Saturday, June 16, 2012
Fightwire exclusive interview with Invicta's Shannon Knapp
Meet the most powerful woman in the MMA today: Shannon Knapp. She is building Women's MMA one fight at a time. Her small but potent cadre of Invicta crew blew the roof off a pink dominated cage last month in Kansas City with their inaugural Invicta FC event; smashing all online records and expectations. Knapp knows better than anyone that success can be fleeting, but this one time apprentice of Randy Couture and Bas Rutten will stand up for any fight and is here to stay. She opens up on everything from Dana White sending her flowers, to hardships in MMA, but pulled guard when asked who she's dating.
Fightwire: I read you had a nickname called "Bas' Little Sis" probably from your time with Bas Rutten, is that your nickname today? or would you like a new one?
Shannon Knapp: "Yes, in the early days of my career everyone called me BLS, short for "Bas's Lil Sis". Bas and I are family and we have always been very close like brother and sister, so it was a very fitting nickname. Some people still call me BLS, but for the most part I have outgrown the nickname."
FW: Many may not be aware that you used to commentate UFC with Randy Couture, what was that like?
SK: "I commentated with Randy Couture at Sportfight and we hosted a small regional MMA cable show together on Comcast in the Pacific Northwest. When I was at the UFC, I did interviews with fans and celebrities for the promotion and I was also Randy's assistant at that time."
FW:And I'm proud to say you're a a fellow Ivy Leaguer -- is it fair to say you are a nerd?
SK:"Lol! I am definitely not a nerd! I am the polar opposite and way more unorthodox. I am never quite what people expect."
FW: "Many saw the purchase Strikeforce by Zuffa has a threat to Women's MMA but without that move, would Invicta not be here today?"
SK: "No, it wouldn't or at least not at this capacity. If Zuffa hadn't purchased Strikeforce, I believe it would have taken some time before someone braved the waters to try an all-female fight promotion at this level."
FW: "Invicta blew the online estimates away with over 100,000 viewers. Any insight into why it was so successful or why some got the math so wrong?"
SK: "I think one of the biggest contributing factors was the way our company and the athletes used the social media networks to market the event. Everyone really got behind Invicta FC and put the work into making it the success it was. It was amazing to see everyone work so hard and take such a vested interest in the success of the event. I also want to give big thanks to all the media for their diligent support. It was incredible!"
FW: "Invicta production was an incredible success - from the commentators and right down to the music. What programming changes will we see for Invicta II?"
SK: "After reviewing footage from the event, we will tweak a few things that myself and partners weren't happy with. I really liked how the show flowed and that the event itself kept the energy levels up in the arena. I have worked for a lot of promotions that never could capture that ambience or the level of energy that the UFC has at their events. I believe that we came closer than any other promotion I have worked for in creating and sustaining that level of energy throughout the show. We will continue to fine tune things as we move forward and just keep getting better."
FW: "I have gone on record to say that with 250,000 viewers -- you'll get a Showtime slot or something better -- agree?"
SK: "Right now I am more focused and determined to show people we are not a one hit wonder. I believe that if we keep putting out a great quality product that we will align with the right broadcast partner and that it will be a perfect fit for both. We have had some offers and are definitely thinking about them, but have decided to go ahead and stream Invicta FC 2 live via our website. Streaming the event is the best avenue available for reaching the most viewers around the world and we are in the important process of building our brand right now, so we have opted to stream live and for free on www.invictafc.com."
FW: "Part of your passion is to help women fighters have a better life and its not about the money. Many male fighters tell me that starting out they are on food stamps and don't have health insurance. It must be worse for women. Why is this sport so hard to make minimum wage?"
SK: "It is very sad, huh?! The sport has come a long way over the past 10 years but still has a long way to go. It is really tough to make a living when you first start out in the sport and tough times certainly aren't based on your gender. If you are starry eyed coming into the sport and think that you can train full time and not work another job like the established athletes do, it can be very disheartening. I think it is like any new job or a beginner in any other sport, in that you pay your dues until you get the experience, or you have proven yourself. Some of the most amazing athletes you find in this sport are great athletes in part because of the obstacles and adversities that they had to overcome to survive and succeed. The road is always riddled with obstacles regardless whether you are male or female, but there is a silver lining in it all if you look hard enough. Perseverance and determination have created some incredible athletes in the world of sports and you can't buy heart, it has to be earned."
FW: "Already the MMA world is clamoring for a Rousey vs Cyborg bout and they are plowing right over Sarah Kaufmann. How do you feel about this and how do promoters balance the desire for big name fights while allowing the women's sport to incubate successfully?"
SK: "This is a tough question and I am not sure I have an answer that will please everyone. Most promoters tend to do what is in the best interest of the promotion because a promotion has to make money to stay in business. Unfortunately, sometimes there are athletes that get stepped over and opportunities are given to someone that the promotion feels will deliver a better return on their investment. It happens in business all the time and I have personally been prey to this many times in the sport because I am female. I feel for Sarah and I think she is a remarkable athlete. I also believe Sarah will have her opportunity when the cage door shuts and it is just her and Ronda in the cage. At that point, nothing that has been done will matter anymore and it will be all about that particular moment in time for Sarah. Everybody is underestimating her and quite frankly, I have always found I am at my best and deadliest when being underestimated. Sarah earned this opportunity and nobody can take this away from her. Now Sarah just needs to "upset their applecart" or "rain on their parade" as they say and show everyone it was a grave mistake counting her out. The truth is that life is unfair, but because life is unfair for everyone, it makes it fair for all of us. The logics in that sucks, but it is true. I think Sarah has the potential to surprise a lot of people and in the end she really is the one in control of the outcome, in all of this, no matter what other people want."
FW: "So who are you dating? Any fun scoop you care to share with the fans?"
SK: "I thought I was too old for this question! Besides, have you met me? I am a bit of a handful."
FW: "I'd like to see Kyra Gracie enter Invicta -- anyone you'd like to lobby for?"
SK: "I have a wish list for sure! The problem is they are not free agents and I always find it disrespectful to the promotions they are signed with and unprofessional to talk about it publicly until they are free agents. But trust me I have an awesome list."
FW: "Dana White apparently sent you flowers the night of Invicta I... at what point does he send you a big check?"
SK: "You are cracking me up! Dana and a mutual friend did send me flowers. I thought it was a very cool and supportive gesture. Dana takes a lot of heat, but without his passion and tenacity this sport wouldn't be where it is at today and who knows what I would be doing! Laughing... Dana doesn't owe me anything, so I won't be expecting a big check anytime soon."
Thank you for your time Shannon, we are really looking forward to Invicta FC 2 and all the surprises in store for Women's MMA thanks to your promotion. As always, for everything Shannon Knapp, Invicta FC, and Women's MMA stay tuned to Fightwire.net!