(Elias is the “eccentric American” on the left. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/HardKnocksFighting. If you missed the first two installments of The Travel Chronicles, click here to catch up.)
By Elias Cepeda
He was a two hundred and twenty five pound Canadian amateur MMA heavyweight champion. She was a buck and some change, blonde, twenty years old and from California. They would both knock me on my ass. I just didn’t know it yet.
A few days after my win in May I got a friend request from someone named Chad. I didn’t know him but for whatever reason I accepted. He was a young aspiring fighter out of La Ronge, Canada and recommended that I contact the matchmaker for Hard Knocks Fighting, Sarah, which put on pro/am MMA events in Northwestern Canada. Ronda Rousey had made her MMA debut at Hard Knocks and the organization was developing a strong reputation. Chad was going to make his MMA debut in July and had seen tape of my fight on CagePotato.
I didn’t feel ready to fight yet again — my knee hadn’t gotten more injured in my last fight, though it still wasn’t strong — but I thought I’d at least introduce myself to Sarah to put me on their radar. I’d never been out of the U.S. except for Mexico, and getting flown out and put up to fight in another country as a lowly amateur seemed like a prospect not to be missed. How many people other than high level professionals get that type of chance?
Sarah and I spoke, she looked at my May fight tape and said she was definitely interested in including me on a card at some point. Perhaps if they had an event in the fall I could jump on board after training during the summer to improve. Canada would come a lot sooner than I expected, and would become the first stop on my summer travels.
Shortly after speaking with the Hard Knocks Fighting matchmaker I happened to meet a girl at a concert my friend’s band was playing at. Turns out he was a mutual friend of ours. She was passing through Chicago quickly to see his concert and would soon be heading home to California from school.
I’d seen her behind me at the concert. I stared. She smiled.