Tonya Evinger has a high tolerance for criticism. She isn’t the kind of person who cares much of what others think of her. This is the same veteran fighter who laid a kiss on Invicta FC interviewer Laura Sanko’s lips in a post-fight interview minutes after vomiting in her corner.
People questioning her right to hold the Invicta bantamweight title, though, is where Evinger draws the line. More specifically, Evinger takes serious umbrage with Yana Kunitskaya’s claim on social media that she is the real champ.
“I think it comes down to people just hating,” Evinger said. “No matter what it is, no matter what I do, how much I accomplish, people love to hate on me. And that’s fine with me. But at the end of the day, this is my belt and you don’t walk around calling yourself the Invicta bantamweight champion when you aren’t really the Invicta bantamweight champion. I take that to heart. I love fighting for this promotion. I’ve done a lot to get to where I’m at and no girl is gonna come and just take this sh*t away from me on her first appearance. It just ain’t gonna happen.”
Evinger is the true and rightful Invicta champ. But Kunitskaya’s trash talk has some basis in reality — she did, after all, make Evinger tap out in their first fight in November.
That victory for Kunitskaya was overturned by the Missouri Office of Athletics, because referee Mike England told Evinger to move from a legal position while in a Kunitskaya armbar. Evinger obeyed the ref’s incorrect order and Kunitskaya ended up cinching in the submission even more, resulting in Evinger tapping out. The bout was ruled a no-contest after the fact and Evinger was able to keep her title.
A commission overturning a fight result is a rarity and Evinger knew it. That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to fight for what she believed in.
“I cried my eyes out, because it was heartbreaking for me,” Evinger said. “I just didn’t see it getting overturned. But I was definitely not gonna let something like that pass me by and not protest just because I’ve never seen it done. That was so ridiculous.”
Evinger, 35, won her case and now she’s hoping to put the entire matter to rest. She’ll defend her title yet again versus Kunitskaya in the main event of Invicta FC 22 on Saturday night in Kansas City.
Evinger (18-5, 1 NC) has not lost a fight since 2011 and came into the first bout with Kunitskaya riding a nine-fight winning streak. The Houston resident has been a fairly dominant champion for Invicta up until November. But now “Triple Threat” feels like the tables have turned and she’s not expected to win, much like it was for her earlier in her 11-year pro career.
“I’m just happy to be able to do it again,” Evinger said. “Let’s go back. I want to prove something. I’ve got something I want to prove, definitely. I like this feeling of the underdog, I guess. I perform better when people think I’m gonna lose.”
Evinger fully expects to be in a similar position against Kunitskaya again. As a longtime wrestler, her game plan, as it usually does, involves taking Kunitskaya down and winning by TKO or submission from there. There’s a chance Kunitskaya will attempt another armbar and Evinger said she’s not worried about that.
“Realistically, if the ref wouldn't have stepped in, I would have gotten my arm out like I do every single f*cking time in that situation,” Evinger said. “I’m in that position a lot. I’m not in danger there. I’ve got a lot of jiu-jitsu guys like, ‘That’s not the right way to defend an armbar.’ Well, thanks. You do jiu-jitsu, I do MMA. So shut your mouth. There’s a little bit difference of sport here.”
Evinger is as motivated for this fight as she has been in a while, she said. While she is the rightful Invicta champion heading into the bout, she wants to make sure there’s no doubt left when it’s over.
“I do know that she’s still calling herself the Invicta bantamweight champion, which I feel is really disrespectful,” Evinger said. “I know a lot of people felt like I shouldn’t have gotten my belt back, but that just makes no f*cking sense.
“I’m definitely looking forward to smacking the sh*t out of somebody.”