Shannon Knapp is one of those special types of people.
You know who I'm talking about. That rare breed of person who, after speaking with them for five minutes, they already feel like a trusted friend.
With her easy-going nature and infectious laugh, it's hard not to like and cheer for her as she strives to lead her upstart all-female promotion Invicta Fighting Championships into the spotlight.
With her wealth of experience working for promotions like the UFC, IFL and most recently Strikeforce, among others, she's got a familiarity with the inside workings of mixed martial arts.
So far, so good for Invicta, which has experienced some major success thus far in its first two shows in 2012.
The promotion will be hosting its third event later tonight (Oct. 6, 2012) with Invicta FC 3: Penne vs Sugiyama which will crown its inaugural champion. Knapp spoke to MMAmania.com this past Wednesday during an appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio about the promotion's upcoming third event, the debut of title belts and her biggest fear heading into this weekend's show in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The first two shows, you pretty much had the whole weekend to yourselves, but with this show, you had Bellator and UFC on Friday and One FC on the morning before on Saturday. Do you feel like you were having to compete for attention this weekend?
Shannon Knapp: I don't, I really don't. Honestly with UFC and Bellator going on Friday the night before, that frees up Saturday and One FC is in the morning so that gives us plenty of time to have Saturday evening all to ourselves. I feel comfortable with the position we're in. I was aware of it going into it by taking this date. I would have been more concerned if all of those shows you mentioned were on Saturday. I'm feeling good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard one of the biggest changes you're making heading into this show has to do with the canvas. Can you elaborate?
Shannon Knapp: Oh my god. (laughs) What we've done is we just went with a totally different company. It was like strike two, you're out. I wasn't gonna give them a third one. It's just been a huge pet peeve with me. I can't stand it. It's the one thing that's bothered me about every show. I've been in this business a long time and I've never seen a canvas look like that. I've put a lot of money on this canvas, it's a top end canvas and it's coming in early. I'm going to the arena and gonna watch it be put on. It's serious stuff with the canvas this time.
Does this sound like a real "girl thing" that I'm getting worked up about this?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): No, it sounds like the typical promoter perfectionist. Like Bjorn Rebney. I read an article about him where the banners of his champions that he has hanging over the cage, Zoila Gurgel's had a wrinkle in it so he had them iron it out until it was smooth again because it was bugging him. Maybe it comes with the territory of being a promoter.
Shannon Knapp: Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity or wherewithal to change circumstances on the first two shows with the canvas. It was too late and things couldn't be changed. Hopefully this time with the new vender, we'll have it all situated. Let's hope. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is your first event that features a title fight. How excited are you to be crowning a world champion at this show, especially at 105 pounds which really hasn't been featured in other promotions?
Shannon Knapp: I'm pumped. Especially like yesterday, I saw the belt for the first time and I think that's when it became real. At that point, it was like, "Here we go. This is the beginning." This is when we crown champions in our promotion for the first time ever and it's in a weight division that has had little or not attention brought to it. Yet, we're able to take the number one and number two top females in the world and bring them together. It signifies to us that we're able to do exactly what we set out to do which is bring in the best match-ups from around the world that we possibly could.
I would tell you that I'm a bit of fear with this one too. I go in and I'm looking at the belt and I'm messing with it. I don't know if you've ever seen a new belt or anything like that but now I've got a new fear. It's so hard to get it snapped in the back because it's brand new and it's so heavy. I can see it now. I'll be fumbling to get it on them. That's my biggest fear of the night is trying to get that belt clasped. That's my biggest fear of the evening and I figured if I told you about it, then it's out there in the open and I won't have to worry about it anymore.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You should treat it like a new baseball glove and put it under the mattress to break it in. That would be good.
Shannon Knapp: Is that what you do with them? Like with leather? I've already thought of ridiculous things like, "Maybe we should get some WD-40 out. I'm just messing with you. It's a beautiful belt and I'm really excited about it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you had to scale down the belts to make them a bit smaller? 105 pounds is pretty tiny compared to the heavyweights in the UFC.
