Corey Smith interviews Vanessa Porto

Corey Smith interviews Invicta FC 5’s Flyweight Title Challenger Vanessa Porto

A grizzled veteran hailing from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Vanessa Porto is veteran of twenty MMA fights. With a record of 15-5, the submission specialist has faced a who’s who of Women’s MMA, including Cris Cyborg, Amanda Nunes, Jennifer Maia, and Tara LaRosa.

Currently competing in Invicta’s 125lb division, and few fighters can match her experience or tenacity. Before facing off against Barb Honchak for the inaugural Invicta Flyweight title April 5th, Vanessa Porto sat down to answer a few questions for us.

Corey Smith: You started training in 2004 in Brazil. Did you have any martial arts background at that point? What were those first few weeks like?

Vanessa Porto: No I walked into the dojo for the first time with no experience but as soon as I started training I fell in love with it and I have never looked back. The first few weeks of training were life changing. I felt like I had so much to learn and there weren’t enough hours in the day to quench my thirst.

CS: You have said that you were hooked on MMA after your first fight against Carina Damm. What drew you to MMA and what was it about MMA that made you “hooked” as you said?

VP:  The competition and the adrenaline of going into a cage with another human being that is trying to hurt you. MMA has so many disciplines you never stop learning. It is like an endless book. It changes your life in many different and positive ways.

CS: For most of your career you fought in your native Brazil. What are the major differences between a Brazilian MMA match and an American match?

VP: In Brazil the shows are smaller and less organized. Invicta is a whole other level so it’s not fair to judge them against the shows in Brazil. Invicta beats any other show in Brazil or America.  In Brazil you fight more for pride than to build your career, so a lot of fighters including myself have taken fights that you wouldn’t see put together in America. I took the Cyborg fight being outweighed by 18lbs. No athletic commission in America would allow that fight. Only in Brazil!

CS: Many of your opponents at the beginning of your career have gone on to become major names in the world of Women’s MMA, none more so than Cris “Cyborg” Santos. You took that fight on one day’s notice. How much did you know about her going into that fight? What did you learn from that fight?

VP:  I knew that she was out of Chute Boxe, who at the time were the number one team in Brazil. All killers. I still accepted the fight because I was very anxious to compete again. I learned a lot about myself from that fight. I wasn’t intimidated by her like a lot of other fighters have been. I came out to finish her and I almost did. I never gave up throughout the fight and kept fighting to the last bell. I learned that I can be pushed to the brink and keep fighting. It gave me a lot of confidence throughout my career knowing that I did well against Cyborg, especially after she became the baddest women on the planet.

CS: Back to the quality of your opponents early in your career, do you think that it helped your career to face such talented women so early?

VP:  It’s hard to say, I come from a different era where we just fought whoever was put in front of us. But it is good to build your career up at a slower pace like they do now. Being thrown into the fire early made me better at a faster pace because of the level of fighters I fought early on. I had to get better quick, so I trained nonstop and dedicated my life to this.

CS: When you weren’t able to secure an MMA fight, you fought in BJJ tournaments and took boxing matches. How much did that aid in your development rather than simply continuing to train in the gym?

VP:  It helps a lot. It might not be MMA, but it is live competition and its still striking and grappling. I always wanted to stay active so when the MMA fights dried up, then I had to do other things to stay sharp. You are still looking across from someone that wants to hurt you!

CS: You are a member of The MMA University in New Jersey. Are you training there full time, or are you still mainly training down in Brazil?

VP:  I’m still living and training in Brazil, but I fly in early before the fight to train at The MMA University. My husband Perdo Iglezia is my head coach, and he trains me in Brazil and New Jersey. My manager Chris Vender owns The MMA University so that is why we end up in New Jesrsey. They have very good coaches with a lot of MMA experience. They are a very good team to train with.

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?

VP:  I like mountain biking and spending a lot of time outside in nature. But training is a large chunk of my life. I like to wind down after a long day of training by reading a book or getting on the Internet.

CS: The MMA University also manages your career full time, a situation that you have not always had in the past. What does their management do for your career?

