Friday, February 14, 2014

Why We Believe

Photo Credit: Jacob Gibby Lane

It's a story I have told multiple times. The story of the first MMA card I ever covered as media. It was NAAFS Even of Destruction, a September 2010 all female card. The main event featured Jessica "Evil" Eye against Marissa "Shorty" Caldwell. I knew of Jessica but did not know Jessica. What I did know was that Marissa walked into a very hostile environment as I don't think she had a fan in the building, at least it seemed that way. The crowd was full of supporters, there to see Jessica. It being my first time as "media", I was unaware of proper protocol and feeling bad for Marissa, I began openly rooting for her, I mean somebody had to right? Jessica put on a great performance and won the fight. Even after rooting against her, I waited for a little bit, for the cage to be taken down, people to leave, until Jessica emerged from the locker room to get a picture with her and ask her to do one of my interviews, back when I did them by email. What impressed me was Jessica seemed more excited to take pictures with fans than the fans were to take pictures with her. Jessica said she would do one of my interviews, but unfortunately, we didn't get to it.

The next time I saw Jessica was the next even I covered. She had come to support teammates on the card. I stood there talking with Nichole Castillo, the NAAFS matchmaker, and Jessica walked in and gave me this big hug. My thought at the time was "she must be one of those people who forgets who she has long talks with and who she has short talks with and wants to be careful not to offend anyone." Over time, as I became better friends with her, I learned that the reality is that that is just Jessica. That's who she is, if you show her an ounce of support, she has great appreciation for you. Over the past couple years, through her training me, through her lone loss to Aisling Daly, through Bellator and now the UFC, I have been one of many many people who are loyal to Jessica. Not so much Jessica the fighter, but Jessica the person. Whether it was sitting on the couch with her days after the Daly fight or the other end of that, talking with her at the gym after her UFC debut and win. The one memory that stays with me is the talk after the Daly fight. Jessica was upset, not so much that she lost, as days prior she had even said to me in an interview that no one goes undefeated forever. She was upset because she felt she had let people down, all the people that came to support her. But in my mind, one good thing about the Daly loss is she learned those same people still supported her, they didn't do so based on her record or whether she won or lost a certain fight.

As a member of the media, I always worry if I am walking that line careful enough. That line where I have to separate friendship and loyalty with professionalism. I think I do an o.k. job. When at her fights and covering them when she was fighting for NAAFS, I was able to be professional and not root and call the fight as I saw it. But I can also admit, at times, media takes a back seat to loyalty, such as the recent events that have come out surrounding her fight with Sarah Kaufman.

It came out in a story on Sherdog that Jessica's win was being made a no-contest due to some failed test. Over the weekend that it came out, no one knew why. There were all kinds of theories being floated around. Finally it seemed to be that it was due to blood thinner. Story over right? Wrong! It was later revealed by Bloody Elbow that it was for marijuana. There was a quick rush by many who support Jessica to denounce that story. I myself believed what Jessica said about it being blood thinner and felt the story was an attempt to cause problems.

Well by now we all know it was in fact a positive test for cannabinoids, better known as marijuana. After thinking about it for a couple minutes, want to know my response? So what! Especially when I found out what level she tested and just how insignificant it was. I sure as hell was not going to condemn her for that. People wanted to attack her for not being honest, not admitting it, sticking with the blood thinner claim. In my opinion, it was a person wanting to protect her image, a person who is looked up to and admired. Jessica owes no apologies for that in my opinion. Do we not defend and vote into office politicians who regularly fabricate or stretch the truth in an attempt to protect their image? Yes, some of those same politicians are then attacked when they are caught in a lie, but then the next one is ushered in and the process repeats itself. People quickly defend the next one and vote him into office and people will blindly dismiss any allegations of them being dishonest in order to get the one they want into whatever office he or she is seeking. But a fighter wants to protect her image and suddenly there is an outcry for an apology, an outcry from people with all sorts of possible punishments she may deserve. People defended Jessica and then when the story came out, those people received criticism for defending her and being so quick to do so, yet many of those doing the criticizing are now doing so in a way that is very similar to what they are accusing her defenders of doing. People make a social media post expressing support of Jessica and people comment or reply attacking her. Are we wrong for defending her or standing by her using our written word to do so and you right for using your written word to vilify her?