Shannon Knapp: What the best part of the belt is that it's very fitting. It matches a female. It's not some huge oversized belt. I'm really happy with how it turned out. I think it's very appropriate for what we're doing with the promotion and for the female athlete.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How long will it be before Invicta has a champion in every female weight division?
Shannon Knapp: Our goal for 2013 is to crown a champion in all of our divisions. We'll be looking to have two title fights in our next show early next year. We've got to keep building depth in the divisions and building viable contenders first, though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd like to talk about your promotional strategy how you work with other promotions. It's common knowledge that you work with Strikeforce like with Liz Carmouche going back and forth but you've worked with Bellator, RFA, Jewels and now even Super Fight League. It seems like you're everybody's best friend and you're not stepping on any toes. It seems to be pretty beneficial thus far.
Shannon Knapp: For us, our model doesn't work for everybody else and it certainly doesn't work for the men's side of the sport which is a lot more developed. Our committment coming into the sport in this space was to create opportunities and help develop these divisions, to create that solid depth. In order to do that, we had to work with everyone to provide these opportunities. I don't have a problem with other promotions as long as they're conducting their business properly. I think it's in the best interest of us to continue to develop the female side of the sport.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is it a concern at all that Sara McMann left to go fight in Strikeforce in a potential number one contender match against Liz Carmouche? Does that situation make you worried that you're grooming talent to go off elsewhere?
Shannon Knapp: No, I don't have any concerns about that. We're in control of what we're doing. I've always known that when Sara came to fight for us, there was an understand between her, her manager and myself that she could potentially move over to Strikeforce. She wants that shot at Ronda Rousey as she should. I'm not concerned. Here's the thing. What I aspire to do here in Invicta is build a promotion where female athletes want to be here and they don't want to be anywhere else regardless of the opportunity. This would be their home and this is what they want. If an athlete wants to go and it works out for them, I have no problem with that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The last Invicta show featured a ridiculous amount of exciting stoppages and a thrilling main event between Shayna Bazler and Sara McMann. Do you feel like it's going to be difficult to top that show heading into this one or are you just extremely confident in your product that you'll be able to pull it off again?
You know what I am? I'm extremely confident in the female athletes. That's what it is. Every time we've had an event they've come in prepared to battle and they never disappoint me. I'm confident in saying that every one of them that steps in there will give us an amazing, amazing performance. With that being said, it can only get better. They always surprise me. Every event, they've topped what they did before and I don't expect anything less. They're very passionate about the sport and what they do. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is going to be even better than the last event.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I saw recently on Twitter that they were airing a replay of Invicta FC 2 on The Fight Network in Canada. Did you guys work out a deal with them to re-air some of your shows?
Yeah, they came to us and we did an exchange where they're doing some promotion for our event and we're letting them air Invicta 1 and 2. It's great. It's all about building exposure.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With your last show, you had to do some trickery with the stream to make it work and allow the fans to watch. How many people do you think your servers will be able to handle this time around?
I'll tell you what. We'd better be ready to handle it this time around. That is a fact. It's a big pet-peeve of mine as well. We've taken steps and we've addressed the issues from last time. We've got some new things in place, new servers. I think we'll be ready, at least that's what they tell me. We'd better deliver. We're also going to do a bit of a pre-show leading up to the actual start of the event. That way we don't get hit all at once. It'll be like a mini-insurance policy in case they need to fix anything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you have any last words for people about your show that you want our readers to know about?
Saturday night, October 6th. Our show starts at 6 p.m. central standard time. You can watch it streamed live on our website InvictaFC.com. 14 fights stacked top to bottom. We air all of the fights. I think it's going to be an exciting night. If you love the sport, come over and check it out. I think it's gonna be a really great event.
You can follow Shannon on Twitter @ShanKnapp.
Are you guys excited about Invicta FC 3 tonight? Will you be tuning in to see the female fighting fiesta?