In a sport riddled with uncertainty, MMAGOLD, the fight team out of El Dorado Hills, California, strategizes and drills the kaleidoscope of intangibles. For Steven ‘The Gremlin’ Gruber (6-4) at Bellator 165: Chandler vs. Henderson, the move from the prelims to the postlims revved his competitive engine, pumped the brakes, and red-lined again, which depleted his tank, much more than he initially realized, before ever standing across from Alvin Cacdac (17-12).
Prior to the soles of Gruber’s feet pressing flat against Bellator’s mat, MMAGOLD’s veteran flyweight was behind the eight ball: accepting a short-notice scrap against an opponent owning nearly three times the professional experience, along with several extra pounds after missing weight. Gruber, a fighter in every sense, eschewed any of these warning signs and accelerated into danger.
Two weeks before Gruber brought the metallic luster of his fight shorts to the middle of San Jose’s SAP Center, he was expected to battle for his first marker of MMA glory as a pro, challenging Jeremy Murphy (3-3) for the vacant West Coast Fighting Championship (WFC) Flyweight Title at WFC 18. While loosening his fast-twitch muscles backstage, the California State Athletic Commission informed Gruber: Murphy’s medicals didn’t clear, prompting a mandatory cancellation of the bout.
Riding the jet stream of an elite-level training camp to prepare for Murphy, ‘The Gremlin’ eagerly answered Bellator’s call when they offered him the opportunity to face Cacdac with a handful of days to spare.
When Gruber last visited Bellator—Bellator 154, he was placed on the postlims, a portion of the card, dark to anyone outside of the arena following the main event. The legion of fans following Gruber were pumped when he posted on his Facebook page that he was scheduled to appear in Bellator 165’s prelims.
When the prelims concluded, with no sightings of Gruber, everyone surmised an unfavorable swap to the postlims; therefore, the only thing people could do was impatiently wait next to their devices for details.
Once the post-fight festivities from Bellator 165’s championship attraction cleared the cage, Gruber was, finally, ushered from the dressing room. A flash knockdown and hair-trigger from the referee ended the contest before Gruber found his groove. Though this gritty 125-pounder accepts full responsibility for the fight’s sequence of events, the lag time between the prelims, when he believed he’d be competing, to the postlims affected him more than he originally realized. Gruber explained,
“That definitely played a part into it,” he began. “Basically, I was scheduled to fight seventh, and the first seven fights were scheduled to be a part of the prelims.” Shrugging his shoulders, he continued, “For some reason, they switched me with someone, which bumped me to the eighth fight, putting me in the ‘swing bout’—or whatever they want to call it.”
He described how the combatants slotted in the ‘swing bout’ are unsure whether they’ll compete during the prelims or postlims, so it becomes a waiting game until word travels through Bellator’s grapevine. At some point, Gruber was informed: his bout with Cacdac was delayed until Bellator’s lightweight belt found its rightful owner.
Problem is: even after Gruber and his golden cornermen were settled in on a start time, there was another unexpected delay:
“You’re thinking the main event is out, so I should start warming up,” Gruber voiced his assumptions. “Then, maybe about a round before Benson Henderson’s fight was over, they came back and told me: I have to wait for another fifteen-minute intermission.”
All of these hiccups, in conjunction with a less than desirable outcome, may cause some to balk at contracting their services with Bellator again. Not Gruber. His positivity burst through his skin like a patchwork of tattoos, and he’s already preheated a proper mindset, if a similar situation arises, in the future:
“Now, I know what to expect. If they do make me part of the ‘swing bout’ again, then I’ll just put in my head that I’m going to fight after the main event.”