Jessica received and accepted her punishment. That is how the process works. You do wrong, you get punished, you serve punishment. If she wants to deny what that punishment is for, that is her right to do so, it is her right to want to protect her image. There is not an explanation needed. She did not give me the truth, and you know what? I don't care, in fact I totally understand why. It did not in any way change how I feel about her, how I will support her and how I will always proudly write EYEBelieve. Because I know the reality. The reality is that Jessica cares for her fans as much as any fighter in the sport and it was for them, it was not wanting to let them down, it is how they feel about her that matters most.

We are days away from a big fight between two of the best, Jessica Eye vs. Alexis Davis. A fight with huge implications. My hope is we can now focus on that. Give both fighters what they deserve, a proper build-up to what will be a great fight.

One good thing about tough situations is it lets a person see who her or his real friends and real supporters are. People who will have their back not only in the good times but also in the bad. I felt a proper ending to this would be to allow some of those in the sport show that they are among those who will have her back and express why they are so supportive of Jessica Eye in their own words.

Tamikka Brents
Jess is probably one of the most genuine people I've met period, let alone in the MMA community where a lot of people have ulterior motives to befriending you. I met her as an amateur and she had zero ego and since then, even with all the popularity and celebrity, that still hasn't changed. She's an awesome fighter as well as an awesome person.

Mike Newcomb
I admire Jessica Eye, because she is a selfless, kind and genuine person.How else can I describe someone that checks in on a fan that has cancer, to see how you're feeling, the week of her fight with Sarah Kaufman, and she still checks on me regularly,as busy as she is, she puts others first.That's why,

Erik Tisler
Jessica Eye and I have been close friends for many years now. I have never met someone so genuine in my life. She has been there for me when times were ruff in my life, always having some encouraging words to help lift my spirit. She doesn't hold back, and tells ya how it is. Jess goes above and beyond for fans, friends and family. She has always believed in me, and I will always believe in her. Though we may not be blood brother and sister, she will always be apart of my family and hold a special place in my heart.

Jessica Dinch
Her name is Jessica Eye. Most people know her from fighting in the UFC. A lot of you now know her because she’s been blasted all over social media due to the failed drug test issue. But, very few of you actually know Jessica Eye outside of the cage. About 2 years ago, I had the privilege of not only meeting her, but getting to train with her on numerous occasions. Notice how I said NUMEROUS occasions. Also, I live 2 hours away from Strongstyle. There’s plenty of reasons why I kept making that drive back and forth to train. Oh, and let me remind you that I’m just an ammy fighter with a sucky ass record too. The first time I walked into Strongstyle I was greeted by Jess and treated like I had been there forever, and at this time Jess was a Bellator star! But she trained with me, she taught me, she pushed me, and she motivated me. One of the most humble athletes you could ever meet. A rising star taking the time out of her training to help me and work with me. That’s just who Jess is. She would do anything for anybody. She has the heart of a champion IN and OUT of the cage. The mistake that she has made doesn’t define who she is. It doesn’t even fucking come close. Until I read a very in depth interview on Jess, I would have NEVER known the struggles and the hard times she had growing up. You know why that is? Because she learns and she grows and she OVERCOMES EVERY FUCKING OBSTACLE IN HER WAY! Doing it all with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. The shit that she has gone through, most of you would crawl in a hole and die. But, she just keeps getting STRONGER and STRONGER! If any of you media turds can look in the mirror and honestly say you never told a lie, then by all means keep talking. Otherwise, SHUT THE FUCK UP! Jess, I will ALWAYS BELIEVE. FUCK SHIT UP ON FEB. 22!!!!!

Steve Rychel
I first met Jessica at Bellator 74. She was there to watch the the Holland vs Ould fight. She talked to my stepdaughter Kayla who had recently started training but would just turtle up and scream when any one would throw a punch at her and Jess just gave her some in encouraging words and they they still talk here and there on twitter. Jess has been nothing but nice and accommodating any time we talk, regardless if its social media or through messaging or interviews we have conducted. She is someone I would like my girls to model themselves after. Jessica has one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen inside and outside of fighting and honored to call her a friend.

