And they train together, whaling on each other to prepare for their next fight, hoping to escape the minor leagues of their sport -- "waiting," Toby said one recent afternoon, "for someone to find us."

His Midwestern roots

He is from Lima, Ohio, a Rust Belt town named for the city in Peru -- because Peru sent over the medicine used to treat malaria during the pioneer days -- but pronounced like the bean.

He was the second of three boys, all red-headed, all built like sycamore trees. In Lima, a boy who doesn't play sports in his spare time has to get a job, so, naturally, the brothers became fanatical athletes. At his Catholic high school, Toby ran track, competed on the swim team and, his senior year, was captain of the football team, which held Mass before every game, with players in full pads and uniform.

In the winter of 2000, midway through the University of Dayton, he yearned for a new sport. He flipped through the yellow pages, landing in the M's -- in "Martial Arts."

He enrolled in a small martial arts academy in northwest Ohio. It was a clarifying event, so much so that he remembers the color of the shorts his first mentor was wearing the day they met: blue. By the end of the year, his trainers put him in his first tournament. It was at a local union hall, a "roughman tournament."

"I was 150 pounds. Skinny, skinny, skinny," Toby, now all the way up to 160, said one recent morning. "I fought a guy who ate steroids for breakfast."

In the second round, Toby faked two jabs and then spun in a circle, catching his opponent on the side of the head with the back of his fist.

"I put him on his ass," Toby said. "I started whaling on him. He didn't come out for the third round."

Amateur fights soon gave way to small purses and, last year, he turned pro in mixed martial arts.

"I had told everybody I could never do it, that it was too brutal," Toby said. "Then I tried it. And everything changed. It was so open. You could do anything. I could see the future."

He was hooked. And he was good. Most important, perhaps -- in a thoroughly modern sport where image is key and promoters expect their talent to entertain -- he frequently won in spectacular fashion.

At one fight, Toby instinctively leapt over his opponent's leg kick and then pounded him into submission so quickly that he had to yell to the referee to point out that his opponent had lost consciousness. At another, with his opponent on top of him, Toby scored a technical knockout while on his back, traditionally a vulnerable position.

"I understand that it's a performance," he said. "I consider myself a full-contact actor."

Her vagabond beginnings

She was raised by a single mother, a woman she describes as the black sheep of an upper-crust British family. In stark contrast to his archetypal Midwestern childhood, hers was one of itinerant privilege.

Her mother, traveling in the United States, met the man who would become her father at a bus stop in Arizona. Roxy has never met him. "I was a mistake," she said.

She and her mother were "gypsies" who wound up living, under circumstances she still doesn't quite understand, in Italy, California, Maryland, Colorado. It was an exotic life, one she roundly rejected when it came time for high school. She announced that she would no longer be moving, and she boarded at a small Quaker school in Maryland, then attended LaSalle University in Philadelphia.

After college, she "bummed around," she said, promoting late-night "rave" parties, bartending, driving a delivery truck for a restaurant. She moved to Los Angeles in 2002 and soon walked through the doors of a kickboxing academy.

Before long, she fought her first "smoker," a small fight often held after hours at martial arts academies. Roxy looks tough; she often wears a pair of brass knuckles on a necklace. But when she stepped into the ring that night, she said, "I thought: 'What the hell am I doing here? This is really scary, and I want to get out.' "