Women’s MMA trailblazer Jessica Penne steps back into the Invicta cage on April 5th, for another first; Invicta FC’s first ever title defense.

Penne will defend her Atomweight title against Jackson’s MMA standout Michelle Waterson at Invicta FC 5. Few women can match the 10-1 record of Invicta FC’s first champion at any weight class, and Penne is focused continuing her reign long into the future.

Corey Smith: One of the common themes in your career has been firsts. You participated in the first Bellator Women’s MMA bout, and along with competing on the first Invicta card, you were the first champion of any weight class for Invicta as well. Do you enjoy being a trailblazer?

Jessica Penne: I do cherish my experiences and the opportunities that I have had thus far. I’m excited about the future of WMMA and hope to have a few more firsts.

CS: You have gone on a strong winning streak since settling at your natural weight class of Atomweight, with wins over Amy Davis, Lisa Ellis, and of course winning the Invicta Atomweight title with a win over Naho Sugiyama. What has been the biggest change in your life since winning the Invicta Atomweight title?

JP: There really hasn’t been any change. I was back in the gym a couple days later and back to work. Hopefully with this title, I can stay busy this year.

CS: You’ve spoken in the past about how hard it used to be to get fights at 105, and having to fight outside your weight class just to keep fighting. Why do you think there are so many talented women at 105 now?

JP: With the growth and popularity of the sport there have been many additions and shifts in weight classes. It’s an exciting time for the sport and for this division.

CS: What kind of effect does working for an organization that treats it’s athletes as well as Invicta have on your fight performances?

JP: I’m so thankful for Invicta. Janet and Shannon have given me and the other women in the sport a place to call home. It feels good to be treated with respect and treated as a professional.

CS: Reading the list of the gyms and trainers that you use, it’s quite the impressive list. Reign MMA, Checkmat BJJ, King’s MMA, Blackhouse. What is the advantage of having the varied gyms for training? Do you enjoy getting different feedback from different coaches?

JP: I am really fortunate to train at such amazing gyms! Each coach has so much to offer. I feel that it is important to train each discipline separately to have a better understanding of them. It’s nice to have coaches that are great in their respective disciplines. My coach Mark Munoz always helps me put everything together.

CS: Being at the bottom end of the weight spectrum in MMA, is it hard to find training partners in your weight class? How hard is it to train with partners, male or female, that are above your weight class?

JP:  It’s was more difficult in the beginning to train with larger people.  It was difficult to learn and apply everything that I learned because there was always such a large size difference. Now it is a little bit easier to find training partners. I have a couple of main training partners, both male and female. But yes, they are always larger than I am. I think it is better to deal with a size and strength disadvantage in training though.

CS: When you aren’t training, what type of things do you enjoy doing? What helps you unwind after a long day of training camp? What food do you dream of most while in the middle of training camp?

JP: I enjoy gardening, walking the monsters, going to the beach. I really like being active as well. I like paddle boarding, hiking, cycling etc.

JP:  I eat pretty clean when I’m not fighting so I don’t really crave a whole lot when I’m dieting. I just cut down on my portion sizes. My favorite junk food is popcorn and anything chocolate, I’ve got to have that every so often.

CS: You are defending your title for the first time against Michelle Waterson at Invicta 5. What type of challenge do you think Michelle brings to the table?

JP:  I think Michelle is a tough fighter and comes from a good camp; I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think it will be an exciting fight.

CS: Michelle fights out of Greg Jackson’s gym in New Mexico. Jackson fighters have been accused by some of sticking to close to a game plan for their fights. I understand you try not to have too much of a game plan going into your fights. Do you think that is an advantage in general or something that works best for you?

JP:  I don’t really know how other people plan for a fight.  I just know what works for me.

CS: What type of feedback and coaching do you prefer during a fight? Whose voice do you look to the most?

JP: I trust my coaches and corners to the fullest. I do what ever they tell me, however they tell me.

CS: Fighting is equally a team sport as it is an individual sport. Who would you like to thank?

JP: I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates at Reign training center, Kings MMA, Checkmat BJJ and Innovative results. Nathan Gable, Jason Parillo, Chris Franco, Prime Time 360 management. Thank you to my sponsors RVCA / VASport, Vega and Thrive Foods. Thank you for your support, it means everything to me!