I have been working backstage at MMA shows since the 90s, and i don't think anyone ever captured it quite as well as did Ben Fowlkes at Invicta 3.
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As I follow Invicta president Shannon Knapp down into the bomb shelter of a basement that will serve as tonight's one and only locker room for all 28 fighters on Invicta's third event, I can't help but feel a little unnerved. That feeling is not helped by the visual combination of spit buckets and pregnancy tests that Knapp quickly gets to work laying out like welcoming gifts for fighters who won't arrive for another hour.
"You think Dana White does this stuff?" Knapp says as she unstacks the black plastic buckets and puts a small white towel inside each one. At the edge of the long table is the line of First Response pregnancy tests in rectangular pink boxes. "Unsurpassed accuracy," it says on the boxes. Two tests to a box, fourteen boxes, one for each pair of fighters. The idea is for them to walk in the locker room, take one, pee on a stick, and make sure we aren't kicking each other in the fetus out there tonight. There's another thing Dana White doesn't have to worry about on fight night.
There are at least two reasons why Knapp is doing all this herself: 1) Invicta is still a small organization and Knapp is determined to keep costs down, which means her fight night "staff" consists mostly of her brother and Angie Lindland – wife of veteran fighter Matt Lindland – and whoever else she can convince to help out, 2) Knapp, at 45 years old and with a long resume that includes just about every conceivable job in the MMA industry, is a little bit of a control freak.
Once the buckets and pregnancy tests are in place, she'll head up to the floor to take a look at sponsor placement on the cage, help stack and relocate some of the floor seats, then have a very cordial argument with the guy running the smoke machine in which she tells him that he needs to be producing far less smoke during the fighter walkouts, since "some of these girls have asthma." Throughout all this, her Blackberry will chirp constantly with incoming text messages. That's what happens when you put your phone number on Twitter.
The thing that baffled me the most about the latter was, why do them now? Why not during pre-fight medicals, or at the weigh-ins? If a fighter pops positive for baby on fight night, there's no time to find a replacement. The fight would simply be off, all because of one pink line on one supermarket pregnancy test. It all seemed a little last-minute, which, as Strikeforce fighter and Invicta commentator Julie Kedzie explains later, is kind of the point.
"Even if you were pregnant all week, it might not show up on the test until today," Kedzie says as she sits in a chair backstage two hours before fight time, having her hair and makeup done in Knapp's "office," which is really a grim little bunker of a room with bad lighting and a shortage of electrical outlets.
Does she know of any fighters who found out they were pregnant via a fight night pregnancy test, I ask. Oh yes, Kedzie says. She knows of a few. What's really crazy is not that they had no idea they were pregnant, but that they successfully made weight with all that happening inside them.
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