Tori Tisler
When I first moved to Cleveland, a couple years ago, Jess was one of the first people I made friends with. I only knew a handful of people here, but she took the time to make me feel like family from the first time her and I talked. Being a new person in a big city is certainly scary, but Jess made sure to include me in everything. Since then our friendship has really become something awesome. I mean she even bought our family the crib that our son sleeps in every night. Jess is an incredibly hard working respectable woman, who has really earned all the success she has today. Although I'd have to say that one of my favorite things about her is the fact that the same Jess that you see in interviews, on TV, and around the city is the same person that she is when we're all just hanging out together. It's not an act, she's the same genuine funny person on all levels, no matter who she's around. I'm beyond proud of her and her success, and even more proud to be able to call her one of my closest friends.

Nichole Usko
I met and train with Jess a few times and she is by far is the most approachable woman I ever met. When I came to her gym she treated me like I wasn't a guest and was so down to earth & friendly. The way she talks about fighting , training and her family she has so much passion. The look in her eyes when she fights and trains is she's passionate about this sport. I believe in Jess and I believe she will be wearing that belt soon regardless of any obstacles ! Eyebelieve!!!!

Stephanie Skinner
EyeBelieve in Jessica Eye! Regardless of any of what has come up to be known, she is and will always be the talented Jessica Eye. I admire and look up to her for her work ethic, her fight style and how she carries herself and conducts herself. When she beat Zoila quick like it was nobody business I became even more a fan! She is the smallest 135er in the UFC and she could care less, it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog and she has so much heart and determination it's inspiring. To hell with the haters, EyeBelieve, and I support her for all her contributions to the sport.

Tania Allen
The reasons why I EYEBELIEVE in Jess are that she inspires and motivates me to be a better person everyday. From the 1st time I saw her fight I was an instant fan. Following her ammy career & during start of her pro career I knew she had IT!. She is the most amazing person I have ever met. I admire her as a fighter and for the real person she is everyday. She works her ass . I just believe in her no matter what she does. I felt an instant connection the first time we met like we have known each other for years. I went to shake her hand & Jess said "Give me a hug I am a hugger". I love her like she is my own kid. She is my family-we r not related by blood, but by love. EYEBELIEVE was a cute lil motto/logo that has morphed into a real motivation for me to always stay positive. I truly believe that Jess is a role model for everybody. She has a huge heart, a smile that lights the room, and a presence that just really inspires you to be your best. She is so giving and has done so much charity work ,motivational speaking, and has helped anyone who has ever needed help. I am blessed to have her in my life. Getting a text from my Jesse just puts a smile on my face. When I am having a bad day thinking of her and my son really inspires me to get through it. So for all the good that Jesse has done can we all just send her some positive, kind words just to let her know she is a wonderful, sweet , angel? These are the reasons why EYEBELIEVE & ALWAYS WILL NO MATTER WHAT!!!! I luv u Jess

Ashley Hawkins
Jessica eye is more then just an awesome fighter, shes always an awesome person. She's the first female fight I've ever seen live and I have looked up to her since that first fight! I consider her a friend and team mate. She's always is so nice and humble. She opened her gym up to me. She always made time to teach me something new and help me with anything I needed. Even after we sparred many rounds. She helped me so much after coming from a gym that didn't treat me right at all. I am so thankful for that!! She has had my back and believed In me. Even had her coach and herself corner me in a couple fights. And I always have her back and am "in her corner". I always said she has what it takes To be the champ and eye believe it!!

Patty Cohara
"Jessica Eye" The Fighter, The Friend, The Supporter and your over all good hearted person. I believe it was 2009 when I enrolled my son at Strongstyle and saw Jessica training there. I was amazed that a girl was actually in the cage right there holding her own with the boys. My thought was "One bad a$$ girl" Not one you can just go up to and talk to. You know the saying "Don't judge a book by it's cover". I was completely wrong, Jessica is just so amazing in so many ways. She always takes the time to say Hi to everyone and to my kids (who just adore her and love to watch her fight). She is willing to give advise when she sees you need it or if your in need to ask her. She gives her time to support good causes (breast cancer and anti bulling at the schools) on top of her busy schedule.
Jessica takes her profession very seriously and works very hard at it. She is where she is today because of all this. Now that she has made a "Name" for herself in this sport and spotlight, her life is out there in the open. She also has her personal Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts along with a fan page. What I admire is you don't see her posting pictures of herself like she is in a Beauty Pageant. She shares her thoughts, life moments and pictures she takes with her fans and supporters.
We can't forget that she is also human just like us who follow her or know of her. We all have or will in our life time make a mistake or bad decision but we learn from it. It's doesn't change who you are inside and what you believe in. We should not pass judgment so quickly or point fingers. True friends/fans should be behind her to help lift her up, dust her off and let her know it's ok and we are still behind her. I know I am still a big fan/friend of hers. I will be cheering her on for every fight along the way. Yes Jessica Eye I am a true Eyebeliever!!!

