Last week, Invicta FC announced a major reinforcement to their team: UFC champ Amanda Nunes.
This, of course, wasn’t Nunes’ (15-4 MMA, 8-1 UFC) first contact with the promotion. Years before their recent Invicta FC 26 event, in which the Brazilian fighter stepped into the cage to translate for headlining winner Jennifer Maia, “The Lioness” had a two-fight stint under their banner.
From there, she went to the UFC, where she’s won the 135-pound belt and defended it twice. Now, as one of the biggest stars in women’s MMA, Nunes will use her expertise to assist with matchmaking and talent-scouting duties for the all-female promotion.
“I love to be the matchmaker for Invicta, from my experience, and I have a lot of good talents in Brazil,” Nunes said. “I love to try to find new talent, and I think my friend talked to (Invicta FC President) Shannon (Knapp) about it, then Shannon texted me and offered me to be part of the team. I was very happy, and now I’m here. I love to do something with women’s MMA.”
Speaking to MMAjunkie Radio after the announcement, Knapp confirmed she’d first heard of Nunes’ interest from a mutual friend. With her past dealings with the champ taken into account, it seemed like a great fit. So Knapp reached out.
Knapp is now optimistic about what Nunes can bring to the table, especially when it comes to bridging a gap that has been an issue in a promotion that features a hefty number of the champ’s compatriots.
“I’ve had some struggles lately with communications with the athletes that come from Brazil,” Knapp said. “There’s been some shady stuff down that way with management. And it’s tough to communicate. And to give an athlete that safe zone where they can communicate. It’s been on my mind.”
The chat with MMAjunkie Radio happened the day before their most recent Invicta FC 27 event, which featured the victorious return of Canadian vet Sarah Kaufman as a headliner. And, from what Knapp could see in Nunes’ dealings with the athletes throughout the week, she felt good about her choice.
“I can tell that they just felt connected,” Knapp said, “and are able to feel like they can communicate. I like that. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons I wanted to make this move. I want everybody to feel good when they get here. And I think having somebody like Amanda, that genuinely does care.”
This is the type of concern that Knapp applies to her entire roster. Had the scenario of women’s MMA been similar to what it is now when she was in high school, Knapp answered when asked, she would have most likely gone down that road herself.
Now 50, that particular ship has somewhat sailed. But, in an evolution that Knapp has certainly played a part of, opportunities that weren’t available then are now. And she takes pride in helping other, starry-eyed young girls get to live out their dreams in an environment that’s welcoming and nurturing.
“Honestly, that’s really, I think, why I do this,” Knapp said. “To help them achieve that goal and that dream. It’s cool to be part of that. You know, give them a safe environment to get their legs under them in the sport. Help them grow into the complete athlete and go on to be superstars somewhere. That’s kind of a cool thing.”
Still, especially in dealing with young women, making sure fighters thrive athletically is not Knapp’s sole concern.
“But, with full disclosure as I say that, I always try to make sure that the athletes think about the future as well,” Knapp said. “I have some athletes that go to college and fight here, and I want them to stay in college. Because this is a tough gig, it’s a tough sport.
“I just want them to succeed all around in life, not just when it comes to fighting. Because some day, that career ends.”
April 28 will mark the six-year anniversary of Invicta FC’s first show. Since then, multiple stars have passed through its stage – including three of four UFC women’s champions: Nunes, Cris Cyborg and Rose Namajunas. Not to mention former title challengers like Tonya Evinger, Cat Zingano, Sara McMann, and Liz Carmouche.
Invicta FC’s track record is certainly a testament to the commitment that Knapp made when she decided to direct the expertise she’d gained working for promotions like the UFC and now-defunct Strikeforce into an effort geared exclusively toward women.
“We are all about the female athlete,” Knapp said. “And I think that we are able to make stars quicker here for some reason. We can turn it around. There’s a ton of young athletes coming through.
“And, to be honest with you, that’s really the commitment I made when I stepped into this spot. It’s that it’s going to build these divisions out and provide these opportunities and change the game for the women. Hopefully, that’s what we’re doing every day.”
To hear from Knapp, check out the video above.
And for more on the Invicta FC schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.