Discipline… when people used to look at me; they never saw it. When I lifted up another glass of wine; when I cave in to having pity sex with my boyfriend; when I would spend my entire paycheck on unreasonably priced pair of pumps… they never saw it. Now, I'm standing in a long tunnel with my coaches yelling at me about keeping my 'Discipline' and keeping to the 'Strategy'. The lights go off and flashes of light fill the stadium from phones and cameras alike. I smile with the flexible mouthpiece in my mouth and I can hear the screams, whistles, and cheers of nearly every person inside the Las Vegas Arena. Every one of them was a rumble and a pulsating jolt inside my chest just as the guitar and drums of my song rings out into the stadium making the crowd get even louder. Bulls On Parade by Rage Against the Machine… my song… It gets into full gear just as a bright spot light hits the end of the tunnel. My Coach and new landlord, Jordan 'The Grizzly' Cross, takes my shoulders with both hands and yells in my ear with his Boston accent, "The Belt's Yours, Slugga. Now rip her apart!" I smile as my father's nick-name drums out of his mouth… My nickname was very much spot-on, now, going on for the last few years. Oh how I have grown… I am now a fighter… a merciless warrior. I am no longer the slut across the hall… the alcoholic, ditsy blonde… I am an Angel that has fallen but got back up as a Demon… I am no longer the Penny that gives into temptation… I am the undefeated monster who is about to prove her worth.
With my loose T-Shirt that was airbrushed with my new fighter's name 'The Demon', my ankle bandaged feet, and my new favorite black and purple colored shorts with Jordan's gym name written across my ass, 'Cross To Bear' with a brown bear lifting the 'T' (that looks like a cross); I start hopping from one foot to another in a simple one-one-two-two combination as I make it to the spot light. When I hit that light, nothing else matters. My song is thumping, my fans are behind me, and there is only one obstacle standing in my way from getting the belt… Marla 'The Medusa' Albot… The announcer blares out my stats… 'Standing 5'9… 140 pounds… hailing from Omaha, Nebraska but training in the Cross to Bear Gym in Phoenix, Arizona… with a record of 7-0 with four fights ending in Knock Outs and the other three by Submission… Penelope 'THE DEMON' Contandino. I shake my arms to loosen up and jab into the air as I chew on the mouthpiece. The crowd screams and I can hear Coach screaming behind me just as Nicola Hernando, we call him Hot Sauce, and Leo Zachariah Marshall, I call him Hammy, are walking behind me yelling out that I was about to kill this girl and other encouraging words.
People reach out their hands and yell supportive things at me, but I have to stay focus… I have to be disciplined. When I reach a man in a black, he asks me to extend my arms, flex my fingers within the gloves, open my mouth wide, and take off my shirt. Showing off my newest tattoo: angel wings that burn into demon wings from the base to the tips. It was a symbol of what I had become. How I went from some perfect little angelic doll to a relentless demonic bitch… Everything in my past was leading me to this… the alcohol… the sex… the shopping addiction… the stupid, out of control decisions… I left them all behind in Pasadena. All I have, now, is Discipline… I train… I run… I eat… I sleep. It's who I have become… the fighter… the Demon… the true Slugger.
I hear familiar voices screaming my name and very close to my proximity. I turn my head sharply to the left and there they are… front row… the people I hurt… the people I had wronged with my shenanigans… and when they see that I notice them; they all smile and wave and scream their support… Amy, Bernadette, Raj, Howard, Stuart, and my sister and her god-awful husband… but there were two people that weren't there… two people I was both scared were there and disappointed they weren't… Leonard and Sheldon. I don't smile… I don't wave back… I try to not show how badly it hurts that they're there so I just snap my attention back to the man in black and he slips my mouth piece back into my mouth and asks me to remove my shirt. I do so and he then asks if I understand all that he has said to me. I give him a nod and he offers me luck. I snort out, "No Such Thing" before jogging up the stairs in my black and purple shorts and tightly fitted black sports bra. I spare one more look at my old life and they seem off-put that I didn't acknowledge them… I can hear a snarling 'Good' rumble in my head right before I bite down on my mouthpiece… hard. I don't want their last memory of me being a bitch, but I have to keep moving forward. If I even slip up once… I have a fear that I'll be right back where I started before becoming a fighter. I shake out all the drama… all the inconsistent nagging in my head… I focus on the job at hand… I focus on my discipline.
As I step into the cage, I make it blatantly obvious that I'm here to kick this woman's ass. I stare at the large woman across from me and never let her glare go. I go over the strategy that Coach gave me in my mind. This woman has a mean stare down, but I didn't give a damn about her eyes… she had a nasty right hook that has sent a lot of women falling into the black of a KO… but she has a very weak left knee. I smile and stretch as the announcer carries on about the rules and what is at stake. I am full of confidence. I know I can beat her… Marla has had the belt for six and a half years… and as far as I was concerned… she was just holding it for me. The announcer introduced the referee for the evening, Herb Dean. Herb motioned us to the center of the ring and he spat his 'fair fight' 'listen to me at all time' 'stay safe' speech and he told us to touch gloves… we just went back to our corners. There was no love in this ring tonight… blood, sweat, teeth… that was the only thing going to be kissing something tonight… the canvas.
