Monday, February 10, 2014

Shannon Knapp Promoting Real Women Radio Interview Transcript

Photo courtesy of Invicta FC

The following is the transcript of the Promoting Real Women Radio interview with Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp conducted by myself (Jason Adams) and Sarah Goodlaxson.

Sarah: First what I want to do is thank you for everything you have done for the women fighters. When you first announced your plans and goals for Invicta, before you had your first show, there was a lot of talk. People were excited, people were a little bit leery, nobody knew what exactly was going to happen. Did you really feel like your goals for Invicta have come to fruition or do you have work to do or do you feel like you have proven everything you set out to prove
Shannon: I definitely feel like we are making great strides and we are really changing things for the better for the female athletes, but do I think we are there? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. There's tons of work to be done and I have a much bigger vision for Invicta than what we have been able to accomplish at this point in time. I think for me, you thank me, but I thank everyone else because this isn't a one woman job in terms pushing the sport forward like we have been able to do. The gratitude goes to the fans, the athletes, but I think we're getting there, we're getting close, close to a comfortable place where we can say that we are here to stay and we are changing everything.

Sarah: If you went back and you thought about before the first Invicta and your expectations for the potential growth of the company would you have truly believed it would be where it's at now, preparing for an eight event, did you have any idea how big it would be and how much people would appreciate it?
Shannon: I think any time you set out to do something you have some kind of expectation or something in place that you would like to see happen but no, it's far surpassed anything that.... that old saying "build it and they will come", I firmly believed in that, I just didn't know how quick it would be to get from point A to B. It's more than surpassed what I expected in the amount of time. It's probably been how quickly we have been able to elevate it that has been the most surprising aspect of it all.

Sarah: Some people have that with the 115's going into the UFC that it might hurt Invicta but do you think it's fair to say that the reality is this is why you created Invicta, to get females the opportunity like this?
Shannon: Definitely! Will it hurt Invicta? No we are already filling that division. We are gonna make an announcement this week, we probably signed thirteen or fourteen new athletes. Just because we are not out there making press releases right at the moment, I said this the other day, because there is no news doesn't mean there's bad news. It just means we are working on something that is gonna be good news, but everything takes time. Did it hurt us? No! That is the deepest division in the entire sport. What it did was provide more opportunities and push us forward. The way I look at it, it's a big leap forward for the sport for the females to get another division there and to be instrumental in that process is very gratifying for the sport and everyone involved.

Jason: I think going into the first Invicta, the casual fan might have known a couple of the fighters but do you take any pride in the fact that now some of the sports most popular females like Tecia, Joanne and Bec were people that unless you were a hardcore fan, they might not have even known about and you gave them that platform to become what they have become?
Shannon: Absolutely! It means we are accomplishing the goal that was set, to provide a platform and help them get the exposure they needed to be the stars that we knew they would be. There is always going to be a sense of pride. It must be because I am a mother because I look at it in that maternal way and I did it in the men's side of the sport to, that if I worked with you, you are always my athlete, it doesn't matter where you are or what's going on or who you are competing for, I still like to watch over and make sure they are doing well in their careers. For me it's a lot of feelings but they are all very positive.

Sarah: I feel like that's one thing that you do different that I haven't seen in a lot of promotions, even though you have athletes signed, you are still willing to let them fight outside of the promotion, what was your thought process there?
Shannon: One thing is, go back to the infancy stages of the growth for the females in the sport, if we can't keep them busy, one thing we don't want to do is hinder them from making a living and being able to continue to chase their dream. So that is pretty much why we allow them to compete outside. Of course it's structured, they can't just go out there and take a fight and we don't know about it. You want athletes to make good decisions for their careers and we try to watch over that but we don't want them sitting there starving. Of course there has been a big gap between announcing our next event but that's only because great things for the future and we are finalizing things out.

Sarah: With Cyborg also being under contract to Lion Fights and potentially other fighters doing the same thing does that prevent an added challenge as far as scheduling fighters for fights or do you have a good enough working relationship with other promotions that it's not that big of a deal?
Shannon: I suppose it could pose problems but I'm not one of those promotions that is gonna build a promotion around one athlete were if that athlete is not on the card the whole thing falls apart. I encourage the girls, especially with Muay Thai, I think it's great, it's them honing in on one of their skill sets and perfecting it and getting better at it, so I encourage that or Jiu-Jitsu tournaments or anything that continues to help them evolve and grow as athletes, I think that's huge.

