Jessica Penne isn't used to getting this type of promotional push.
Despite her tremendous skills, she's had to fight outside of her natural 105 pound weight class throughout her lengthy career. It was frustrating, but with Invicta Fighting Championships, she's finally found a new home.
In her debut with the promotion at the inaugural Invicta FC event, she put on one of the most entertaining female fights of 2012 against Lisa Ellis, a bloody battle that saw her win via third round TKO and featured some of the most unique scrambles you'll ever see.
Her victory earned her an opportunity to vie for the first ever Invicta title, the atomweight championship against undefeated Japanese star Naho Sugiyama. She'll be looking to prove herself this Saturday (Oct. 6, 2012) in the main event of Invicta FC 3: Penne vs Sugiyama in Kansas City, Kansas.
Penne spoke with MMAmania.com during a recent guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about finally finding a home at 105 pounds, getting the opportunity to headline a major show and what it's going to take for her to walk away on Saturday night as the first ever Invicta champion in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is such a huge opportunity for you. How does it make you feel that you're headlining a show that has female MMA legends on it like Tara LaRosa and Shayna Bazler? What does that say about you?
Jessica Penne: I'm not really sure. I think that the Invicta organization has lot of talented, hard-working females on their card.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What does it mean to you to see these posters promoting the show and see your face and name plastered all over it. Is that a source of pride for you?
Jessica Penne: It's a really great opportunity. I'm just trying to stay focused and not let the feeling of being so heavily promoted get to me. I don't want it to affect the way I perform. It's a fight and I want to go into this bout treating it like any other fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You stole the show at the first Invicta event against Lisa Ellis? Did you just feel like you had something to prove because it had been so long since you'd stepped into the cage?
Jessica Penne: I was just happy to be a part of it and happy to have a fight really. I have had a lot of problems having opponents stay the course since I started training so it was great to get a chance to fight when you're used to only getting a fight once or twice a year. It's a little bit frustrating sometimes but yeah, i was excited to showcase my stuff. I'd been wanting that fight with Lisa for a while but I didn't want it to be on the undercard of a small show. I wanted it to get the attention it deserved and Invicta gave me that opportunity. I was ecstatic about it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you expect with that win that you'd be getting a shot for the title or did that catch you by surprise?
Jessica Penne: No, I had no expectations after that fight. I was just happy to get back in there and see my hard work paying off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you talk a little bit about how it feels to be with such a professional organization like Invicta. It seems like they're one of the few organizations that treats the ladies like the UFC treats their fighters.
Jessica Penne: Invicta FC treats their athletes the way athletes deserve to be treated. Very professional with lots of respect. It's a great pleasure fighting for them. I would love to continue fighting for them. They treat us better than pretty much any organization that I've fought for and I've fought for quite a few.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You fought for Bellator in their female 115 pound tournament back in 2010. Why was it that you had such an extended time off before getting the opportunity with Invicta?
Jessica Penne: It was a lack of opponents taking fights. It hasn't been for lack of trying. I had a fight shortly after the tournament, my first time at 105 against Amy Davis. After that, I couldn't really get anything at that weight and that's my desired weight class. 105 hasn't been the most popular in the past but it's gaining popularity because a lot of ladies are finally finding their homes in specific weight classes and it has been a perfect fit for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much more comfortable do you feel at 105? Your fight against Zoila Gurgel, she's more like a 125-er so I'm sure that by the time you two were in the cage, it was a huge weight gap.
Jessica Penne: Yeah, I've always fought outside of my weight class but I don't think it was as much of a disadvantage as it was in that fight. She's fought at several weight classes above 115 and I always walk on the scale without dieting or cutting weight or anything like that. When 105 was an option, I jumped at the opportunity, trying to even the playing field a little bit. I'm very grateful that the weight class is finally getting more competitors.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your upcoming fight against Sugiyama, who's a very talented opponent from Japan. Where do you think she's most threatening heading into this fight?
Jessica Penne: What I've seen which hasn't been much, she's a very well-rounded fighter and she has multiple finishes on her record, both submissions and TKOs. She's well rounded and I have a very similar record. It's going to be a great fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): She primarily does go to the ground. Even though that's her specialty, do you feel you could be even stronger in that department or is that something you will just have to wait to discover on fight night?
Jessica Penne: I try not to go into the fight with a specific gameplan. If there's footage of my opponent, I'll take a look at it to see some of their tendencies but for the most part, I just want to get in there to see what happens.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is her first fight outside of Japan. She fought in the Valkrye promotion and she fought in Jewels. Do you think that it could be an advantage for you that she has to go into hostile territory here?
Jessica Penne: I think this is MMA. It's a fight. I think it's going to be unpredictable and I'm just going to go in there expecting to fight the best Sugiyama that's ever existed. I will need to put on my best performance if I want to win.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's the support been like from your team? You train at Reign MMA with Mark Munoz and all of those guys. How have they rallied around you as you prepared for this fight?
Jessica Penne: I am really, really fortunate to train where I train. I trained at a couple different places like also at King's MMA and all of the coaches and teammates and training partners there are absolutely amazing. They've been extremely supportive and positive and I'm just really happy to be at the place I'm at. They take really good care of me and I'm very grateful to all of them for all their support.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If everything goes perfect for you this weekend, what would be the ideal victory for you on Saturday?
Jessica Penne: Ummm, just to win. (laughs)
Jessica would like to thank her sponsors Fight Twisted, Tri-Coasta, OCM Fight Shop, GMC Performance, Seven Eight Jewelry, her coaches Mark Munoz, Master Rafael Cordeiro, Nathan Gable, Cory Beasley, Jason Perillo, Danny Perez and her training partners Kaiyana Rain and Jordan McDonald. You can follow her on Twitter @JessicaPenne.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Penne be able to walk away as the first ever Invicta champion? Were you impressed by her last performance at the first Invicta show?