Shannon Knapp: The Unsung Pioneer of Women’s MMA

Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp
Shannon Knapp Credit: Jeff Sherwood/

Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp has played a great role in the incredible growth of women’s MMA over the past decade and deserves recognition.

Invicta FC is without a doubt the most popular and prestigious MMA promotion for female MMA fighters. With titles ranging from atomweight to featherweight, the Invicta FC title is the second most prestigious belt a female fighter can hold, the first being the UFC.

Invicta FC has also been home to some of the most talented female MMA fighters like current UFC champion Amanda Nunes, Carla Esparza, Sarah Kaufman, Claudia Gadelha, Liz Carmouche, Paige VanZant and many more.

The opening of Invicta FC has truly been a blessing for the growth of women’s MMA and time and again the promotion and the fighters have been credited for the extraordinary growth of the sport. However, someone who is usually ignored is the one who brought the idea of the promotion to reality, Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp.

A former Strikeforce employee, Shannon Knapp decided to start the all-female MMA promotion in October 2011. The idea did not generate much positive response from people around her, as no one thought that an all-female promotion could generate business. The concerns of people around her were clearly valid, as MMA was a developing sport back then and had little mainstream media attraction. So in that case, opening an all-women MMA promotion wasn’t the best idea. However, Knapp decided to gamble and set aboard the Invicta express, a move which she clearly doesn’t regret today.

Invicta FC might today stand as one of the most successful and biggest name in the MMA world today but in the beginning, the promotion went through plenty of challenges. Their first PPV event, Invicta FC 4, faced major failure due to technical errors which caused the to refund the entire pay-per-view back to its viewers, and they also underwent financial trouble a year later. Yet, Knapp never lost hope and faced every blow with her head held high. In an interview with Combat Press, Shannon Knapp opened up about what it is like to run a promotion.

“It is tough, being the owner of a business; it’s a lot of responsibility if you genuinely care. So, me, I think about that stuff. I think, ‘If I fail, what happens to the sport? What happens to the people that are depending on me?’ And I take that serious, so it’s very overwhelming sometimes. Every decision you make has a ripple effect and it affects something. Especially when it comes to athletes, you try. You do your best to always be fair. Like, I won’t give to one that I won’t give to another. I can’t base a decision on one when I have to take care of many. Those are just things that are easier when they’re packaged like that. I don’t just want to throw everything at one athlete and forget about the rest.”

The efforts by Knapp acted as a great catalyst for the growth of the sport. Women have received various opportunities thanks to Knapp’s early efforts in Invicta. From headlining UFC pay-per-views, to having an entire season of The Ultimate Fighter dedicated to strawweights. These platforms have been incredible for the growth of women’s MMA, but it all can be traced back to one woman.

Shannon Knapp has not only brought recognition for women in the MMA world, she has also proved that a woman is more than capable of running a promotion and successfully creating a platform that has changed the lives of many. She might not be as front-and-center as other promotional leaders, but Shannon Knapp deserves great respect.