After eight months of absence from the MMA world, Invicta Fighting Championships brings us number 8 on September 6th in Kansas City, Missouri, broadcast around the world on UFC Fightpass. Two title belts are on the line – atomweights (105lb) Michelle Waterson vs Yasuko Tamada, and Strawweights (115lb) Stephanie Eggink vs Katja Kankaanpaa. Founded in 2012 and lead by President Shannon Knapp, Invicta brings the fans entertaining fights between some of the top female fighters in the sport, as well as giving up-and-comers a chance to develop and shine.
MMASucka.com reached out to a few of the ladies on the card.
Tonya “Triple-threat” Evinger (13-5) was one of the contestants selected to participate in the Ultimate Fighter season 18 elimination bouts, but lost to Raquel Pennington by guillotine choke. “I fought like sh*t,” she commented, “but there was no one to blame but myself. I seem to drop the ball when it comes to things like this.” That loss counted as an exhibition and didn’t mar her record or spirits, as she bounced back with a decision win over Sarah D’Alelio in Invicta 7 in December 2013. Next week she will be more than happy to welcome Ediane Gomes (10-2) to the bantamweight (135lb) division. “I’m thinking of putting a couple of dents on her face,” Tonya remarked.
Tonya wrestled all throughout junior high, high school, and college, becoming a three time national high school champion, and ranked #1 in her division at Missouri Valley college. She traveled around the world to compete, but after the Olympics announced they would skip her weight division, she decided to switch to MMA. She’s capable on her feet, and is a finisher – she’s only gone to decision four times out of eighteen fights.
What’s it like training with Tonya? Probably tough. “I train like I fight, so I’m definitely gonna beat on you a little,” she remarked.
When she’s not training, she works a lot. “I build custom homes and I’m damn good at my job. I actually hate it, but you gotta stack that paper,” she said.
With Invicta securing the broadcasting deal with UFC Fightpass, anyone who has subscribed will be able to view the fights. “Now that I’m gonna be on there, I’m sure people won’t be able to NOT buy it. I’m that sexy,” she laughed.
Jodie Esquibel (3-1) will be taking on Jinh Yuh Frey (2-0). “Frey is a good match-up,” Jodie said, “and I’m confident that I’ve done my best to prepare. Training has been a blast for we have three of us on the card (Waterson and LaRosa), so we’ve been able to push each other. I’m so thankful for that! I’m very lucky to have such an awesome team and amazing coaches!”
She started training with Mike Winkejohn at 14 years old. “We trained mostly kickboxing, but when I went pro, boxing was more popular, so there went the kicks!” she laughed. “We later merged into one big happy family with Greg Jackson. It was only a matter of time before I made the switch.”
When she’s not training, Jodie is an especially busy individual. “I run a hot yoga studio that also has fitness classes.” She was also a fire fighter for seven years, went to paramedic school, and now she does contact paramedic work with a New Mexico police SWAT team. “It’s super crazy and high speed! We’re deployed any time the SWAT team is, day or night, and we cover the state. After this fight I hope to take the test to be a flight medic so I can fly in the helicopter.”
She also helps run the business “Caveman Coffee,” owned by Keith Jardine and Tait Fletchers. “’Caveman’ beans come from a single source a family owned farm in Columbia,” she explained enthusiastically. “It’s such a beautiful process, and I can’t wait to go to Columbia ourselves, which we will be planning soon! You can order coffee and other super amazing products at Cavemancoffeeco.com.”
Jodie has nothing but good things to say about Invicta, regardless of the Fightpass deal. “Even if the fight was not being shown anywhere I would still be so honored to fight for such an amazing organization. Shannon and Julie are my heroes and continue to give women a platform to showcase our skills. I will be forever grateful for what they have done for us all.”
Michelle Ould (7-3) hails out of Team quest in Temecula. Her last fight was a win in Bellator a year ago, and she’s looking forward to meeting DeAnna Bennett (4-0) in her new home in the Invicta cage. “I don’t know much about her aside from her being aggressive, undefeated, has wins over top girls in a weight class above us,” Michelle said about Bennett. “So I expect her to be a stud. It won’t be an easy fight and that’s why I chose her.”
Michelle has been a fighter all her life, in mind and body. She overcame a lot in her difficult childhood and youth. “My sons and MMA changed my life. I know I would be dead if it weren’t for them.” Her sons are now ten and thirteen, and they think it’s great that their mom fights. “Usually,” Ould added, describing the challenges of being a single mother. “Sometimes I feel guilty coming home exhausted, especially during camp because I tend to be much more on edge, impatient, etc.”
She goes to school on top of that. “I put school off until things settle down a little because it’s impossible to work, train, take care of the boys with no family out here, and go to school,” she said. “I’m hoping I can start fighting consistently now so I can do that and school solely.”
She does personal/private training to pay the bills, from martial arts training to nutrition counseling. However, at the beginning of her camp she got a shock when the Department of Education took her entire tax return which she intended to use to fund her camp and daily living costs until her fight.
“I started a GoFundMe campaign in the amount of my anticipated return and although I am not close to reaching it,” she said, “but I am very humbled and grateful to everyone that contributed. I’ve gotten some sponsorships thanks to Sam Wilson and Linda Kriner, and all in all I at least have been able to pay my bills and get the kids school clothes and supplies.”
Despite the challenges, Michelle loves challenges, and loves to fight. “I wasn’t born to live in a cubicle,” she said. “I love that although it’s becoming more accepted for women to participate, it’s still a very unique occupation for us. There’s a small growing community of us so that we don’t always have to feel like such an outcast for doing what’s considered a ‘man’s’ sport.”
A complete Invicta FC 8 fight card can be seen below:
Michelle Waterson vs. Yasuko Tamada (Atomweight championship)
Stephanie Eggink vs. Katja Kankaanpaa (Vacant strawweight championship)
Ediane Gomes vs. Tonya Evinger
Michelle Ould vs. DeAnna Bennett
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Tara LaRosa
Peggy Morgan vs. Irene Aldana
Veronica Rothenhausler vs. Charmaine Tweet
Alexa Grasso vs. Ashley Cummins
Jodie Esquibel vs. Jinh Yu Frey
J.J. Aldrich vs. Delaney Owen