The lights flash in strobes, stunning you entirely. You can barely see where you’re walking if you’re not focused on the left foot then the right. The crowd’s a screaming orchestra but you can’t hear them over your own heart beat. Their mouths move but nothing comes out. All you hear is the throb, the ebb and flow of your own body. They chant your name but they’re not chanting for you. They’re chanting for you to kill your opponent. To make him bleed and cause him pain. They’re pleading for you to break him. And if you don’t break him, he’ll break you. This is Sparta. Tour 14.
His dressing room was quiet in comparison to the roars he heard outside the corridors. Like apes, baboons, screaming for a showdown. Amping themselves and the other fighters up. He could picture little chimps clamoring over one another to watch two male alphas have at it for a female, for territory, and in Rhys’ case, for a title.
The money was unimportant. Fifty-thousand dollars. Half what he spent getting his name in the game over the last three years. No, it was the fight he came here for, begged to be here for.
Rhys hadn’t trained since last summer. He was out of shape, he was weakened by sedentary living and when he heard Tony Forest, Mister Fast himself broke his ankle and couldn’t participate, Rhys jumped at the chance and begged his sponsor to let him compete. (He got the call last week and started his crash-course boot camp)
A week and a half later, Rhys was laying on his dressing room floor, legs on the wall for circulation. His trainer was prepping the wraps and gloves when they got the cue, five minutes.
The lights flashed, cameras were shoved in his face. His mini story on coming back; UFC journalists genuinely curious about why he chose now to come back, if he thinks he’ll win. ‘How does it feel to be the underdog?’ one of them even asked. Like Rhys cared. He came to fight.
Like a convict pleading the fifth, Rhys kept his mouth shut.
He did his jumping jacks as he waited for the official to come pat him down. No weapons, no weights, no foreign objects. His ears were touched, his waistband tugged and snapped, his body grazed over by gloved fingers. He opened wide to show his mouth-guard fit and he had no hidden objects there either. Rhys was cleared.
In the ring he went. This time, he could hear some roars for him. Some fellow marines off tour in the stands singing their mantra. Rhys chose to use no entrance music. He found it pointless. (Again, he came here to fight. Not make a statement with flashy songs and stuffy interviews.)
He took his lap around the ring and found his corner. His home. His territory.
The guy staring him down, Joel, wasn’t quite as big as he was but Rhys had to remember, he wasn’t training all year. This cat had the advantage. They were called to the center. They were given the rules. Touched gloves and the bell was rang.
Rhys lunged a punch to Joel’s face but it was avoided. He grazed the man’s shoulder instead. Joel started jabbing him, wrapping his legs around him, trying to get Rhys down to the ground but Rhys had a strong core. He wasn’t good at using the tactics Joel was using but he was good at resisting them.
Joel seemed to be able to take a punch too. Fantastic.
With the man wrapped around Rhys’ legs, attempting to drag him down, Rhys began wailing punches out, pouring them down onto wherever he could hit. The man’s coach screamed for him to break and roll away, Rhys allowed him to. No sense in letting himself get tired out. Joel wasn’t losing energy either.
Rhys landed a hard left hook to the man’s jaw, stunning him enough to give Rhys the upper hand.
For a moment.
He punched, hit, kneed, jabbed and then the man was wrapped around him again like a boa constrictor, desperately trying to get Rhys down to the ground. Rhys obliged.
He dropped to his knees and slammed Joel down into the mat repeatedly, knocking the wind out of him enough to make the man release his grip even a bit. Fatal flaw number one. Rhys beat him against the mat like a rag doll.
The bell was rang. End of the round. Return to your corners. Rest.
Rhys kept a close eye on the opponent and his trainer, trying to read their lips but his own was snapping him out of his zone. Small sips of water, Vaseline applied to the wounds to keep them from tearing more. A little pep talk and Vic was pointing to Joe in the crowds.
"Total ring wife." He mumbled.
Joel started tossing punches at Rhys, hitting him in the face. It would seem his trainer decided Rhys wasn’t going down as easily as planned and they changed up their routine. Attack.
Rhys blocked and kept off the cage. In one hit, he felt his nose break. It was a clean break. Blood was pouring down his throat, hot and metallic. Thick too. His eyes watered. His teeth hurt. He could endure more though. Rhys slammed his elbow back into Joel’s head, knocking him away.
Now Joel was on the cage. Rhys’ turn.
Right hook after left and then Joel was on the ground. Rhys sat on his chest and beat his head around like it was a pinata. The contents inside his skull was a prize. The crowd went fucking nuts. Rhys was pulled off before the bell rang but Joel got up.
Back to your corners.
Rhys saw how their game was working. He saw how they would strategize against him.
As soon as the bell was rang, Rhys was done. He was tired. He was sore and bloody. He wanted to go home, take a bath and make love to his fiance.
Joel came in close and fast and as he did, Rhys wound his fist back and lunged forward putting all of his weight and muscle mass into the hit. Right in the temple. Rhys lucked out.
The force was enough to knock the other man the fuck out. His body fell to the mat.
He left the cage without being put on display as the Summer’s Spartan title winner. He’d collect the fifty grand and belt and trophy in his locker room in private.
Back home, he showered, he bathed, he ate, he napped and then he climbed into bed with the hottest fucking man he’s ever had the pleasure of proposing to. (The only as it happens) Rhys gently kissed over his body, bumping his nose along the way but pretended like it didn’t hurt like a son of a bitch.
They made love that night, bruises and broken bones and all.