VP:  It has been great. Once I signed with The MMA University they gave me the support that I needed for a long time. I had prior management in America, but they couldn’t get me any fights in America so I was stuck for 3 years fighting only in Brazil. Once my contract was up with that management company, I contacted Amanda Nunes. I spoke to her about her manager Chris because he had done a really good job with her career. I ended up signing with Chris and MMAU and I was fighting at Invicta II four months later. He has helped me with everything I need and that is what I need to be champion of the world

CS: Most fighters say that the weight cut is the hardest part about being a fighter. Aside from that, what would you say is the hardest aspect of being a fighter?

VP:  Just the training camp where your whole life gets put into one big schedule. From eating to sleeping to training, everything you do is put into a schedule!

CS: A common theme among the athletes of Invicta FC has been gratitude for being able to fight on a regular schedule. What does fighting for Invicta FC mean for you?

VP:  It has been amazing to have a home where you know you are going to fight on a regular basis, and earn a paycheck on a regular basis. I feel blessed to be with the Invicta from their beginning and I know when I look back 10 years from now this will be a very special time in my career and for WMMA.

CS: Your first bout under the Invicta banner, at Invicta 2 you fought at 135lbs, and then at Invicta 3, your bout was scheduled for 125 pounds. After weigh-ins, it was changed to a catch-weight bout at 127. What did you learn from that first weight cut, and why do you feel you will be more successful at 125?

VP:  At Invicta 2 there were 13 other 135lbers fighting on the card and I was the smallest one there. My manager decided to move me to 125lbs after seeing this and knowing that I didn’t have to cut weight to get to 135lbs. I fought at 131lbs in Brazil, so it was only 6 more lbs. With his precise weight cutting process it was a perfect weight cut when I dropped to 125lbs at Invicta 3. I felt a lot stronger and faster at 125lbs. My opponent Tara LaRosa was unable to make 125lbs and was stuck at 127lbs, but I took the fight anyway. I was going to fight her no matter how much she weighed. I had something to prove.

CS: You are scheduled to fight Barb Honchak for the inaugural Invicta FC Flyweight title. What type of challenge do you think Honchak presents? Have you been able to see much video of her past fights?

VP:  Barb is an awesome fighter and that is why she is fighting for the belt. She is a very complete fighter and a very dangerous opponent. I have watched video, but she continues to improve so she will be the best Barb Honchak yet.

CS: What would winning the Invicta Flyweight title mean to you and your career?

VP:  I have won titles before, but never a World title. Everything I worked and sacrificed for all these years will finally pay off. It will be a great accomplishment and something that I have dreamed about for a long time. I have paid a lot of dues fighting since 2004 and I want to create my place in WMMA history.

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

VP:  My husband Pedro, My manager Chris, Shannon Knapp and Janet Martin, Combatives Gear, Tussle, Dr Taverni, Dr Haley and all my sponsors and fans. April 5th is the best card in Women’s MMA history and I hope to be victorious and prove I’m the best 125lber in the world.

Hamasaki vs Jasminka Cive Added To Invicta FC 2

Jewels Lightweight Queen Champion Ayaka Hamasaki will make her U.S. debut against Austria’s Jasminka Cive at Invicta Fighting Championships 2 on July 28th in Kansas City, Kansas. learned of the bout’s possibility this past week. confirmed the fight today.


Hamasaki is coming off of a dominant first-round submission victory over Japanese legend Yuka “Vale Tudo Queen” Tsuji in May. The Megumi Fujii protégé is one of the sport’s premier female fighters. Cive has yet to go the distance in her career and most recently scored a TKO victory in March.

Hamasaki (7-0-0) and Cive (5-0-0) sport similar records on paper, but Hamasaki brings a significant experience advantage into the fight and has faced a much higher level of opposition. She became the first Jewels champion with two victories in one night at Jewels: “11th Ring” in late 2010 and has since made successful title defences against South Korean standout Seo Hee Ham in a December rematch and Tsuji this past month. The judo black belt is known for her strong ground game, but her striking skills are among the best of any competitor on the Jewels roster; a fact that was evident in Hamasaki’s first fight with Ham in 2010 when she outstruck the kickboxing veteran.  Read Full Story



KANSAS CITY, Kan. (May 29, 2012) – Tickets for the highly-anticipated, star-studded sophomore Invicta Fighting Championships all-women’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event featuring a bantamweight (135 pounds) main event showdown between 2004 Olympic Wrestling Silver Medalist and undefeated MMA star Sara McMann (5-0) of Gaffney, SC. and battle-tested submission wizard Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler (14-6) of Sioux Falls, SD., go on sale Fri., June 1.