Sarah: From a fighters perspective I think I would be a little hesitant at first because it's not the norm for us. We are used to getting in trouble, if you are in a contract, you are dead set in a contract. I really admire you doing that because when you go to a tournament or kick boxing match it is completely different nerves and so being able to do all those different things, I feel it really helps you grow emotionally as well. I really commend you on that.
Shannon: Thank you. Like I said, it comes down to it's good for both. It's good for them and it's good for us as a promotion, so I think it's healthy.

Jason: Speaking of Cyborg, a couple places have reported that India Gomes is upset with Cyborg fighting for them. In addition to having to work around scheduling her for your events is it hard to find a way to placate her and make her understand why she isn't getting that fight right now?
Shannon: I'm confused why she thinks she can't have that fight. We haven't announced a date but I'm confused why she thinks she is not gonna get that fight. I haven't said she is not gonna get that fight and as far as I am concerned, that is her fight so I am not sure in that respect. I think right now there are some athletes who have sat there, it's the truth, but we have eliminated some of the problems that have affected the rotation of the athletes and how things should work and have been busy restructuring and organizing, plus we are adding shows and are going to be able to be accessed in a different place were fans can watch it, be fan friendly. Everything takes time but we are certainly working on that and have been able to put a better game plan together moving forward to address any and all kinds of those issues that stemmed from the past.

Sarah: What is a realistic number of shows that you are looking hoping to do in 2014?
Shannon: Six. I have always said that we won't do less than four. The goal is for six. Part of that is because we are getting a little bit later a start than we had hoped for but every day we are working on it and it's coming together and I think that people will be surprised and excited.

Sarah: Before the show we reached out to listeners and asked what questions they wanted to ask you and clearly the biggest question is when is Invicta 8 going to be? How close are we to a date and announcement of the next card?
Shannon: The big deal has been about making the big announcement about where our new home is gonna be and the date and the fight card. That's why we haven't put a lot of information out there. We will make an announcement and it will be soon, it won't be too much longer. We are still in that same time period that we talked about all along, March, April, right in there, nothing has changed.

Sarah: I had to ask.
Shannon: I am always apologetic when I am a guest and there are certain things I can't talk about, so I am not giving a great interview in that aspect. If I could I would, I really would.

Sarah: Like "if I told you, I'd have to kill you." (Laughs)
Shannon: Something like that (laughs). But I can tell you this week that we are gonna make the announcement on some of the new athletes that we've signed and I think it's gonna surprise a lot of people and show there is still very much a lot of life in Invicta. We took a moment there and are restructuring and organizing and filling the roster and putting a game plan together. That's the bottom line.

Sarah: Along with those changes, you made Julie Kedzie your new matchmaker, what were some of the qualities you felt she brought to the table that made you want to bring her on in that role?
Shannon: One of the biggest things is she has been in what I call the thick of the sport for many many years. There is no better life lesson than to be in the trenches of it and growing with it. She is very familiar with the sport, she definitely has all the people skills, all the normal things you would look for in someone filling that position, but she is very knowledgeable. To be put in that spot and position in the sport and know what to do with it is huge. I have always been impressed with the way she conducts herself, her passion for the sport and she gets it. It's hard to describe but I think she is going to do an amazing job at this, an incredible job. She has been hindered lately by the things I am working on to give her great guidance but she is already doing an amazing job.

Sarah: We had her on not too long ago and I always have to compliment her any time I see her on the smile that she always seems to have on her face, it is infectious. The thing I think of when I think of Julie Kedzie is her toughness and her smile.
Shannon: Yep, I agree. She just has a good energy regardless. She has been a big part of the sport for a long time. Honestly, I think she is one of the best commentators out there, especially on the female side of things.

Jason: You mentioned the new fighters signed and a couple names have come out and they are from other countries, is that something you feel is important, getting fighters from other countries to maybe help break into those countries and get more recognition in those countries or is it just these are good fighters and they happen to be from other places?
Shannon: I think it's all of the above. I think that it's important, if you are going to make a claim that you are gonna put on the best fights in the world then you are gonna have to go all over the world and find these great talents. We are not bringing in a lot of pro debut athletes from Internationally but we are bringing in athletes that have records and should be ranked and get the exposure and are at that point in their careers where they need to be seen and I love the fact that they want to be here, that is always hugely important to me.

