Dave Mandel / Invicta FC
When it comes to open scoring in MMA, Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp believes there’s no debate about its effectiveness.
For the past two years, the all-women’s MMA promotion has embraced open scoring through the Kansas Athletic Commission, and Knapp couldn’t possibly be happier with the results.
“I have to tell you we have had nothing but positive comments,” Knapp said on The MMA Hour. “Everybody loves it. Even as a coach, I don’t know how you wouldn’t love it. Whether you tell your athlete where they’re at, or how you motivate them, or what you say to them, knowledge is king. Knowledge is power. If I’m doing a job and someone can give me tools to be more successful at what I’m doing, I want those tools.
“I think the question is more why you wouldn’t you want the athlete to have this? Does it fix everything? No, it does not. It doesn’t. I don’t think anybody on my team or the commission here [in Kansas] has ever said that it will replace judging or make it better or do any of those things — what it’s doing really is giving the athlete more tools in their arsenal to have more control over the outcome of their fight.”
Since implementing open scoring for Invicta’s events, Knapp says the response has been overwhelmingly positive, especially when it comes to the coaches working for each individual fighter.
According to Knapp, every athlete is given the option to know the score between rounds, and while a few fighters have declined that option, the coaches are a much different story.
“We’ve had someone say they don’t want to know but the coach does,” Knapp revealed. “Because once again, it’s an effective tool for the coach. Whether he or she is saying you’re down, you’re up or whatever, he or she knows what to say to that athlete to help motivate or help them change up the game plan if they’re not being successful.
“The worst thing that could happen is an athlete to think they’re doing extremely well, that they’re winning, but they’re down and maybe they do back off the accelerator. For me, it’s not about me, it’s not about the promotion, it’s not about what other people think. It’s about the athlete and giving them the opportunity.”
Knapp also refuted claims that open scoring would present an opportunity for some athletes to attempt to coast to victory if they were aware that they were so far ahead that there was no way an opponent could win a decision. Through two years of fights with open scoring, she definitely hasn’t witnessed that becoming an issue, especially given that now the fighter down on the scorecards is acutely aware of what it will now take to win.
“No, I haven’t [seen fighters trying to coast] — kind of actually the opposite,” Knapp said. “Because the person that’s down is really aggressive and pushing that pace. What is the other athlete going to do? They still have to fight. What are they going to do? Run around the cage? Now that’s not going to look good.
“We haven’t seen that. We’ve actually seen the opposite. We’ve seen it motivate. We’ve seen it push for more action. Now I’m a little biased, but I feel like our athletes always come to fight and they put on great performances, but with the open scoring, we haven’t had those problems that people talk about.”
While Invicta FC continues to embrace open scoring, Knapp sadly doesn’t expect other organizations to actually try it out even on an experimental basis. In her opinion, she views open scoring as a benefit for the fighters, and that’s rarely the first concern for many promotions across combat sports.
“Not trying to be negative in any way or be disrespectful, but sometimes, I don’t know if the athlete is the focus [in other organizations],” Knapp said. “For me, it always has been. It’s something that I can bring in another piece of the puzzle to make it better and that should be everybody’s priority. You don’t have fights, you don’t have these promotions if you don’t have the athletes.
“It’s our responsibility, I don’t like to be called a promoter, I don’t like the company I keep sometimes under that title, but the truth is that it’s my responsibility to make sure that my athletes are successful at whatever that may be or I’m giving them the resources that they need to do their job and do it effectively.”