It has been a long road to a featherweight title match at UFC 214, but the woman who will be completing the equation at last is Tonya “Triple Threat” Evinger. MMAUncaged spoke with the now former Invicta FC bantamweight champion about her surprise title fight against Cris “Cyborg” at UFC 214.
How were you first contacted about fighting Cris Cyborg at UFC 214?
They got a hold of my manager and my manager called me and gave me the details. I kinda knew it was coming so it wasn’t like a big surprise. I think me and my camp have been talking about this fight for a couple years and we just figured this was the one they were gonna give me and I just happened to be right. It probably is the best time that I could actually take it. I’ve been winning in Invicta and really dominating the  division. It’s just another fight, I think we’re two of the best in the world so it’s not something I’m gonna back down from. I’m definitely game for it.
Was there ever at any point before that Monday that you were made aware that Megan Anderson may not be able to compete in Anaheim?
They talked to me about it the Thursday before. Monday is just when they released everything and contracts were all signed. I had already picked up the slack [against Helena Kolesnyk] for Megan on the Invicta card so it wasn’t like I wasn’t already training. I got a little bit of a short notice fight for that but I was still game.
Obviously there has been a lot of controversy regarding the situation with Germaine de Randamie refusing to face Cyborg to defend her title. As a champion yourself and now in this fight, what are your thoughts on how everything played out.
I just think that they’re all scared. There’s no other excuse for that. You won the UFC title so you should fight everybody they put in front of you, that’s just how I feel. Everyone’s scared to fight Cyborg. Whatever excuse they want to make and whatever name calling they want to do doesn’t matter. She’s in their division, she’s passing drug tests and she’s gonna fight. There’s nothing more to say, nobody else wants it so I’m down to take it. I have a lot of respect for all the girls who have stepped up and fought her. It’s one of the things you see often, you see all girls that fight that want to get the win and that’s it. They don’t want to have a tough fight. You find out whether or not you’re a real fighter when you have a tough opponent and a scary opponent and it’s one of the things you go through. I just think they’re looking for an easy fight and an easy run, I’m not saying anyone is easier than anybody else but I just think it all comes down to being scared to fight her.
This is a big opportunity for yourself, of course. But, it was a blow to the Invicta FC 24 to lose both yourself and Megan Anderson. What kind of conversation did you have with Shannon Knapp about pulling out of the event because we know she is always supportive of the careers of her fighters?
That was one of the first things I said, I definitely don’t want to leave Invicta hanging. I feel like Invicta has given me more opportunities than anybody in my whole career. I feel that the reason I’m in the position that I am is because of the opportunity [Shannon] was willing to give me to put me out in front and let me fight on the stage. I’m super grateful and didn’t want to walk away without doing what I said I was going to do for her and that’s fight on that show…
On the other hand, Shannon is one of those promoters who’s not a really selfish person. She’s given a lot to this sport and to make Invicta a real amazing place to fight. She’s put these girls in front of people all over the world and on a platform that no other promotion does. She’s never once, in the time I’ve known her and worked with her, ever held anybody back in their career and try to move ahead to do bigger things. She’s not that type of promoter. It was rough but she was definitely all supportive and I know it was a blow to the card but Invicta is full of talent. Girls are coming up and we’re watching the stars of tomorrow fight today in Invicta.
(Photo Credit: Invicta FC)
Fans are quick to state how the female fighters always seem to fight harder than the men. Why do you think that is?
I wouldn’t say we fight harder. The women go out there and don’t respect each other. They go out there with a lot more anger and aggression. I think the guys respect each other in the sense that they may be a little worried about what the other brings in terms of getting knocked out and the girls just don’t do that. They get out there and they start swinging right away and that’s why the women have stepped up the game and we’re a big draw for the whole sport today is because of how we fight. I just think they don’t waste any time. There’s no feeling out process, they just go out there and throw down and it’s really exciting to watch.
Finally, the question that everyone wants to know. Cris Cyborg’s size and power has always seemed to be the difference between herself and her competition as the reason for her success. You’re a bantamweight who is moving up to face her, why will her size and power not matter when the two of you collide at UFC 214?
I just think that people just underestimate me. They underestimate my power and what I bring to the table. I just don’t see a crazy amount of difference to fight ten pounds up or ten pounds down. I’ve fought at 125 and 145. If I think I’m the best in the world I’m going to swing that little bit of weight. I’m going to try it, I’m down to fight and that’s all that matters. I hate to take anything from her other opponents because I think anyone who has stepped into the cage with her is a way better athlete than those who just chose to walk away from the division to get away from her. I have a lot more respect for those girls than those that just vacated the title and ran from the division. I just think that I’m a different kind of fighter. I have been winning in Invicta easily, I’ve dominated every single fight that I’ve had on my run. I don’t think that’s because those girls were not great opponents, I think that’s just about how good I am right at this point. I think that theirs no better time to fight her right now. I’m at the top of my game in terms of being sharp, knowing my skills and what I’m good and what I’m not and that’s just how I fight. I fight to win.