Authors: Olivia Lancaster
Everything has told me I shouldn’t be here today. And everything is what I’ve been pushing back against my entire life to fight my way to the top.
Strength, passion, hard work, and talent have been my tools. I used them to shape myself into something that should never have risen out of a poor farmstead in the middle of nowhere, USA. My success has always been something I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for every step of the way. No rich parents, no elaborate and regimented fitness programs from childhood, and only my friends to help support me along the way, to keep me focused on what I’ve earned through my own blood and sweat.
My arms were locked with my opponent, a man almost as tall as me, our bulging muscles in each other’s’ hands as we pushed and thrashed against each other. Our faces were barely an inch apart, eyes glaring into each other for the briefest moment before he tried to toss me aside with all his weight.
I responded by bringing my knee sharply up into his stomach, and he grunted, breaking away from me. Our heavy bodies staggered back from each other, but I wasn’t about to let him have a breather. I barrelled forward again, feigning a left hook to throw his guard off while I came in with another knee to the stomach, but this time he was ready for me, swiping at my head as I came in.
The blow rocked my vision, and it set me off-balance just long enough for him to bring his whole weight forward to tackle me to the ground, the impact of our weight shaking the whole ring.
I wasn’t that easily bested, though. I didn’t get to where I was today by being a giant that could be toppled to the ground like a tree.
The moment he had me on the ground, I knew he’d start pummelling my face, but my legwork allowed me to toss him aside before he could get more than a blow in. I hurled him aside and dove after him, wrapping my arms around his, trying to keep him pinned. That meant certain defeat for my opponent, though, and I could almost feel his adrenaline hitting a new high under me as we wrestled together before he finally managed to shake me.
That wasn’t a loss, though--he’d still lost the precious advantage of having me on the ground, and now we were squaring up again to circle the ring like a couple of lions ready to pounce.
And pounce he did.
My opponent moved in with a series of quick jabs, meant to put me on the defensive, but I didn’t fall for it. I returned the assault with a series of piston-like pummels to the torso, my fists battering his ribcage and his stomach as I feel strikes against my face that nearly knock me back, but I wasn’t going to surrender an offensive that easily.
There was a reprise in our exchange of blows as he prepared to throw a punch that would knock my lights out, and I took the chance to dive in around his waist and lifted him up and over my thigh, slamming him into the ground, hard.
I moved in to finish him where he laid, but it was a stupid mistake--his kick caught me in the stomach, and I went down beside him with a grunt, but that didn’t stop me from being ready when his legs wrapped around me to try to pin me into submission.
I owed all my technical skill to my trainer and my fellow fighters. We worked together to master our fighting abilities, and to me, this was just another round with the boys back at The Fighting Chance, our gym. I knew my friends, the men who were closer to me than any blood relatives could have possibly been, wouldn’t dare hold back on those days when we’d spar with one another. To do so would insult one another’s skill. We cared about each other too much not to give it our all, and so every training session was as intense as a championship match.
With training and friends like mine, I almost felt sorry for my opponent.
Our muscles and joints twisted and contorted around each other as we tried to force one another into submission. Amidst our sweat and heated breath, he made his way behind me, yanking my arms back in a hold that felt like it was trying to break me.
It took every ounce of my strength to resist him, but my body was not one that could break. I was Marc Montoya, and as far as I was concerned in the ring, I was invincible.
I broke his hold on me at last and returned with a blow to his nose that sent him reeling as I stood up again, but this time, he came with me, eyes red with fury as he moved to batter my face again.
As though I were dodging a charging bull, I moved aside smoothly and fluidly, delivering a solid blow to his stomach as he went.
He was getting sloppy. Now was my chance to put the man down.
By the time he wheeled around, I was already on him, and my arms around his waist took him off-guard. With a reserve of strength I didn’t know I had, a motion of my muscles that pushed them beyond what I imagined their generous limits to be, I lifted the other super heavyweight into the air, hurling him aloft as he failed to get a blow in on my head below, knees kicking at me furiously.
But it was all futile.
With the last ounces of strength I had in reserve as my tank was nearing empty, I sent him rocketing to the ground.
Victory had never been something that was handed to me. Some fighters grew up with every privilege in the world, their bodies honed from the time they could walk to become fine-tuned combatants, their diets regimented to the last protein and their very sleep regulated. I’d never been given any such advantage. Every rung on the ladder I’d been able to climb came from my sheer force of will, the same willpower that sent the other man crashing downward at that very instant.
And as my opponent’s body hit the floor of the ring with a hard thud in tune with the pounding of my heart, knowing I’d achieved that hard-earned victory felt all the sweeter.
“He’s down! Ladies and gentlemen, he’s down!”
My opponent was out cold, the wind knocked out of him and his consciousness taken with it.
