Few people who were at the Shrine Auditorium some 15 months ago saw this one coming.
Since debuting in Invicta FC with a 65-second loss in February 2015, Colleen Schneider has quickly risen to title contender.
Schneider might be fighting for a championship Saturday when she takes on bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger in the main event at Invicta FC 17 at The Hangar in Costa Mesa, but forgive her if she doesn’t care about the gold.
“Because I’m so focused on the fight itself, to me it’s more what would it mean to go out there and put on a fight I know I can put on and just shut down Tonya and … beat the (crap) out of her,” Schneider said with a few profanities sprinkled in. “That’s what I want out of this fight. The title is almost secondary to that. I just want to get in that cage, lock eyes with her, … own her.”
Schneider (10-6) is cooling down after a grueling wrestling session with two male training partners. The focus is obvious — defend takedowns, work against the cage, and find a way to get off the canvas.
• PHOTOS: Colleen Schneider trains for Invicta FC 17
This is Evinger’s bread and butter. Grind and get you down. Deliver punishment.
“Tonya’s a freestyle wrestler. She just charges in, takes people down and it’s control,” the Hollywood resident said. “She’s strong and her control is very good. Mostly ground and pound, but she’s strong and composed.”
Evinger (17-5) has won eight fights in a row. She is 5-0 with Invicta FC and has four consecutive finishes — two armbars and two TKOs.
• VIDEO: Watch interview with Colleen Schneider
A New York native, Schneider knows all this and more. There’s no mystery to Evinger’s game of bullying aggression.
Finding a way to be the first person in more than five years to defeat her is another story.
“We’re working on a lot of fast-twitch muscles, footwork, scrambling as soon as your ass hits the ground. Create every situation to get unstuck,” said Marina Shafir, Schneider’s friend and training partner who will be in her corner Saturday.
“Colleen is working on staying super elusive, loose and relaxed.”
It was a different story in her Invicta FC debut at the Shrine. Taking a fight against bantamweight prospect Irene Aldana on two weeks’ notice, Schneider had a takedown stuffed and slipped. Aldana pounced and got a tapout via rear-naked choke at 1:05 of the first round.
“The loss to Aldana, man, that was one of those things where I feel like it wasn’t even a fight. The way it happened and the way I went down,” Schneider said. “But no, I just wanted to get back in. The second it was over, I wanted to get back in and fight again, When the fight was done, I was down to take anything I could get.”
And she did — any time, anywhere.
Less than three months later, she accepted another fight on two weeks’ notice, this one against Jingnan Xiong in Chongqing, China. Going against the local favorite, Schneider earned a unanimous-decision victory.
Eleven weeks later, she picked up a TKO victory via injury over Diana Reyes in Tijuana. Six weeks after that, she won a split-decision victory over Bryanna Fissori of Tokyo.
“I don’t ever take time off, right? I like training. I like fighting. It’s what I do,” Schneider said. “I want to get in the cage and do it. I don’t want to sit around and not have anything to do for months on end.”
Then came another last-minute offer — a return to Invicta FC. Only this was against Raquel Pa’aluhi, who had defeated Kaitlin Young and Ediane Gomes and appeared destined for a showdown with Evinger.
On Jan. 16, Schneider pulled off the split-decision victory, earning the title shot.
Shafir said Schneider has become a lot smarter as an athlete, which is saying a lot considering Schneider graduated from University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in physics.
“Technically, she has finally really got confident in the things she really knows and how to apply them,” Shafir said.
And this time, Schneider has benefited from a full camp. No short notice. Eight weeks of homework and preparation.
“You can really take your time and plan everything out and build it appropriately and not like you’re just rushing like, “Oh (crap), gotta go. Better go hard for three days and then try to taper,’” Schneider said. “And it’s been really nice. Really nice.”
Schneider knows she has the advantage over Evinger with her striking and kicks, and she said her submission game could surprise the champ.
Of course, a full camp also means waiting. It’s the hardest part.
But it can be worth it.
“There’s always that feeling for any fight where you just put your heart and soul into it,” Schneider said. “Like, wow, now is the time to go throw that all out on the line and see how it goes.”
Invicta FC 17
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa
TV: UFC Fight Pass
Tickets: CageTix.com — $100, $75, $55, and $35
Bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger (17-5) vs. Colleen Schneider (10-6)
Strawweight champion Livia Renata Souza (9-0) vs. Angela Hill (4-2)
Kaline Medeiros (6-4) vs. Aline Serio (9-5), strawweights
Latoya Walker (5-0) vs. Charmaine Tweet (8-5), featherweights
Amanda Bell (3-3) vs. Megan Anderson (5-2), featherweights
Christine Stanley (4-1) vs. Shannon Sinn (2-2), flyweights
Rachael Ostovich (2-2) vs. Ariel Beck (3-2), flyweights
Laura Howarth (2-1) vs. Alexa Conners (0-0), bantamweights
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