Jorge Sanders thinks he has life figured out. It may not be glamorous living in a cramped apartment in Mississauga, where his pipes leak and his neighbours are always in his business, but it's all his own. When his friend offers him a chance to fight in an underground MMA ring, and his boss offers him a promotion if he can finish his college degree, he says yes to both prospects without thinking both of them through. He's been able to handle his strange life so far -- why not take on the added challenge?
Andrew Bergen's life has been far from easy, but a fluke invention of an incredibly profitable video game app has allowed him to live a dream life at twenty-six. No longer needing to work, and already too consumed by his dysfunctional past and broken family life, he decides to complete a college degree so he can at least be around some real people, and not glowing green avatars on a screen. That’s where he meets Jorge, a perpetually late fast food worker with a budding fighting career who seems to stand for everything Andrew despises ... but who only proves to be more kind, generous, and loving than Andrew could ever imagine.
But love is risky, and when the two are paired for their final project in class, there is more than one opportunity for a fight to emerge, and for both of them to walk away far more wounded than they ever anticipated.
Brett seemed to think it was a shame. Why bother to fight, to train, unless you were going to win?
“Ladies and gentlemen.” The man clad in black had now moved to the ring’s centre. He was in front of a mic, though it may as well have been a bull horn with how loud it had been cranked. The crowd barely quieted as he repeated his call three times. “Welcome to the local fight night. We will be finishing the evening with our latest champions, Cody Davis and Donovan Powers. Place your bets now.”
A group of people cheered while another swarmed a booth clearing designated as the betting arena. The MC waited for the tittering to calm down before he moved on. “Our first amateur brawl was selected online. Thanks for those who voted.”
More cheers and a few boos as the names were announced. Brett spit -- actually spit -- in disgust. The floor of the building was already dirty, so it was not like he added or detracted from a pristine surface. “I hate these guys.”
Jorge didn’t have a chance to ask why. A bell rang, and the man in black stepped to the side. The round was beginning. Jorge blinked and it was almost over. The first guy kicked the other man in the shins, sent him on his knees, and then elbowed his neck.
“What the fuck?” Jorge asked. “There’s no way that’s not --”
“Winner.” The man in black stepped back in the centre and held the man’s hand up. “Ty Willis will be progressing to the next amateur round. We have two other newcomers, chosen from our audience pool. Welcome ...”
The names blurred together; Jorge was barely listening. He watched the next round with keen precision so he didn’t miss a single blow. These two men lasted longer. One guy’s brown skin seemed as if it was golden under the lights. Jorge thought for sure that his stances and parries would yield him a victory, but another lucky shot got him down, and he did not scramble to his feet fast enough to miss out on the other guy tackling him around the waist. He pinned him to the floor and held him tight like a snake. It was no surprise then when the crowd started to chant “Cobra.”
“And Cobra is king,” the announcer said not two minutes later. “He will move onto the next round, and fight our latest winner, Ty Willis.”
“What about the third amateurs?” Brett shouted from the sidelines. They’d both worked their way closer and closer to the ring as more people left to collect bets, buy merch, or drinks. The night had only just begun, but it already seemed like it was half over. “The third amateur,” Brett repeated, as did a man next to him. Soon more were demanding, “We want the third amateur.”
The crowd readily switched their cheers to jeers. Jorge was amazed at how fast all of this was going. His neck felt like it was pulled tight with twine from how fast he was whipping his attention back and forth.
“We had a man drop out,” the MC explained. “We were going to move ahead with --”
“From the pit,” Brett shouted. “We want someone from the pit.”
The MC sighed at the audience push-back. A man from the sidelines moved to the centre stage, and whispered in his ear. He was not a fighter, not from what Jorge could tell. He wore more clothing than the men in the ring in their tight shorts, and seemed to be the oldest person here. The two men locked eyes and nodded. “Okay,” the MC said into the mic. “Denny has informed me that we will take some men from the pit. Two more rounds, since we have time, and things are going so well. Now, who will fight for their right to glory?”
The crowd swelled around Jorge like a wave. It pushed him and Brett forward, both of Brett’s arms up in the air. He practically danced like a marionette to get attention. Me, me, me, Brett shouted, a school child desperate for the answer. The MC’s lip curled in derision he saw it. He skipped over Brett and selected someone else, a six foot tall black man, from the crowd.
“And you,” he said, selecting a white guy roughly the same height as Jorge. “Now we need one more person to fill out the next round after these two duke it out. Winner take all, move onto the next round next week, and see who you can defeat.”
Something swelled inside of Jorge. He had no idea if it was nostalgia, pride, glory, or sheer stupidity, but it was there. It lifted his arm up. It filled his lungs with air so when he called out, “Me, I’m next,” he didn’t tremble. He sounded convincing, strong. He sounded like a winner.
The MC’s gaze landed surely on him. “Okay, you’re up next.”