Sarah: You spoke about the people who really wanna be here. Very quickly, Invicta has become the goal, for amateurs, women fighters, people are saying "we want to be on Invicta." For a young female who would like to be noticed by you and your matchmaker and your company, what would you advise them to do?
Shannon: I always say make some noise. If you make enough noise, I am gonna see you, I am gonna hear about you and I am gonna take the time to see who you are. I love the fact that athletes get invested in their careers in terms of marketing themselves, staying on top of what's going on in the sport and to me, part of being a fighter, it's great if you are extremely talented in the cage but you are an absolute gem if you are out there really fighting for what they want. That is the kind of spirit that is hard to find, so when I see that, I really take the time to look, cause they want it and that shows me that they are willing to fight for it.

Sarah: It's a "you help yourself and I wanna help you" kind of thing.
Shannon: Absolutely! We've signed a couple athletes because of the way they really caught my attention because of the way they've aggressively came at me wanting to be on Invicta. Of course they had skills to match it

Sarah: Speaking of the social media and fighters marketing themselves, how much does it mean to you when during past problems when fighters really rally behind the promotion, the people you have chosen to employ are behind you one hundred percent?
Shannon: It's huge. It's huge because we are behind them and we are in business together, we are all fighting for the same thing so it is huge to have that support and to know that they have the confidence and the trust to know that we are going to do everything we can to give them a home to continue to grow within their home.

Sarah: I don't know how much you can say about this but with Carla moving to the UFC and the 115 belt being vacant, do you have any plans for that or is it not a big rush?
Shannon: We have signed new 115 pound strawweights and we still have Mizuki and Katja and still a lot of talent there, so I think fans are gonna be surprised as we continue to move forward. You will miss the people you have become attached to but you will find new athletes ad we are definitely going to make it a priority to shine that spotlight so that they have the opportunity to be stars. We are gonna put the effort in. That's the way it works, we all work together and that is why Invicta has been successful, because we are not the employers, we are all in this together, we are partners, we are all working for the same thing. It takes us all to make it go.

Sarah: Do you have plans in the future for a potential 155 pound division?
Shannon: Definitely! We are looking at it, you may even see the first match on the next card, we have a mock card already and it looks highly possible that that could happen. That is definitely our goal. But in any promotion, you need to add the shows to create and make sure there are opportunities and that we are taking care of the athletes that we already have. But definitely you are going to start to see it, see some of those signings and some of those match-ups on upcoming cards.

Jason: I am a huge proponent of the 155 and over divisions, but one problem is sadly there doesn't seem to be as many fights out there for them which is why I am happy you are adding a 155. But with them having the fewer opportunities to fight, does that make it harder for you to find the talent at that weight that you would like to bring into Invicta?
Shannon: Good question. It can complicate things or make the progression slower than what we would like it to be as far as really filling up a division but we got the time and we are willing to invest our time in really trying to develop that weight class. I think there is talent there, I think it can be exciting match-ups and we will definitely test the waters.

Sarah: You mentioned a little bit earlier about maybe finding a new home and what not, do you feel that eventually running in other cities is something that will be important for the growth of Invicta?
Shannon: Yeah, the model we are working on now does have us moving around. It can't hurt us right? In terms of the growth and bringing more awareness to Invicta. It certainly isn't going to hurt us. As long as it makes sense, it always has to be a deal that makes sense, we certainly don't want to lose money. I think 2014 is going to be an exciting year for Invicta, the athletes, the fans. I think you will see Cris make a run at the 135 division, we've signed some Ultimate Fighter alumni who will be coming over to Invicta, a lot of good stuff going on, that's for sure.

Sarah: We are so happy you agreed to come on. I want to thank you again for everything that you have done for us. I really admire everything you have done, your business savvy since I am a business major, so I really like listening to all your plans and I know everyone is excited to see what 2014 has to bring. Do you have anything thanks or shout-outs that you wanted to give?
Shannon: Yeah, I always wanna thank everybody because it takes each and every one of us to make a difference, the fans, always the athletes, the media that supports us and of course sponsors, we have sponsors that support us that really get behind us and we are grateful for each and every one of them.

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