Herb stood in the center; pointed to Marla and she nodded; pointed to me 'Ready?' and I nodded. He brought his hands to point to the center of the ring and yelled out, 'Bring it to the center, touch gloves, and come out swinging'… and that is just what we did…
When I first started to spar with the boys at the gym… there was no 'I Don't Hit Women'… there was only 'You Put Those Gloves on and You Are Just a Fighter'… I was shown no kind of mercy… I was taught that the moment you get into a ring… there is only fighting… the nice little girl was beaten right out of me. I would throw my glove out to touch one of the guys I was sparring and I would get punched for it. I learned that if I showed just a LITTLE bit of the 'Old Penny' that I was going to get my ass handed to me. So, I had to become a rock… a force… I had to become the beast that would make the boys think twice about volunteering to spar with me. I don't smile or drop my guard at anytime during the fight… I don't engage in any verbal confrontation… I just watch and wait like a predator picking out the weaklings in the herd. When I step into a ring… I am no longer Penny… I am the Demon. Coach would yell that my sparring partners were taking my pretty face and naivety as a possible weakness… after I dodged their jabs or kicks… I would utterly slaughter them. Coach had taken my natural will of fighting and gave me an animalistic hunger… He gave me stamina, flexibility, and power… He molded me into a TRUE fighter instead of some girl, childish, drunken idiot I used to be. I was a beast… his little monster; in a little, itty, bitty package and I knew I would never let him down.
Marla came out with a superman punch right off the bat and I dodged it like a matador waving its cape in the air and laughing at the bull. She got a few jabs to her nose for the trouble as she tried to recover from her momentum. I began the strategy. I moved and dodged and jabbed… ringing up point after point with the judges. She lunged for the take down and was met with my beautiful little knee to the chin. She swung at me, blindly, but I just backed away. She scrambled up to her feet and I suppress a smile at the frustration on the woman's face. She crow-hops with a straight kick and I side step. She jabs, I dodge. She takes a minute to catch her breath at all her ridiculous tries and I kick her hard and swift right on her bad knee. She bows a little and I can see her anger. We dance around a little and I can see her trying to figure a plan, so I do it again… I kick her harder and quicker in the knee. I can see her cringe as she lifts it a little bit to take the pressure off of it and I circle her like a hyena.
All the frustration building up tenses her muscles and I don't suppress the smile this time… the woman goes in with her solid, jaw breaking right swing and I use my speed to dodge it fully. As she follows her momentum; I plant my feet, put all my strength into my hips, and shoot my right shin into her diaphragm with a monstrous roar from my throat. The bone on flesh rings out and the crowd almost shares in the woman's pain as an 'OoooOOooo' rings out. Her body looks to be wringing out to dry against my leg as I could almost see her gasp escaping her mouth and she tumbles backwards. I waste no time… I throw my own superman punch and send my left fist against where her right ear and jaw meet. It was a sweet feeling… I felt nothing but all my power colliding against a smushy, movable substance. Her body does a comical twirl and her back hits the mat, hard.
I see her barely struggling to get up as the crowd goes berserk at the punch. I rush her with a right uppercut to her nose and she fails back to the mat, again. I jump and straddle the woman and rain down hammer fists and mean elbows on her unguarded face. I don't cringe at all the blood or the damage I'm doing to this poor woman, but I'm not stopping until she is either dead, or the referee stops me. When she was lifeless underneath me, and her blood caked the canvas below us… Herb Dean dives in and throws me off while waving his hands above Marla… I tuck and roll from Herb's toss and hop to my feet. I throw out my mouth piece and run around the ring while screaming in victory.
I run and jump into Coach's person and he catches the back of my knees as I raise my arms up and nearly cry. I won the belt… I FUCKING WON THE BELT! Nothing could ever feel as good as this moment… Nothing ever HAS. No sex… no sip of liquor… no paycheck… NOTHING will ever take the place of this feeling…
Discipline might have been missing as I cried and jumped and screamed with Hammy and Hot Sauce, but… it wasn't gone for good! It got me here… got me standing right here with my hand thrown in the air as the announcer screams into the hanging mic, "The New Women's UFC, Bantamweight Champion of the World, Penelope 'THE DEMON' Contandino." Discipline brought me a flawless victory… brought me to the belt… brought me to the highest honor a fighter could get… but as I looked to where my old friends were in the crowd… they aren't there… and though I smiled proudly as I held up the belt; I felt sick to my stomach and brutally hollow… I just wished that discipline I loved so much was with me before my dumb ass actions ripped the two greatest men in my life right from underneath me. The two men who had become such a vital part in my life at the time… As Coach puts the belt around my waist and I put on my fake smile… I fight off the tears that were building in my eyes… I wanted them here… Sheldon and Leonard… I wanted them here.