In a sport where burgeoning promotions are all too often derivative of the industry leader (UFC), Invicta FC continues to carve out its own unique path.
Invicta Fighting Championships is the world’s largest, all women organization and the MMA promotion has been active since 2012. Industry veteran Shannon Knapp began Invicta and continues to helm the proverbial ship. Knapp brings a wealth of experience to the table having been an executive for promotions like UFC, Strikeforce, and Affliction.
The inaugural card streamed live and free on InvictaFC.com but the methods of distribution have gone in multiple directions since. As the organization began gaining traction, Invicta took a foray into the world of internet pay per view. At one point, Showtime was even courting the attention of Invicta FC but the deal ultimately didn’t come to fruition. 2014 saw Knapp strike a deal with UFC Fight Pass to have Invicta events broadcasted on that platform. The efforts of Knapp and all involved created a ton of momentum which lead to them becoming the industry standard for women’s mixed-martial arts.
This is all too often reflected in how other promotions will pilfer Invicta’s talent. If you look at UFC’s recent efforts to crown inaugural champions, they raided Invicta FC’s roster to do so. The women’s strawweight and flyweight divisions endeavored to decide their first champions through tournaments where predominantly Invicta alums are going toe to toe. Even with the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight championship fight, the bout was contested between two long time Invicta champions. The fact that Evinger vs Cyborg was prominently featured on one of the biggest UFC shows of the year speaks volumes to the star power of Invicta’s bantamweight and featherweight titlists clashing.
Part of the intrigue generated for these great martial artists does come from savvy matchmaking. Invicta FC has historically been on point with selecting matchmakers. Some names that have occupied that position includes women’s MMA pioneer Julie Kedzie and seasoned MMA veteran Kaitlin Young. Individuals who understand how to build up talent incrementally, which match ups will create the most intrigue for viewers, direct knowledge of the sport and the athletic meritocracy of it all reflect in the exciting shows.
Invicta FC is a great live product that has quality pacing all throughout. All the way from prospective fighters making their pro debuts early on in the night until a competitive main event of consequence, every card builds to a crescendo. The industry awareness to acquire the hottest prospects gives a great platform for fighters to compete and build confidence. Invicta is always trying to find that next big thing which is reflected in some recent measures they’ve taken.
World Class Fight League is holding an eight woman amateur tournament with the winner garnering an Invicta FC contract. Not only is this indicative of the promotion wanting the best prospective talent but it also is great for brand perception. For fighters on the regional scene, an Invicta FC contract is the big prize for winning a tournament. It’s the place to be and it creates fierce, competitive incentive for combatants on the come up. In terms of discovering and honing the talents of the world’s most well-known women’s MMA fighters, Invicta FC’s track record speaks for itself.
Current UFC Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas is an example of someone built from the ground up during her Invicta tenure. Never mind luminaries like current UFC champion Cris Cyborg, UFC headliner Michelle Waterson, UFC title challenger Jessica Penne, and women’s pioneers like Tara LaRosa as well as Shayna Baszler. Just a few examples of fighters who already had established name value but knew Invicta FC was the premier brand for women fighters. To look through all Invicta alums is to read a who’s who of women’s MMA.
Invicta has ties to the grassroots amateur scene but is creating partnerships with some of the more historically well-known promotions MMA has ever seen. A recent talent sharing agreement has been created with Invicta FC and Pancrase. To be affiliated with a promotion that very much acted as a progenitor of sorts for MMA is a good look. The partnership will allow for talents to compete in Japan and the U.S. Invicta FC continues to give more opportunities for women to compete which was the organization’s goal from the jump. Some of the more forward thinking organizations aim to co-promote because they’re cognizant of how much this benefits the overall sport long term.
The recent signing of Mackenzie Dern also speaks volumes about the brand strength of Invicta. For one of the hottest prospects in the sport, regardless of gender, to want to sign with Invicta is indicative of positive perceptions of the promotion. Invicta truly does a stellar job of fostering their talent and highlighting what makes each talent special. The storytelling aspects aren’t nearly as rigid as other organizations that present the “pretty girl next door-type that kicks ass” dynamic. Fighters are allowed to dress up in costumes at weigh-ins, their digital content always aims to paint compelling personality portraits, and it’s refreshing to see. The sport was built on a certain degree of pageantry which Invicta thankfully keeps alive and well. It’s not contrived though, there’s an authenticity to it, and personality types not often seen are focused on.
Certain women’s fighters can be met with frustration in promotions that book fights based on a look and marketability. It disincentives fighters from competing further and robs the fans of the best possible match ups. Athletic meritocracy can sometimes fall by the wayside in favour of seeing two pretty women with losing records going at it. The aim being to court a rating from prospective, mainstream sports fans who may skim through the channels and catch this.
Fighters who all too often feel pressured to push the sexuality factor in other promotions aren’t beholden to that in Invicta FC. As such, it has created a comfortable environment where fighters are free to be themselves and get over on the merit of their own personhood. The multiplicity of engaging backstories reveals details of who each fighter is to the viewing public. The commentators also do a great job with fighter interviews, getting great insights on each martial artist, and a lot is added to the broadcast by mentioning these aspects of each combatant. This has created stronger attachments to certain combat athletes and by proxy has made Invicta events can’t miss. The organic marketing of the fighters has been satiating the appetites of hardcore fans who love the kind of product Invicta FC presents.
Fans that have a voracious appetite for MMA also enjoy the myriad of weight classes in Invicta FC. Many of the divisions aren’t available in other promotions. Lightweight women’s fighters and the Atomweight division provide a lot of compelling match ups that aren’t ordinarily seen outside of the IFC sphere. The efforts of Invicta in some of their other classes have also prompted other organizations to adopt the divisions. The localized efforts of Invicta have created a measurable ripple effect that has made the industry better overall. Not just for the viewing enjoyment of fight fans but it gives more opportunities for women fighters to ply their trade.
In short, Invicta FC is growing at a rapid rate but only seems to have just begun. As much as Invicta has great elements of MMA’s past, it clearly is mapping out a path for the future as well. It’s that confluence that creates a compelling product and the organization is clearly growing at a rapid rate because of it. Unique demographics are taking notice, more people are watching MMA, and everyone is better off because of it. Invicta FC already has an indelible legacy in the sport and I look forward to observing what other advancements they can make in the years going forward.
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