Howard Fidler
I have worked with elite athletes for over 17 years and can't say that many have had as big an impact in my life as Jessica Eye. She opened her life to me and became a role model to my 2 girls. She has become a permanent part of my family.

Rach Wiley
First and foremost I wanted to say thank you so much for taking the time to text me before my fight. It absolutely made my day, and it just goes to show how amazing you truly are. How many pro fighters at your level would do that? Not many at all. It is especially awesome because I know your life has been very busy and hectic. Please understand that no matter what goes on in life that there are so many people that love you and will stand by you unconditionally. You are an amazing fighter, and an amazing person all around. You know they say, the more haters you have, the more you can be assured that you're doing something right. Kat Williams said "if you have 14 haters, you need to find a way to get to 16 before the summer time". You have so much to be proud of, and people will hate you for it but F them!!! I look up to you so much. I want to be just like you some day. Please don't let people bring you down. I can't wait to watch you fight on the 22. You work so hard and I truly admire you. I will be a life long fan of yours no matter what you do in life. Stay awesome.

Nikolai Gionti
Jessica has been there since I met her. Originally, we were on business terms with me interviewing her for my podcast, but I would like to say that it has become much more than that. She helped corner me in my first grappling tournament and was kind enough to invite me down to train at Strong Style with her. We all make mistakes, but nothing can change the support I have for her after all she has done for me.

Brett Trepczyk
I'd def say that with her what you see is what you get. She's real. It's probably out of bias because we sort of saw her before everybody else in the NAAFS but she is the same person you see on tv. It's not an act at all. Very down to Earth. I'd say something like that. Plus I still can't get over the first 2 fights I've seen her in.
1st was her first ever loss. I was still impressed despite the loss and honestly she got me interested in WMMA. The second was against Carina Damm because that was the first event I had taken my brother Cole to. She not only beat her on a slippery mat, she beat some one who was on P.E.D's. That's unheard of. Not to give Carina more negative pub but I think that fight alone speaks volumes.
These are the things that people aspiring to be pro athletes (such as myself) try to take notes on. How to be mentally tough and stay on that mental level because it's more mental than physical at that level in my eyes. It has to be a bitch especially dealing with the fact her pops is in a fight for his life. I can't imagine one of my parents getting that news so I would say she's a good role model on how to deal with that situation while still maintaining everything else going on in your own life.

Sarah McLeod
At a medical school interview this past weekend, I was asked to describe the qualities of a good leader. With two minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech, I tried to imagine the positive characteristics of myself that would fit this description but in all honesty, I found myself thinking about Jess. A good leader is someone who stands strong when faced with adversity; someone who works hard to be in a position of positive influence; and someone who believes in him/herself. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone is capable of making them. I would stand strong to support my opinion that there are too many positives about Jess to judge one poor decision. To me, Jess IS and ALWAYS has been the epitome of a good leader; a genuine, indomitable and amazing woman. I anticipate and look forward to an even stronger Jess than before.

Cassie Robb
Last week I found out one of my favorite fighters had her last fight robbed from her due to failing a drug test. When I first heard this I thought NO, this cannot be true. How could someone basically cheat their way through this sport by taking performance enhancing drugs. I've always been against the use of steroids.. Come to find out.. That was not what came up in her system. Turns out..... IT WAS JUST WEED. Yes, JUST weed. Now this just blows my mind. Why is it such a big deal if a fighter uses marijuana? It is not a performance enhancing drug by any means. If anything I would say it would be great for pain and for stress in a fighters life. I want Jessica to know that no matter what, she has my full an complete support. There is no way that a minor thing like smoking weed is going to make me think any differently of her. It's a common thing nowadays and is even legal recreationally here In Colorado where I live. Like i said before.. It's just weed people, grow up!!!

