Exclusive – Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp discusses ‘Exciting’ debut on CBS Sports

Invicta FC president Shannon Knapp discusses exiting deal with CBS Sports

For months, there was fair reason to be concerned about Invicta FC’s future. The women’s MMA promotion, which had long been known for giving major stars in the sport a platform on their way up to the UFC, went more than half a year without announcing an event.

Many started to worry if the decade-long fixture on the U.S. regional scene had met its demise. However, the public recently learned that the idea of the promotion folding was far from the truth. The months of radio silence wasn’t Invicta FC slowly fading away, but instead their quiet behind-the-scenes pursuit of making a strong return. Work from recent weeks by the promotion will all come to a culmination very soon when they host an event in Kansas City.

The absence of Invicta FC will come to an end this Friday when the promotion kicks off a five-event tour which will take place in the second half of 2024. The series of events comes along with a new distribution deal, airing events live on American TV channel CBS Sports Network.

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“It’s always hard when you know you’re working on something but you can’t say anything,” said Shannon Knapp, the President of Invicta FC. “You see the speculation, you know. Everybody wants to know what’s going on. So when you can make that announcement and let the world know what you’ve been working on, it’s a very exciting moment.”

Invicta FC Returning Amid A Women’s Sports ‘Evolution’

The deal is Invicta FC’s first major partnership since being acquired by Anthem Sports & Entertainment in 2021. It guarantees five events this year, with Knapp mentioning the possibility of further shows on the channel in 2025. After years on UFC’s online subscription service Fight Pass, the promotion briefly was hosted on Anthem-owned channel AXS TV. Knapp said that they were always in pursuit of a new media deal and that they are satisfied with the one which kicks off this week.

“I think it’s great for CBS Sports,” Knapp said. “They embrace more women’s sports, and I think it’s great for Invicta. We have the opportunity to possibly connect with maybe a potential fan base that didn’t have that opportunity before.”

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Invicta FC’s return comes amid a big moment for women’s sports. The rise of popularity for college and pro-level women’s basketball—coined by some as “The Caitlin Clark Effect” due to a highly successful popular Iowa-born player leading the charge—has put women’s athletics under a big spotlight. Other rising leagues, like the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL), have also received a rise in popularity as of late. Knapp sees the importance of making sure every sport is involved in the current rise of women’s sports, including MMA.

“I think it’s very exciting to see the evolution that’s happening right now for women’s sports,” she said. “But I think that everybody’s part of that movement. If you’re an all-female [league] you’re part of that movement. I think it’s really important that we embrace that, and we help lift it up, not only for Invicta or for combat sports, but for all sports.”

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Talita Bernardo, Kay Hansen Among Spotlighted Talents

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Friday’s card will include a mix of returning Invicta FC names, plus a wave of new talent who debut with a fair amount of buzz. The main event will see bantamweight champ Talita Bernardo hunt for her fourth consecutive win in the promotion, taking on rising ex-Bellator fighter Olga Rubin.

After having an unsuccessful UFC run that came to an end in 2022, Bernardo has found a second wind in her career through Invicta FC. After scoring back-to-back submission wins in 2022, she went five rounds against Taneisha Tennant to take a decision victory and capture the division’s 135-pound belt.

Earlier in the night, Kay Hansen will come back to Invicta for the first time since her two-year UFC run. At just 24 years old, Hansen will be looking to reboot her career by performing in the promotion that previously got her to a big stage in the sport.

“Having Kay [Hansen] back is amazing,” Knapp explained. “You know, this is where it all began for her, she was very young. If memory serves me right, I think she was like 18 when she came in, or somewhere in that vicinity. She was very young.”

Atomweight Division Continues To Receive Attention

Earlier in the night, an atomweight (105-pound) fight will see Japanese prospect Saori Oshima take on Andressa Romero. Oshima has put together a stellar record in Japan’s regional scene and has won four fights in notable promotion RIZIN.

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Among the top MMA promotions (UFC, PFL & Bellator), none currently host fights at the atomweight limit. Knapp explained the importance of putting a spotlight on these divisions at Invicta, even if they aren’t exactly stepping-stone bouts to get into bigger promotions.

“It’s important that we embrace all the divisions,” she said. “Currently. we have five divisions. Could we expand on that at some point in time? There is a good potential. But yeah, I think it’s hugely important. I especially the lower weights for women. You find a lot of women that compete in those weight classes.”

Back up and running, Invicta FC is optimistic about what lies ahead. After months where fans might have felt worried about the promotion’s future, Knapp wants the public to know that they are working hard to provide the best product possible.

“We’re moving, and we’re super excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us,” she said. “I think that what fans can expect right now is I’m gonna do my best. My team’s gonna do their best to put on world-class matchups, entertaining matchups and to really fine-tune everything and give them the best that we can give them.”

Are you excited to see the return of Invicta FC?