“Here’s where I come out on this topic: we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.”
Tommy had been taking a beating for two rounds. A solid ten minutes of taking slicing elbows off his back while his opponent, the Brazilian up-and-coming sensation known as Jenan Silva, wailed on him from inside his guard. Tommy’s right eye was swollen shut and he was sure his orbital was shattered. His nose he was certain of. The bell he couldn’t hear rang and he didn’t know the round was over until Silva stood up off of him and went to his corner. But Tommy got up without hesitation. Didn’t take a minute to lay on the floor, didn’t pause as he got to his knees. He got right up and walked to his corner, still fresh. His cornermen sat him on the stool. An ice pack was pressed on his face, some Vaseline was smeared across his brow, one of the guys poured water down his shorts. “You’re eating too damn much, Tommy! He’s paintin’ the canvas with ya!” His coach was screaming to be heard, massaging Tommy’s battered legs to get the blood moving. “Stop letting him take you down!” The crowd was roaring, a sonic wave of constant cheer pouring into the cage for the hometown hero sat across from him. The two men stared at each other while their coaches filled the 60 seconds they had with fight adjustments or harsh motivational tactics. “He’s shooting on you at will, now,” his coach yelled. “Throw a knee! Throw a fucking uppercut! Just stop letting him get you on the ground!” “I’m fine, Joe,” Tommy said, bloodied spit dripping from his mouthpiece. “You look like fucking shit. You ain’t fine. You’re far from fine. You’re getting your god damned ass handed to you on live television. Where’s the fucking game plan? Get your fucking head in the game!” “His fists feel like little pillows.” Joe shook his head and told the iceman Tommy might be concussed. “I’m fine,” Tommy said. “Really. I’m fucking with you. Don’t get taken down. Got it.” “This guy is all flash, Tommy. He’s getting tired. He’s gonna come out with something big, try to finish you early. He doesn’t want to go another five minutes, you hear me? He’s done.” “I’m gonna get him with the knee,” Tommy decided. “Good. Do it like we drilled and it’ll land, I promise you. If not, take one of his fucking limbs. But you gotta finish it, you got it? You got to finish him or we’re done.” Tommy nodded. Joe grabbed him by the neck. “Really, Tommy. Please. Focus. Your mother’s counting on you.” Tommy’s show money wasn’t enough. He needed the win bonus or the bank was going to foreclose on his family’s farm. He had until the end of the weekend and he was fighting on a Saturday night pay-per-view. “I’ll finish it. I promise. I’m full anyways,” Tommy smirked. The bell rang and the cornermen wiped Tommy off, took the stool and left the cage. Joe lingered a second, put a hand on Tommy’s shoulder. “Usually it’s win or lose, we go home together, but I’m just-” Tommy nodded, pushing Joe away as he hopped in place, rolling his shoulders and finding his stance while the ring girls and doctors left the cage. The ref announced the final round, readied both the fighters, and let it begin with a signal for the bell. Joe was already in Tommy’s ear as he rushed for the center of the mat. “Protect that eye!” Tommy didn’t see it coming. Being a southpaw without his right eye out of commission, Silva’s incoming overhand left pounded his temple, denting it in on itself and diluting Tommy’s understanding of depth, balance and directional awareness with a blanket of red. There was a gust of wind and a sudden wall and when the red washed away Silva was on his back, hammer fisting for a finish from the ref. Tommy had instinctively curled up when he hit the ground and had protected himself enough shake toe cobwebs before the ref stepped in to stop it. But he could see the ref’s shoes, could see how close he was to the action, and knew he had to do something before those nervous size sevens broke up the fight. There was an opening. Tommy could feel it. “Hit it!” Joe yelled. Tommy rolled in between Silva’s strikes, timing it on his upswing, and wrapped himself around Silva’s ankle, torquing it soon as he had it sunk in his armpit. Silva’s tap was immediate. The silencing of the crowd was just as sharp. When Tommy stood and raised his hands in victory, the only other celebration was in his corner and his wife and sister in the stands. The entire country of Brazil was behind the other guy. And the things Tommy had said leading up to the fight were less than tasteful, and in those neck of the woods, you could easily go missing for less. The entire week, Tommy had to be held up in his hotel room with bodyguards outside; if he went anywhere he was escorted by security. To every press junket, every workout, he was under constant attempts of assault. They didn’t even put him with the other fighters before the card started. Instead of getting in the locker rooms they put Tommy and his cornermen in a private conference room immediately after arriving at the arena. Joe came rushing into the cage, crying like he did after every fight, nearly knocking over the announcer. He was just screaming, “Yes,” over and over, pumping his fists in the air as if he himself we the victor. There was a blur of congratulations from Silva and his coaches and Tommy apologized for the crude things he’d said, waiting patiently for it to be translated to Portuguese and for his opponent to accept. Silva nodded, bowed, and lifted Tommy’s glove in the air, acknowledging his defeat and the respect between both fighters once the bout is over. The crowd wasn’t as forgiving and they began tossing beer cups and trash into the cage. Chants of “U Vai Morrer” rang down from the rafters. The ref took the fighters through the cordialities of announcing the winner and when Tommy’s hand was raised the entire arenas was dedicated to a relentless booing. The broadcast commentator approached Tommy with a microphone, motioning him to take out his mouthpiece so they could