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Celebrating 20 Years of FIT NHB: My Best Day

On May 19th, FIT NHB (Fighters In Training, No Holds Barred) celebrates their twentieth year of existence as an entity within the combat sport’s world. Not just a unique acronym, the lauded gym has been quintessential to the development and evolution of mixed martial arts in the State of New Mexico and the Southwest region.

When FIT NHB announced via social media that they’d be celebrating their 20th year, it piqued the interest of us here at Southwest Fight News to become fans for a while and take a drive down memory lane to commemorate FIT NHB as experienced by the individual who stood at ground zero building the gym from the first brick – Head Coach and Co-Owner Tom Vaughn.

We hoped you have been following us this week and if you haven’t we have listed the links at the end of the page for all the previous entries of this celebration series.

Pictured: Tom and Arlene’s daughter Jessie crawling on the mats at FIT NHB.

The story of Tom throughout this 20th celebration series has given readers an insider’s glimpse into a historical context of how FIT NHB was built from the ground up.

“Looking back over 20 years at FIT NHB there’s one day that’s in a class all its own.” – Tom Vaughn

As I began to review the content that would go into this article, it led me to the a perspective that I hadn’t ever considered. Over the years, I have solely known Tom and Arlene to be Head Coaches and Co-Owners of FIT NHB. I have followed their various endeavors over the years, followed the fighters they trained, and the news that came out of their gym.

But I never thought of them as parents. And for many being a parent is a characteristic that defines an individual on mental, physical, and emotion levels. One could say a dedicated coach embraces his students as his own children, and I wouldn’t disagree, but a story about your own flesh-and-blood is often the most heartwarming.

“Sometimes people brag about how they “practically live at the gym”. In the year 2000 it wasn’t just a bold statement for us. We actually DID live at our gym and on December 7, 2001 our daughter Jessie was literally born in the gym. Arlene had been reading about natural child-birth and was convinced that was the way she wanted to go. We bought a little inflatable pool and when the time came Arlene gave birth to our daughter in that inflatable pool filled with water, assisted by a midwife in our little apartment in the back. Jessie was born on a Friday around 7 pm and it changed my life forever.” – Tom Vaughn

Pictured: Jessie dawning the Muay Thai shorts and gloves.

Usually the terminology “born in this sport” is figurative in that the individual just started very young. In the case of Tom and Arlene, the walls of a gym that had spectated so many talented athletes had now hosted the birth of a child in a story made for a movie, the daughter of the gym’s Head Coaches.

Tom and Arlene clearly showed their commitment to achieving their goals to lead a successful gym by including their new addition the world in those plans to ensure their hard work and passion could still carry on while raising a newborn child with equal amounts hard work and passion.

The duo were working double duty.

“When we taught classes Jessie watched from her swing or her stroller. As she got a little bigger she was crawling around the mat or we would walk around holding her during class. Our school had a family atmosphere and our students were cool and supportive. Sometimes we’d have one of our young students Heather Rose watch Jessie while we taught.” – Tom Vaughn

It would go without saying that FIT NHB had to be family oriented to allow new parents to feel safe with their newborn inside a gym that focused on combat sports. They trusted the people in the gym, they trusted their new baby was safe, and they received the support from the gym just as if Tom and Arlene’s daughter was already part of team.

Pictured: Jessie as a teenager, no longer the baby that Tom and Arlene carried while teaching classes.

That doesn’t sound so bad, your growing daughter being close to home in the apartment inside the gym. That would be the case if fight teams didn’t have to travel to destinations near and far to compete at various events. In fact, in the fight gym world it is almost assumed that experienced will be gained by eventually traveling in the very least a region to test an individual’s talents against other area’s fighters.

In trying times as parents some are lucky to have resources within their family to help when things get rough. Though Tom and Arlene had a trustworthy source of babysitting for certain occasions, one major decision would play a pivotal role in their ability to continue pushing the progress of the gym’s fight team.

“As our team grew we had to travel and Jessie went with us everywhere. By the time she was two she had been more places than some people go in their whole life. Heather Rose would travel with us sometimes and served as Jessie’s babysitter. Jessie loved Heather and Heather was a big help. As we got more and more busy Arlene’s mom made a huge sacrifice and moved to Albuquerque to be Jessie’s full-time nanny. Without Arlene’s mom we could have never done all we’ve done.” – Tom Vaughn

Tom Vaughn is a quiet man. Many of you already know that and others may know him so well that it may not be the case. In the public eye though, he flies under the radar and even as a Head Coach of a major MMA gym, he can easily go unnoticed in a crowd – and it seems he is okay with that.

Pictured: Tom and Arlene with their daughter, Jessie.

That doesn’t mean Tom is unable to communicate loudly, maybe just not as a the center-of-attention in the room. He definitely seems to broadcast just fine when he chooses too. He doesn’t hide his passion for coaching and for the individuals who train inside his gym. He proudly cheers for his team at all costs and makes the walk with dozens and dozens of fighters every year.

But from what I gathered today, I think Tom most loudly loves the little bit of himself that was born inside the gym that he and Arlene were building from the first brick on up.

“Our daughter arrived at the perfect time. I was having some real focus issues in life and she saved me. We all need something greater than ourselves to live for and Jessie is my reason. We’ve had an unusual life and Jessie handled it like a champ. She’s a 4.0 student in high school, trains at our gym on a regular basis, and is a great kid. The day she was born was the best day in 20 years of FIT NHB, and the best day of my life.” – Tom Vaughn


FIT NHB Celebration Series:

Part One – Click Here
Part Two – Click Here
Part Three – Click Here
Part Four – Click Here 
Part Five – Click Here
Part Six – Click Here


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