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Can we stop messing around and get Tonya Evinger in the UFC now?


In all the important ways it was your typical Tonya Evinger fight. It was messy and brutish. It took place mostly on the ground. It featured at least one move that seemed like something a particularly sadistic big sister would pull on an unfortunate and long-suffering sibling. And of course there was the most typical aspect of the whole thing: It ended with Evinger winning.

If you throw out her last fight with Yana Kunitskaya (and the Missouri Office of Athletics says you should, since it overturned Kunitskaya’s initial victory on appeal), Evinger’s second-round submission win in the main event rematch at Invicta FC 22 makes it 10 in a row for the Invicta FC women’s bantamweight champ. At least officially, she hasn’t lost in nearly seven years, and at this point she’s beaten just about everybody there is to beat on the Invicta FC roster.

So remind me again, why isn’t she in the UFC?

It’s a question we’ve explored before, and just long enough to learn that, as is often the case, there’s no simple answer.

Some of it seems to be Evinger herself, who in the past has threatened to “wad up” UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby for slights both real and imagined. Some of it is also the fact that, as openly hostile as she’s been toward the UFC at times, she’s equally effusive in her praise for Invicta FC, the all-female fight promotion where she’s flourished late in her career.

Even after Saturday night’s revenge victory over Kunitskaya (9-3-1) in Kansas City, Evinger (19-5-1) didn’t so much as mention a potential move to the UFC in her post-fight interview, opting instead to denigrate her own performance while celebrating Invicta FC’s role in her revitalization.

“If my career ended today I wouldn’t be unsatisfied with what I did and where I am,” Evinger said in the cage after the win. “So thanks, Invicta.”

You wouldn’t think such a thing would matter, but privately UFC officials have expressed doubt about whether Evinger even wants a shot in the UFC. Then there’s the concern, whether it’s genuine or not, that raiding Invicta FC’s roster of its champions does the sister organization no good.

But at a certain point the whole thing gets ridiculous. You have this established, if not openly acknowledged pattern of Invicta FC standouts graduating to the UFC. You have a women’s bantamweight division in the UFC that has lost two of its most recognizable names in the span of the last six months. You have a champion who’s run through all the competition her current organization can offer her.

How long are we going to ignore the obvious solution to the problems on both sides?

Which is not to say that success in the UFC would be guaranteed for Evinger. For all we know, she might make the leap just in time to demonstrate the talent gap between the two organizations. Or, at 35, she might just run up against the limitations of time and physics.

But don’t we at least owe it to everyone to try? Wouldn’t it be a special kind of sad if we didn’t find out how far this little career renaissance could go?

One way or another, it’s not a question we’ll get to keep asking indefinitely. And if it doesn’t get a good answer soon, all we’ll be able to do is wonder what if – and why not.

For additional coverage of Invicta FC 22, check out the MMA Events section of the site.



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