Invicta women's MMA promotion sold, finds new television slot

Invicta Fighting Championships has a new owner and a new television home.

The premier all-women's MMA promotion has been acquired by Anthem Sports & Entertainment, a Los Angeles- and Toronto-based media company, Anthem and Invicta officials told ESPN. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

As a result, Invicta will now air on the Anthem-owned AXS TV cable network in the United States. The first event of Invicta's new era, Invicta 44, will take place May 21, officials said. Invicta atomweight champion Alesha Zappitella will defend her title against Jessica Delboni on the card, among other fights not yet finalized.

Invicta had aired on UFC's streaming platform Fight Pass since 2014. Prior to that, the promotion, which was founded in 2012 by former UFC and Strikeforce employee Shannon Knapp, aired on digital pay-per-view.

Knapp will remain Invicta president while also joining Anthem's board that includes businessman Leonard Asper, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and comedian Steve Harvey. Knapp and business partner Tom Lyons previously owned the company. Lyons is no longer involved.

"This is a huge moment for Invicta, myself and for women in the sport," Knapp told ESPN. "I started Invicta to give female mixed martial artists a platform where they could compete and prove all the doubters wrong. This is what Invicta needed to grow to the next level. Invicta 44 will be the first time any of our shows will be available on national television, and it is great a new audience will get to see why Invicta is one of the world's most exciting MMA promotions.

"I've always believed Invicta -- what it stands for in MMA and what it says about women's place in combat sports -- was bigger than me. This deal, with a bigger entity in Anthem, is going to give me the resources to take Invicta to the next level and then some. I'm very excited for the future of Invicta and the opportunities our athletes will have."

Notable fighters who once competed for Invicta include Amanda Nunes, Cris Cyborg, Rose Namajunas, Carla Esparza, Cat Zingano, Michelle Waterson, Joanne Calderwood, Claudia Gadelha, Marloes Coenen and Angela Hill.

As a result of the acquisition, Knapp will team up with former UFC executives Jaime Pollack and Ant Evans, who are now Anthem employees.

"We have huge plans for Invicta together with Shannon," Pollack said. "There's more live MMA available to fans than ever before, that's true, but outside of the UFC there's no promotion out there with the brand equity and recognition of Invicta. That's a testament to what Shannon has been able to build, pretty much by herself, over the last decade."

Invicta will air on the Anthem-owned The Fight Network in Canada and on various digital platforms overseas, officials said.