Now it’s no big secret that UFC President Dana White has always been a bit skeptical to the idea of Women fighters in the UFC. He has said in the past that he wasn’t against it so much as he didn’t see the market for Women in Mixed Martial Arts. Don’t misunderstand, Mr. White is very respectful of the female athletes themselves and has been vocal about his support for fighters like Ronda Rousey, but he has stated that he doesn’t feel there are enough female athletes on a Rousey like level to make for an interesting division.
Zuffa, the company which owns the UFC, isn’t against Women in the cage though. The UFC sister company Strikeforce has had a Woman’s division for some time. Over the past few years it has become quite popular. When Strikeforce was first purchased by Zuffa back in 2011 there was a fear that the Women’s division would be dropped, however, Mr. White decided to stay hands off and let Strikeforce continue down the path it had already forged for itself. It was while working as a promoter for Zuffa that current Invicta Fighting Championship president, Shannon Knapp, first opened her eyes to the possibility of a future for Women in MMA. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Mrs. Knapp first hand and it gave me a different perspective on things.
Having worked with “The Big Boys” for some time Mrs. Knapp noticed a trend.
“I think the males are at a really good place right now, and I think the UFC has done an amazing job of pushing the sport forward, but I think that for the females in the sport, they have been very neglected.” She added, “When I looked over at this side of the sport I just kind of realized it was, what I like to say, a complete mess. You have athletes that are jumping up in weight classes. There are girls that are maybe 105 lbs fighting 125 just to get a fight.” She described it as “Very chaotic”.
That’s when she decided to do something about it. Using her previous experience Shannon helped to spearhead the Invicta Fighting Championship, an all female MMA competition. Invicta was conceived to help women athletes find a place where they could showcase their abilities in a structured environment.
Having a female competition in a predominantly male sport isn’t the only thing Invicta is doing differently though, they are also allowing people to watch the fights for free online. “It’s kind of like marketing 101.If you want to build your brand and you want to build awareness what do you do? You make it as easy as possible for people to be able to take a look at it,” Knapp said. She said if it’s easy you’re “more apt to come over and take a look.” The strategy seems to have paid off as the debut pulled in over half a million viewers worldwide. Not too shabby for a first event.
So what does this mean to guys like Dana White? Well, rumor has it he’s starting to warm up to the idea of a women’s division in the UFC, but it will likely be a while before it sees fruition.
As for Shannon Knapp’s thoughts on the whole thing, “I think we’re still a long way away from where we’d like to be, but I think that at least we’re in a position to start moving forward at a steady rate and make a difference.”
If you want to hear the entire interview with Shannon Knapp check out The Takedown MMA Radio, and be sure to watch Invicta FC 2 streaming live at www.Invictafc.com Saturday July 28th.
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