Shannon Knapp discusses UFC Fight Pass deal and likelihood Cris Cyborg drops to 135

credit Esther Lin - Invicta FC

credit Esther Lin – Invicta FC

Developing a partnership with the UFC made all the sense in the world to Invicta FC CEO Shannon Knapp. Last week, the all-female MMA promotion inked an exclusive, multi-year deal to deliver their past and future events to the masses via UFC Fight Pass.

As a guest of MMA Fight Corner, Knapp expressed how much the leap to the UFC’s digital network will continue to grow women’s MMA.

“When any opportunity comes about, there comes this moment in time where you know this is the one,” Knapp said. “We’re super excited over here about the opportunity that we have and to have a stable home, to have a partnership with the best of the best, and to kind of walk hand-in-hand. I think it’s big step forward, especially for the women in this sport.”

Invicta FC 8, planned for late summer 2014, will be their next event and the first fight card to air in conjunction with the new deal. For those who enjoy what they’ve seen from Invicta FC productions, Knapp stated that no major changes will take place with the format or presentation. Additionally, Knapp hopes their next event will exceed fans expectations.

“I think fans are going to be very surprised,” Knapp said. “I think we’ve always set the bar high for the standard of the type of events we do, and the talent and the quality of them, and we’re certainly not going to stop. We’re going to continue to strive to get better and better at that as well. I think fans are going to be really excited about the future for Invicta.”

“One of the things that I’ve always loved about the Invicta format is that we go hard, we go fast,”  Knapp continued. “There’s not a lot of fluff. The pace of our shows, I think it really holds fans attention and things like that. As far as format as to how we do things, everything is pretty much going to stay the same. However, I will say that we’re always going to work to improve and get better at what we do do over here.”

Now that Invicta FC’s platform can reach a worldwide audience, Knapp also mentioned there’s a possibility that the Kansas City-based promotion hosts events in other cities.

“It would be nice to take it out of the comfort zone, and spread the wealth, and take it to where the fans are at.”

Without a doubt, the popularity of women’s MMA is growing as rapidly as the talent. The Ultimate Fighter 20 will be the first all-women’s season of the UFC’s flagship reality series. It features 16 women vying to become the first UFC Strawweight Champion. Eight cast members who have been revealed came from Invicta FC. Knapp promises it’ll be a can’t miss season.

“It’s huge step forward,” said Knapp. “I think everything that has happened over the past, you know I think it’s been about 18 months…since women first started competing in the UFC, and I think we’ve just made huge leaps forward for the females in the sport.

“That show you are not going to want to miss. I’m telling you, I know every one of those athletes in there. Not only are they extremely talented, they are – the personalities – they are so entertaining. Some mesh, some don’t. So I think the show’s going to be a big hit with the female athletes in there.”

With the inception of the women’s bantamweight and strawweight divisions in the UFC, Invicta FC saw many of its fighters move on to compete in the Octagon. Since making it to the UFC is a dream to any mixed martial artist, Knapp thought more on her roster would try to change weight classes for a shot at it.

“Let’s face it, everybody wants to fight in the UFC and I don’t blame them. If I was an athlete, that’s the biggest show, you always strive to be on the big show,” Knapp explained. “I’m surprised a lot of athletes weren’t jumping around trying to get in those weight classes that they have over there. We’ve been very, very blessed over here to have very loyal athletes and they seem to be happy. And we just didn’t see that kind of a movement like you would think. And now, our roster in the 115-pound division is loaded again.”

On the other hand, a couple of Invicta FC’s women may attempt to make bantamweight. Brazil’s Ediane Gomes is one. Knockout artist and current Invicta FC Featherweight Champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino is the other.

Ever since the Strikeforce days, many have clamored for Cyborg and UFC women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey to trade leather. Neither woman cares much for the other and they’re considered to be the top two pound-for-pound female combatants in the sport.

But getting the matchup to come to fruition has seemed unlikely. Part of the reason is the concern over whether or not Justino can drop from featherweight to 135-pounds without suffering repercussions to her health. Regardless, Justino believes the cut is something she can manage. Knapp said Cyborg’s voiced her intention to make bantamweight once Invicta FC begins airing on UFC Fight Pass.

“Both [Justino] and Gomes have both expressed interest in going down to 135. So I definitely am going to tell you, I think you’re going to see Cris go down to 35 on this platform on Fight Pass. And I think she’s going to make a run to get close to that fight with Ronda Rousey.”

“I know the fans want to see it. I want to see it,” Knapp added.

“I just haven’t had the time to be able to speak with her yet since the announcement. So, it’s certainly something we’re going to sit down and talk about. If she’s going to go ahead and drop now and make that run to where she really wants to go in the fight that everybody wants, or if she wants to come back in and defend it, the 145-pound title. So it’s kind of still a little bit up in the air.”

“But I know Cris very well and I know that she wants that fight,” Knapp continued. “She wants that fight and I know that she’s extremely determined. So don’t be surprised if she doesn’t start right out the gate.”

News of what’s next to come for Invicta FC on UFC Fight Pass should be announced in the coming weeks.

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