Scottie Weaver
First of all I am just not a Jessica Eye fan but I consider myself as her friend. I support her no matter what anyone has to say negative or positive. She is good for the sport and has a heart of gold. She came all the way to my fight at the Arnold Classic last year in which I headlined not to support just me but to sit with my 14 year old son who she met at her fight at the Rock N Rumble. For a fighter to travel to Columbus 150 miles away to sit with my son because she's his favorite fighter is amazing. Tell me another fighter that would do that? Everybody makes mistakes and I don't consider it a mistakes if you learn from them. I don't care never fights again and becomes a clerk at gas station, I would do anything for her. So anyone who don't like her can FUCKOFF. EYEBELIEVE!

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.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

NAAFS Combat Challenge 26 Report

Saturday February 8th was NAAFS Combat Challenge 26. One of the events I like where you see the young fighters starting out, gives me the opportunity to spot who the next wave of stars might be. Among the highlights were Joe Callari continuing to be one of the most improved amateurs in the state with an impressive win over Stephen Powell, Josh Rohler making his debut and showing star potential and a really entertaining fight between two fighters in their debut and both showed big time potential with Tim Stinson facing Alex Hilton.

1. Amateur Heavyweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Billy Howard (0-0 Independent) vs James Bentley (0-0 Independent)

RD 1: They trade hard punches. They clinch on the cage and quickly separate. They trade more hard shots. They clinch in the center and Howard lands body shots before they separate. Hard cross by Bentley. Howard lands punches against the cage. Cross by Bentley. They trade punches and then clinch on the cage. They drop down with Howard on top in half guard. Head shots by Howard. Howard gets mount and lands punches till the ref stops it.

Result: Billy Howard via TKO at 2:19 of Round 1

2. Amateur Featherweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Andrew Newman (0-1 Team Adventure) vs Chris Kingsley (0-2 Independent)

RD 1: They clinch on the cage. Body shots by Kingsley. Knee to the body by Kingsley. Kingsley goes for a guillotine and they drop down. Newman gets mount but Kingsley is still going for the choke. Punch to the body by Newman. Newman lands another hard body shot and Kingsley taps.

Result: Andrew Newman via Tapout (Strikes) at 2:55 of Round 1

3. Amateur Welterweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Damoane Hawkins (0-0 Cleveland State MMA) vs Adam Sharpe (0-0 Independent)

RD 1: Leg kick by Sharpe. Hawkins lands punches. Takedown by Hawkins into guard. Hawkins gets a guillotine for the tap.

Results: Damoane Hawkins via Tapout (Guillotine) at 0:39 of Round 1

4. Amateur Welterweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Tim Stinson (0-0 Team East Coast/Power Athletics) vs Alex Hilton (0-0 Bullpen)

RD 1: Leg kick by Hilton. Cross by Stinson. Two leg kicks by Hilton. Stinson drops him with a hook and lands more punches and then looks for a guillotine. They stand and clinch on the cage. Knee to the body by Hilton. They separate. They trade punches. Hook by Stinson. Leg kick by Hilton and another. They clinch on the cage. Knee to the body by Hilton. They separate. Leg kick by Hilton. Hard cross by Stinson. They clinch and separate quick. Leg kick by Hilton and another. Takedown by Stinson.
I scored RD 1: 10-9 Stinson

RD 2: Leg kick by Hilton. Stinson drops him with a hook and goes down looking for an arm. Stinson stands and drops down punches and falls into guard. Hilton goes for an arm but they stand. Hilton lands a kick low stopping action. They resume. Hard cross by Hilton. They clinch and drop down and Stinson gets a guillotine for the tap.

Result: Tim Stinson via Tapout (Guillotine) at 1:56 of Round 2

5. Amateur Welterweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Stephen Powell (2-0 Crucible Fight Team) vs Joe Callari (6-6 GriffonRawl)

RD 1: Leg kick by Powell. Front kick by Powell. They clinch on the cage. Takedown by Callari into guard. Punch to the head by Callari. Powell goes for an arm but Callari escapes and gets his back. Callari looks for a rear naked. Powell escapes and Callari moves to half guard. Head shots by Calllari. Callari lands a punch to the body and then gets a guillotine for the tap.

Result: Joe Callari via Tapout (Guillotine) at 2:28 of Round 1

6. Amateur Lightweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Josh Rohler (0-0 Rock Hard MMA) vs John Mumaw (0-1 Independent)

RD 1: Body kick by Mumaw. Slam by Rohler and he gets side control. Rohler tries for a key lock. Head shots by Rohler. He lands more till the ref stops it.

