very honest way, one thing that made my blood boil was when I went to look at some of the fight purses and mismanagement in that department. I love to pay athletes as much money as possible, they have rent, mortgages, children, etc. But when the salaries are overinflated, let’s just say we had mismanagement in that department. That made my blood boil. The other thing, don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you can’t find a spot on a card for an athlete don’t promise them something. You are hurting the athlete and that’s a big, big deal to me.”
Tony Reid – Who have been your inspirations, personally and/or professionally? Who/what makes you get out of bed every day and do what you do?
Shannon Knapp – “First and foremost the athletes. Trust me, this isn’t that easy. It looks glamorous but it’s very hard. The athletes and my daughter. To show her you can do something that people don’t think you can do. You can accomplish things that are not the standard. I admire a lot of people. How can you not admire what the UFC has done for the sport? Without their efforts who knows where we could be today.
“Everybody inspires me. With a story, a hardship, a success, I can find inspiration in everyone.”
Tony Reid – I read a quote where you said you were a girly girl growing up but you also had a side where you were riding and fixing up motorcycles and longing to go to ninja camps found in the back of Soldier of Fortune Magazine. So how do these two worlds collide or mesh?
Shannon Knapp – “It’s a strange combination, yes. (Laughs) I can remember being one of those kids. I want to be this, I want to be that. I was a jack of all trades. Yes my Harley was a 1200 Sportster because I had to be like the big boys. My mom would always be sure to stop and tell me how I had dirt under my fingernails. I don’t know that the different side have to go together is just me being me. I can remember as a little kid, like eight or nine years old, laying to bed wondering ‘If I hit someone like this they are going to do that. If I hit someone like this they are going to do that.’ That was just me. My mom thought I was crazy and she never did send me to ninja camp. My favorite show was The Equalizer. I wanted to be that person that went out there and made things right for everybody. If I could be a superhero that’s what I would want to do.”
Tony Reid – In a sense you are that person, you are fighting for a lot of people. You made that dream come true.
Shannon Knapp – “Yeah, I guess in a weird way. Let’s say in an unusual way.”