In the bantamweight (135 pounds) co-main event of the 13-bout fight card that will take place at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan. on Sat., July 28, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu black belt and Cesar Gracie-protégé Alexis Davis(11-5) of Colborne, Ontario Canada will take on former Smackgirl Champion Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano (18-9) of Tokyo, Japan.

Priced from $25, tickets will be available for purchase at Memorial Hall box office (913) 549-4853), online at and and by phone at (800) 745-3000.

“With our second event, we are bringing in top competitors from all over the world in order to deliver a card stacked, from top to bottom, with some of the best matchups in the entire women’s field of MMA fighters,” said Invicta Fighting Championships President and Co-Founder Shannon Knapp.


In other main card action, U.S. Marine and rising bantamweight star Liz “Girl-rilla” Carmouche (6-2) of San Diego, Calif. will square off with St. Louis Park, Minnesota’s Kaitlin Young (7-5-1), who earned “Fight of the Night” honors at the inaugural Invicta event on April 28.

Hard-hitting KO artist Amanda Nunes (6-2) of Salvador, Bahia Brazil will make her Invicta debut against sensational finisher Milana Dudieva (8-1) of Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia Russia in a bantamweight battle.

Kelly Kobold (18-3-1) of St. Paul, Minn. will face off with streaking submission expert Vanessa Porto (14-4) of Sao Paulo, Brazil at bantamweight.

American prospects Barb “Little Warrior” Honchak (5-2) of East Moline, Ill. and undefeated Bethany Marshall (4-0) of Newport News, Va. will meet in a super flyweight (125 pounds) matchup.

Julia “The Jewel” Budd (2-2) of Port Moody, British Columbia Canada will face Elina Nilsson (2-2) of Gothenburg, Sweden at featherweight (145 pounds).

In the opening main card bout, Jiu-Jitsu champion and former high school wrestling star Carla Esparza (6-2) of Redondo Beach, Calif. will square off with Sarah “White Tiger” Schneider (6-5) of Kansas City, Mo. in a flyweight (115 pounds) tilt.

Sara McMann vs. Shayna Baszler

McMann, the first Americn woman in history to earn a silver medal in women’s wrestling, began competing on the mats when she was 14 years old.  At 31 years of age, McMann, who holds a Masters Degree in Mental Helath Counseling from Gardner-Webb University, has quickly become a force in the sport of MMA after debuting with a first-round submission (rear-naked choke) victory over Christina Marks on May 28, 2011 and reeling off four more consecutive wins since.

Like McMann, the 31-year-old Baszler, a protégé of former UFC Heavyweight Champion and PRIDE Fighting Championships superstar Josh Barnett, is a fearsome competitor on the ground who has earned the respect of the fight world by earning 13 of her 14 victories with submissions, including her patented hold that she dubbed the “shwing.”  Baszler is riding a four-fight win streak.

 Alexis Davis vs. Hitomi Akano

Davis is looking to return to the win column after a majority decision defeat to former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman on March 3 snapped a three-fight win streak.  The 27-year-old holds a brown belt under Gracie and has been ranked as high as No. 11 in the pound-for-pound women’s MMA rankings.

The 37-year-old Akano is a Judo stylist who has earned 14 of her 18 career conquests by way of submission.  She became the second middleweight champion in history for the now-defunct Japanese promotion Smackgirl by forcing Molly Helsel to tap out from an armbar in the second round of their matchup on Sept. 15, 2006.  Akano is also looking to rebound from a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of McMann in her last start on Jan. 21.

Liz Carmouche vs. Kaitlin Young

Fresh off her spectacular first-round (1:58) TKO (punches) victory over Ashleigh Curry at the inaugural Invicta event, the 28-year-old Carmouche will look for her second straight win in the cage.  Born in Lafayette, La., Carmouche was raised in Okinawa, Japan before returning to The United States and joining the military.  She did three tours of duty in The Middle East over the course of a five-year stint with the Marine Corps.

The 26-year-old Young brought the fans at Memorial Hall to their feet at the first Invicta event by engaging in an all-out, non-stop slugfest with Leslie Smith that was declared a draw after the close of three rounds.  Young’s superior striking skills stem from her extensive training in Muay Thai kickboxing as well as Tae Kwon Do, which she took up at age 14 and eventually earned a black belt in.