Result: Josh Rohler via TKO at 1:10 of Round 1

7. Amateur Featherweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Ahmad Douglas (2-0 GriffonRawl) vs Ron Butler (0-0 Cleveland State MMA)

RD 1: They trade jabs. They clinch on the cage. Knee to the body by Douglas. Butler drags him down and has his back in north south. They stand and separate. Leg kick by Douglas. They clinch on the cage. Knee to the leg by Butler. They drop down and Butler gets his back and lands head shots. Butler looks for a rear naked. More head shots by Butler.
I scored RD 1: 10-9 Butler

RD 2: They clinch on the cage. Douglas gets his back standing. Knee to the leg by Douglas. Takedown by Douglas into guard. Head shots by Douglas. Douglas has his back in north south and lands head shots. Douglas is warned for hitting the back of the head. More head shots by Douglas but he is deducted a point for hitting the back of the head. They resume back in the same position. More head shots by Douglas.
I scored RD 2: 9-9

RD 3: Leg kick by Butler. They clinch on the cage. They drop down and Douglas gets his back. Head shots by Douglas. Body shots by Douglas. Douglas gets a rear naked for the tap.

Result: Ahmad Douglas via Tapout (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:12 of Round 3

8. Amateur Welterweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Nate Davies (3-2 Instigator Fight Team) vs Shaun Paythress (3-1 Black Dragon Society)

RD 1: They clinch on the cage. Knee to the body by Davies. Slam by Paythress into guard. Davies looks for a triangle. Head shots by Davies. Davies is still looking for the triangle. Paythress escapes and is still in guard. Paythress stands and drops right back into guard.
I scored RD 1: 10-9 Davies

RD 2: Leg kick by Paythress. They clinch on the cage. Paythress is trying hard for a takedown. Knee to the body by Davies. They separate. Jab by Davies. Paythress catches a kick and they clinch on the cage. Knee to the body by Davies. They separate. Leg kick by Paythress. They trade jabs and clinch on the cage. Knee to the body by Davies. They separate. Hook by Davies.
I scored RD 2: 10-9 Davies

RD 3: They clinch on the cage. Takedown by Paythress into guard. Paythress stands and drops back into guard. He stands again and lets Davies up. Uppercut by Davies. Paythress shoots and gets a takedown into guard. Davies looks for a triangle. Head shots by Davies. More head shots by Davies. They stand. Leg kick by Paythress.
I scored RD 3: 10-9 Davies
My score card : 30-27 Davies

Result: Nate Davies via Unanimous Decision (30-27/30-27/30-27)

9. Amateur Welterweight 3x3x3 Rounds
Thaer Zayed (1-0 Wrestling Factory Cleveland) vs Kyle Holt (2-0 Team Impact)

RD 1: Takedown by Zayed but Holt lands on top and gets his back. They stand clinched on the cage. Takedown by Holt and he gets his back. Zayed escapes and is on top in guard. Zayed moves to half guard and lands head shots. They stand clinched on the cage. Uppercut by Zayed. They separate, Uppercut by Holt. They clinch on the cage. Takedown by Holt.
I scored RD 1: 10-9 Holt

RD 2: Hook by Zayed. Zayed shoots and gets his back standing. Head shots by Zayed. They drop down but are up quick clinched on the cage. Holt works for a takedown but they separate. Takedown by Zayed into guard. Body shots by Zayed. Head shots by Zayed. Body shots by Zayed.
I scored RD 2: 10-0 Zayed

RD 3: Hook the body by Zayed. They clinch on the cage. Takedown by Holt against the cage. Zayed is warned for grabbing the cage. They stand. Takedown by Zayed and he gets his back. Head shots by Zayed. Zayed grabs the cage again but the ref doesn't see it. Head shots by Zayed. Body shots by Zayed. Holt rolls and Zayed lands in guard but gets his back again. Body shots by Zayed.
I scored RD 3: 10-9 Zayed
My score card: 29-28 Zayed

Results: Thaer Zayed via Unanimous Decision (29-28/29-28/29-28)

Submission of the Night: Joe Callari

Knockout of the Night: Josh Rohler

Fight of the Night: Tim Stinson vs Alex Hilton