Tonya Evinger has seen it all in MMA.
The Moses Lake, Washington native has enjoyed a 28-fight career dating back to June 2006. Having faced many of the sport’s most notable names ranging from Cris “Cyborg” Justino to Gina Carano, Evinger left her mark as a dominant force in the Invicta FC cage from 2013 to 2017 – but she isn’t looking to retire just yet.
“I talk to everybody – everybody,” Evinger laughed when speaking to MyMMANews about what’s next for her in MMA. “I’m like, ‘You got a promotion and you need some females and I’m ready to fight and I don’t care who I fight.’ I’ve talked to everybody. I mean, I’ve talked to Bellator, tried to talk to PFL – they’re just too hard to get ahold of or they just don’t care to talk to anybody… I talked to [Invicta President] Shannon [Knapp], I talked to promotions out of the country that are really big. I get a lot of the same; ‘We don’t have girls that are as good as you in our promotion.’ Well, a lot of people don’t until you put girls that are that good in there. Then you start signing more girls – I just don’t understand how people don’t want more females.
“I mean, I think that it’s big right now. I think that the girls are really doing a great job of stealing the show. Obviously, we’re never gonna beat out men’s sports, that’s just never gonna happen. But you know, it’s exciting and people are excited about it and it’s more acceptable and I think that there are a lot of fans that want to see it and they’re missing the boat by not putting us on.”
Competing as a bantamweight for the majority of her career, Evinger (19-8) most recently had a run with the UFC that kicked off at 145-pounds as a featherweight.
Coming in on short notice to face the aforementioned Cyborg, “Triple Threat” saw an 11-fight unbeaten streak snapped. She would drop back down to bantamweight following the loss only to suffer two more defeats and depart the promotion.
In the UFC itself, the heavier women’s weight classes are the thinnest of them all. Outside Dana White’s playground, options are limited almost exclusively to the likes of Bellator and Invicta. Therefore leaving fighters like Tonya Evinger in tougher positions when it comes to finding a proper fighting home.
“I think UFC has stole all the talent but I also think that UFC is gonna be sifting through them and getting rid of ’em whether they’re holding them back right now,” she said. “I can’t see why anybody would want to stay with a promotion when they’re not fighting and they’re just sitting on the sidelines. I eventually want to fight or be out of my contract and the more opportunities that people have out there, whether they’re full or not, if you have a promotion that has open slots and 135-pounders on the card, I’m gonna be like, ‘Alright, can I get out of my contract over here because I can at least fight over there.’ So I don’t really understand why people don’t just go ahead and include it on their slots. And if you don’t have a fight at 135 every six months, who cares? At least you have the weight class available.”
The biggest problem for the UFC surrounding the 145-pound weight class specifically has been the inability to create a rich and sustainable talent pool. Since its inception in February 2017, no more than eight fighters maximum at a time has occupied the class – only three of which have been too large to make 135-pounds at any point.
As of right now, the UFC still has yet to release a set of rankings for featherweight.
Evinger is under the impression that you can’t establish a foundation overnight and building is a necessity – as evidenced by Bellator who has the premier featherweight division for women.
“I’ve offered to fight at multiple weight classes,” Evinger said. “At 125… that’s always when I’m really drunk when I say that. Obviously, I’ll also fight at 145. I’ll also tell people I’ll fight that girl [Kayla Harrison] at 155 if they’re paying me good. I am not a cherry picker and I’m down to fight anybody but the opportunity has to be there for me. I’m not trying to fight for 3/3 ($3,000 to show and $3,000 to win).”
Aside from being a fearless and entertaining personality, Evinger has always delivered inside the cage as well.
Out of her 19 victories, only four have gone to decision with eight ending via knockout and the other seven by submission. However, sometimes the presentation can just be too much for some to get over – that’s the assumption anyway.
“Triple Threat” has always been herself and never given a damn what anyone thinks as long as she’s happy with what she’s gone for and accomplished.
“No, absolutely not,” Evinger said in response to whether or not she thinks she would have still gotten into the UFC if Megan Anderson fought Cyborg as planned at UFC 214. “I don’t think they would have gave me that opportunity at all. I’m sure Invicta was ready to get rid of me too. They’re like, ‘God dang, this girl’s a big payday, she’s been here her entire life, her contract is getting so big we need her outta here, Take her, UFC.’ But whatever (laughs).
“I just feel like I did good in Invicta. I fought good, my promoting was good, my fanbase was good, I sold them arenas out pretty good in Kansas City. I just think that I did really well over there. Everything just lined up.”
A 9-5 start to Evinger’s career led spectators to quickly write her off and believe that we’d seen all that could be offered. Little did anyone know, the best was yet to come.
After a loss to the emerging Olympic silver medalist wrestler in Sara McMann with a tumultuous Ultimate Fighter season 18 tryout mixed in, Evinger put together three wins in a row. Therefore leading to her arrival in the still somewhat new Invicta promotion where she became a face that, as mentioned, probably overstayed her welcome.
Coincidentally enough, the 40-year old has stoppage victories over three of the UFC’s current top 15 bantamweights – No. 4 Irene Aldana, No. 6 Yana Kunitskaya, and No. 12 Pannie Kianzad.
Tonya Evinger hopes and intends on returning to MMA competition – the opportunity just has to present itself. Who knows. Maybe the gloves are going to be hung up after all.
“They offered me trash money too,” Evinger said of bare-knuckle boxing promotions. “[Jorge] Masvidal’s got that bare-knuckle MMA and he just had his first fight [card]. I actually contacted him. I was like, ‘Ah, this is something.’ I would fight bare-knuckle in a heartbeat if you’re gonna pay me. But if you’re talking about paying me some trash money and I’m gonna go in there and probably 99-percent guarantee break my hands, I’m gonna train for this many months then I’m gonna be f*cked for this many months after while my hands heal. And how many fights in my career do I have left that I can keep going in and breaking my damn hands? So you’re gonna have to pay me some money. Especially if you’re over there paying some of them girls a quarter-million dollars a fight. Get the hell out of here. I will beat everyone on your roster for that kind of money – for way less than that kind of money (laughs).”
Drake is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women’s fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, WhatCulture, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at YouTube.com/DrakeRiggs where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.