speak. “Tommy, wow, yet again a brilliant comeback submission off your back and not without adversity. And, my god, the damage you can endure. You ate a lot of shots in those first couple rounds, Tommy, and that left haymaker he caught you with at the beginning of the third, man o man, we thought you were a goner. Tell us, what was going through your mind when you saw that opening for the ankle lock, and also, how did you even have the sense or wherewithal to even think of attempting such a Hail Mary submission.” The interpreter translated it for the crowd and they drowned him out with cursed gestures and violent threats in their native tongue. They were having none of Tommy’s praise. Tommy grabbed the mike, watching himself in the big screens around the arena. “What’s up, you scoundrels!” They answered him with a rumble of stomping that shook the very foundation. Tommy feasted on it, beckoning for more. “I got a name to live up to, now don’t I? Ain’t nothing new here. Guy hits like my sister. It was nothin! Most these Brazilian bums hit like little girls, I swear! Gimme someone that can put me away, boss, please! I want a top ten guy next! I want Sanchez or Miller or Chow… or Chu or Chink, whatever that fuckin Asian guy’s name is. I want fuckin Yin Yang fucking who gives a shit!? Gimme someone with a number by their name!” The commentator waited for the translator and then tried to respond over the mob. “Well with that performance there’s no doubt you’re knocking on someone’s door. Now, real quick, as a Jiu Jitsu practitioner, one would assume you’d find more camaraderie with the Brazilian fan base. Why such the hostility towards the country that brought forth your preferred fighting style?” Tommy answered like it was loaded and waiting. “They’re bums. Every last one of ‘em. I’ve been robbed every single time I’ve come down to this shit hole and quite frankly I’m sick of it. I was robbed out of a taxi. My hotel room was ransacked back in November when I fought that no good Luther. Oh! But hey! The ladies are nice! Yeah, you got some fine mamas out here with them big booties and dem tig ol’ bitties. Mmhm! But you mother fucking men, you’re all bums! You’re all fucking rats that gotta rip off us good American tourists. Honest working folks that pay their dues, and you gotta put a pistol in our faces just for a couple twenties and a iPhone? Fuck all of you cowards! Fuck this country! This place is shit!” “Ah, okay then…” The commentator tried to laugh it off and continue. “Well it seems at least you were able to smooth things over with your opponent, Silva, just a moment ago. Can you tell us what you said to each other?” “Oh, that? Yeah, he was just congratulating me on such a dominate performance. Told me if I wanted to give the missus a call, she’d love to have me over, if you know what I mean.” He winked and kissed for the camera. “I’m sure that’s not what he said at all but there you have it, folks! Some harsh words from Tommy ‘The Pig’ Pittman. Ladies and gentlemen, let him know how you feel!” And the arena blared with the furious accumulation of 20,000 insulted countrymen, even more were screaming at their television sets and throwing beers across their living rooms. The fight promoter had security double down on Tommy and escort him out of the cage where he was pelted with trash and beer cans as he made the winner’s walk back to the room where the rest of his corner was already waiting. Security pushed him inside and shut the door behind him, locking it. Joe embraced Tommy like he was his son. “God damn I’m so proud of you kid!” He kissed Tommy’s forehead and brought him to a chair, handed him some cold water. “But you gotta really tone it down with that shit. This place ain’t the same as The States. They take talk like that personally down here.” “C’mon, Joey. These people know it’s all for show. It’s just talk. I’m playin the heel.” “Respect is big down here, kid. That’s all I’m sayin. Maybe when we get back home you put something on Facebook about you just being a dick for promotion or something. Something to smooth things over.” “Sure, Joe. Whatever makes you feel better.” He looked around for his wife and sister. “Where’s Sara and Martha?” “They took them to the hotel already. They didn’t want them seen with you in case, you know, something were to happen.” Tommy nodded, said that made sense. “She saw me win though?” “Oh yeah, kid. She saw the whole thing. They escorted her out when you got on the microphone.” Tommy giggled. “Alright, that’s cool.” Tommy waited until the other guys were distracted with something else and then asked Joe, “Did you make the transfer?” Joe nodded. “We got it, Tommy. They’ll have it in the morning. Don’t worry about nothing, alright? Everything’s solid.” There was a pop outside the room, followed by another two. “The fuck was that?” Joe asked. Tommy stood up, looking through one blurred eye at the door. “It sounded like gunshots.” The deadbolt was shot out and the door was kicked open right after, a pair of thin Brazilians in soccer jerseys rushing through with a pistol for each of them. “Whoa, guys, easy!” Tommy put his hands out but could do noting before one of the men put a bullet in Joe’s head. He dropped cold as he tried to say something to Tommy but the words never came. The gunmen fired on the other two cornermen, frozen stiff against the back wall. They too fell dead before the actual realization of what was before them could set in. But Tommy felt it. He felt the guilt of all of it, finding it pooled together in his clenched fists. He charged but was shot in the throat and chest mid-stride, unable to get his hands clawing on either man. The two Brazilians spat on Tommy as he writhed in expanding pool. “It’s just for show, you fucking fucks…” Security shot the two men multiple times from behind and they fell forward, onto Tommy as he submitted to bleeding out. “Get these pigs off me,” he garbled, the cold wring of death’s grip strangling the last bit of fight he had in him.