Amanda Nunes vs. Milana Dudieva

The 23-year-old Nunes grabbed the attention of a national audience in The United States for the first time on Jan. 7, 2011 when she scored a brutal KO (punches) on Budd just 14 seconds into their Strikeforce Challengers series matchup, live on Showtime.  All six of Nunes’ professional victories have come by way of KO, four of them inside of the first round.

Dudieva has also earned a reputation for finishing her opponents, claiming three of her eight career wins by way of KO and four of them by way of submission.  Her Invicta debut will also mark her first start in The United States.

Kelly Kobold vs. Vanessa Porto

Kobold is a 10-year veteran of the sport, who went unbeaten in her first 18 starts as a professional.  After suffering three consecutive losses between 2007 and 2008, the 29-year-old took a three-year hiatus from competition and made a successful return to action on April 15, 2011, submitting Pipi Taylor with an armbar in the first round (2:05) of their matchup in Owatonna, Minn.

The 28-year-old Porto will enter the bout on a four-fight win streak.  Her latest effort saw Porto score a one punch KO on Luana Teixeira just 41 seconds into their matchup on March 10.  Porto has earned 10 of her 14 career wins by way of submission.

 Barb Honchak vs. Bethany Marshall

Honchak is a 32-year-old student of UFC veteran Steve Berger.  She will enter the Invicta cage for the first time on a four-fight win streak that began with a unanimous decision victory over seasoned Muay Thai striker Felice Herrig on Jan. 14, 2011.

Marshall is a 24-year-old Muay Thai and submission grappling stylist who has claimed three of her four professional victories to date by way of submission.  In her last start on March 25, 2011, she submitted Stacy Grant with a toe hold in the second stanza (1:49) of their matchup in Norfolk, Va.

 Julia Budd vs. Elina Nilsson

Budd is a 28-year-old lifelong athlete as well as a burgeoning fitness model and trainer who began her prize fighting career in the sport of Muay Thai where she chalked up several notable wins, including one over superstar Gina Carano, before transitioning to MMA.  She is a student of former UFC competitor and world-ranked Shooto fighter, Lance Gibson.

After suffering back-to-back losses in her first two professional bouts, Nilsson has since reeled off two straight victories – a unanimous decision over Melissa Lan on March 27, 2010 and a second round TKO (punches) on Danielle West on May 7, 2011.

 Carla Esparza vs. Sarah Schneider

The 24-year-old Esparza is a former No. 2 ranked NCAA wrestler and Pan-American Championships Jiu-Jitsu tournament winner who has gained recognition for being one of the top wrestlers in women’s MMA.  She is trained by fight guru Colin Oyama.

Also a standout grappler, the 31-year-old Schneider has notched five of her six career professional wins by way of submission.  She earned her second straight win by forcing Sally Krumdiack to tap out from an armbar in the first round (3:01) of their matchup at the first Invicta event.

The Invicta event will kick off with a five-bout preliminary card.  In an atomweight (105 pounds) matchup, Angelica Chavez (4-1) of Albuquerque, N.M. will face Kikuyo Ishikawa (7-3) of Gushikawa, Okinawa Japan.

In a bantamweight matchup between two undefeated future stars, Sarah Moras (2-0) of Kelowna, British Columbia Canada will face Raquel Pennington (1-0) of Colorado Springs, Colo.

After compiling a 5-2 record under amateur status, 25-year-old Jessamyn “The Gun” Duke (0-0) will make her much-anticipated professional debut against unbeaten 30-year-old Suzie Montero (1-0) of Pompano Beach, Fla. at bantamweight.

One-half of the 26-year-old twin MMA fighter duo, Jocelyn “Lights Out” Lybarger (0-0) of Phoenix, Ariz. will make debut under professional status opposite Cheryl Chan (0-0) of Surrey, British Columbia Canada at super flyweight.

Jessica Philippus (0-0) of Marshall, Mo. will battle Liz McCarthy (0-0) of Tigard, Ore. at atomweight.

All bouts have been approved by the Kansas State Athletic Commission.

About Invicta Fighting Championships:

Invicta Fighting Championships is a world championship Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight series dedicated to providing female athletes with a major platform to hone their skills on a consistent basis.  Founded in 2012 by longtime MMA executive Shannon Knapp and sports aficionado Janet Martin, Invicta is committed to pioneering the future growth of women’s MMA by promoting the best possible matchups between female competitors and identifying and developing future superstars of the sport.