On November 5, 2016, Steven ‘The Gremlin’ Gruber (6-3) had his heart ripped from his chest after discovering his title fight at West Coast Fighting Championship (WFC), WFC 18, had been scrapped. Days later, Gruber’s manager, Dave Hirschbein, replaced the organ fueling his success in MMA, accepting an opportunity to face Alvin Cacdac (16-12) at Bellator 165: Henderson vs. Chandler.
After a dominant submission win at RFA (Resurrection Fighting Alliance) 42 in mid-August, Gruber’s confidence flew somewhere in the stratosphere. WFC’s vacant Flyweight Title, in Gruber’s opinion, already belonged to him; he simply awaited the ringing of the bell. On the day of weigh-ins, Jeremy Murphy (3-3), Gruber’s opponent at WFC 18, was unable to point the scale’s needle at 125-pounds. Fortunately, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) alerted Gruber that he could still vie for the belt, whereas, Murphy was no longer eligible. The fight, to this point, remained in tact.
When the lights inside Rancho Cordova’s Metro City Soccer Complex were cranked to full tilt at WFC 18, Gruber sensed more flight than fight in Murphy’s body language. Sure enough, while Gruber warmed-up backstage, members of CSAC approached to inform him: Murphy’s medicals hadn’t cleared, and the fight was off.
Gruber’s emotions went into a free-fall, but his positivity, as always, soared above the clouds. The following Monday, he returned to his office in El Dorado Hills—Urban Sprawl Fitness—as a means of staying prepared. It didn’t take long for the phone to ring.
The matchmakers at Bellator needed some local flyweight flare when Bellator 165 fills San Jose’s SAP Center on November 19th, so they reached out to ‘The Gremlin.’ In the contract, there was something about fighting Alvin Cacdac, an experienced veteran out of Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance, on a particular date in the near future, but all Gruber saw was the dotted line.
In Gruber’s last visit to Bellator, Bellator 154, he succumbed to the pressure of Northern California’s secret flyweight weapon, and now teammate, Josh Paiva (8-1). Following a grueling training camp for WFC 18 and the familiarity of Bellator’s glitz and glam, minor maintenance was necessary for Gruber to believe that the outcome will fall in his favor at Bellator 165.