The crowd roared around me, chanting my name while pounding the ground with their feet as lights started shining bright and music started blaring all around me. It would have been an overwhelming cacophony to the senses of a lesser man.
I’m anything but.
To me, this was all part of the life. My thick chest moved up and down, the scent of the blood, of the ring, of air charged with energy and fury filling my lungs with every breath. My eyes looked down on my opponent, a man who’d worked himself just as far as I had, climbed over just as many hurdles and made his body just as lethal. But despite it all, there he lay on the ground in front of me, and I stood over him as the victor.
I deserved this. I worked for this.
The flash of cameras all around me told me the moment was being immortalized in photos, and I’d see them all over the news tomorrow, but to me, those kinds of things were vapid. My win was already immortalized in the moment my opponent and I shared. The tension in the ring between two fighters was not something that anyone besides the fighters themselves could
“Marc Montoya, everyone! Another stunning victory! Is there anything that can stop this bull of a man?” the commentator’s voice rang out. “I haven’t seen anything like him in years! This has been a hell of a fight, ladies and gentlemen, I hope
caught that last blow!”
It was all showmanship, I knew. There were at least two dozen cameras on us at all times, and the images of myself on the screens all around me told me as much. On the screens, I could see the confetti starting to fall all around me before I could see it in front of my own eyes. I saw my face, battered and bruised, a trickle of blood running down my black hair from my forehead to my neck where I’d taken a hard hit. A few marks on the dark skin of my torso told me where I’d be feeling sore tomorrow morning, but right now, all I could see in my amber eyes, stern brow, and heavy jaw was the adrenaline of the victory.
The music nearly drowned out the cheer of the crowd and the emcee’s antics was a kind of theme song for my fights. I thought it was silly when my manager had insisted on it, but now that the thrill of the win was fresh in the air, it made the moment all the more exhilarating.
I lived for this. There was nothing that gave me more of a rush than my body fighting its way to victory over other combatants. MMA fighting was something that broke so many people, left so many battered bodies and broken bones in its path, but for me, that was just what made the lifestyle all the more exciting.
Out in the crowd, I could see the faces of a few friends and fellow fighters who had worked here with me, and I found myself almost lightheaded at the rush of everything going on. I came from a poor, rural town, nothing more ahead of me to look forward to than a ploughshare to help eke out a corn harvest for the next year. When I started fighting with the other boys in town, I never thought it would get me anywhere but a dirty prison cell.
If only my parents were around to see me where I stood today.
My reflection was interrupted when someone else stepped into the ring. Instinctively, my fighter’s adrenaline still pumping throughout my muscles, I turned, ready to fight off whatever new intruder is violating my territory, but instead, all I saw was the emcee clambering onto the ring to my left, holding his microphone and keeping the audience’s excitement.
“From a patch of dirt in New Mexico to a bloodspattered ring, Marc Montoya, everyone!”
Before he reached me, someone else got up onto the stage from the right, and she was a much more familiar sight. The woman heading towards me was slender but voluptuous, with shiny black hair and cinnamon-brown eyes not unlike my own, a pearly-white smile on her face as she grinned and waved at the crowd while striding across the ring.
Her name was Selena Marquez. In public, she was always around my arm, posing for pictures and advertisements and public appearances. In private, she was my on-again-off-again girlfriend with more baggage between us than even I could stand to carry, but our interludes apart made it a little easier to manage. Especially since I wasn’t the kind of guy who was really into monogamous relationships. Sure, I never cheated on Selena, but I enjoyed occasionally being free to fuck whatever groupies I saw on any given day.
Right then, though, all of that was the farthest thing from my mind, and as her carefully-maintained body made its way to me, I reached out and pulled her close to me as she instinctively posed for the flash of a double-dose of camera activity all around us.
I felt the emcee’s hand around my wrist, and he lifted my arm into the air, announcing me the official victor, and all around me, the roar of the crowd and the music all seemed to double in volume and intensity, Selena giving me a squeeze as we stood there in absolute victory.
But I hardly felt any of it.
From the moment the emcee lifted my arm up, all I could feel was the most intense agony I’d ever felt in my life, running from my arm all the way down my side.
The sharp pain tore through me like a wildfire that burned hotter than anything I’d ever felt before, burning past the adrenaline that still rung in my blood like it was nothing. I felt the smile fade from my face, and immediately, I knew something had stretched in a way it shouldn’t have. I knew my body better than anything else in the world, and right now, it told me that something was very, very wrong.
And in that instant, I lost control of it, my legs giving out from the pain and my body hitting the ground. Selena and the emcee only had an instant to back away, lest they be taken down with me.
The pain I felt upon hitting the ground seemed to double what was already stabbing into my arm. As I hit the ground, my vision started to darken as I saw the vague shapes of Selena looking over me and the emcee looking away. As I fought to keep myself conscious despite the agony in my arm, the last thing I remembered hearing was the emcee shouting for the medics.