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Celebrating 20 Years of FIT NHB: The Dirty Bird

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.

Pictured: Tim Means lands one of his trademark elbows on an unfortunate opponent.

We hope you followed us last 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.

There are fighters synonymous with their gym in that when you think of them, you think of the gym and when you think of the gym, that fighter comes to mind. Pick out any gym that is predominant in MMA and I can guarantee that at least one fighter comes to mind.

For FIT NHB, in my opinion, that fighter is “The Dirty Bird” Tim Means.

“Tim Means was just a teenager when he walked into our 12th Street school. I remember that day. I taught a class earlier and everyone was gone except one guy that outweighed Tim by about 25-pounds. It’s highly unusual to put someone on the mat right away at our gym but something made me want to see what this kid could do. I asked him to grapple with the guy who was not only bigger but a pretty good grappler. Tim did not hesitate to step up and the two rolled for about twenty minutes straight. The roll was back and forth with a lot of position changes but no finishes. Tim had no finishing tools and the other guy couldn’t hold Tim long enough to GET a finish. I was impressed with Tim’s competitive instinct and no-quit attitude.” – Tom Vaughn

Day one of Tim’s journey at FIT NHB perfectly exemplified his career to-date. As the dust settles on the 39th fight of Means career, one of the defining attributes that has made him one of the sport’s greatest offensive talents is that he can elevate his game to go toe-to-toe with anyone that has ever stood in front of him. Even if defeat, Tim has been dangerous and his power and crisp strikes can end a fight in an instant.

Pictured: Tim Means competing as a professional boxer early in his combat career.

The origin story of every fighter is interesting, for example, how did Carlos Condit do his first day in the gym? How did Thomas Schulte do? Or Amber Brown’s first day among the ladies of FIT NHB?

If Tim’s first moments on the mat would be indicative to what was to be, Tom had quite a talent training in his gym.

“Shortly after, Tim came back and signed up for classes. He fit in good with the young group of fighters we had and he got up to speed pretty quick . As with all of our fighters Tim competed in separate disciplines until we felt he was ready for MMA. It was clear Tim was comfortable with fighting and was going to be good at it. My initial feeling was Tim had the most potential in the gym if he could stay focused. That turned out to be the tricky part.” – Tom Vaughn

Staying with the theme earlier about associated a fighter with their gym, and vice versa, you can also find the fighter with the most potential of any gym. The unfortunate part though is that in a lot of instances the individual with the most potential is not always the most successful. Gym’s are filled with stories of fighters who showed glimpses of greatness and for any number of reasons, that greatness was never realized.

As we are about to find out through Tom’s narrative is that Tim fell on both sides of that spectrum. Tim excelled in competition but had problems staying out of trouble.

“Tim was winning fights and making a name for himself on the regional circuit early on. He had a bunch of what we call “nut-huggers” always around praising him, telling him how great he is, and offering him all the perks that go with being a winner. In no time it went to his head and he became more about reaping the benefits of being a winner than putting the work into what got him there. Things began to unravel. He lost a fight simply because he was too busy being what he thought everyone wanted him to be. One night he was out with his boys and got into a confrontation at Taco Cabana. The fist fight was no problem but the guns were. Tim got shot in his leg and was very close to bleeding to death.” – Tom Vaughn

Pictured: Tom Vaughn’s favorite photo of Tim Means walking out to compete.

Once the guy with the most potential, now the guy fighting for his life. As Tom described, Tim had surrounded himself in an environment that had hindered his progress and endangered his well-being.

Tim started his professional career 2-0 before being shot on that night in 2004. The shooting would lead to a nearly lethal wound, described as 8-9 inches long and damaging the femoral artery. Sticking gauze in the wound, Tim fought Luke Caudillo and Spencer Fisher, fighters who would go on to the UFC, and lost both outings. In fact, Tim took damage to the gunshot wound and landed in the hospital being operated on again post-fight.

“Once out of the hospital Tim rehabbed for a short time but then insisted on getting back to fighting. We booked him a fight and it was too soon. His head wasn’t on straight and he lost in the first round. In hindsight I believe pain pills and drugs were involved. Tim took a left turn and kept going. He was running wild so we didn’t see much of him after that. I got the news that Tim had been arrested and was going to do time in jail or prison. One of the worst parts of incarceration is the rest of the world moves on while your life stands still. While Tim was in jail our other fighters were rising and moving up the ladder. A couple of years went by that probably seemed like an eternity for Tim but went by for us rather quickly. When Tim got out of jail he started leaving messages on our voicemail at the gym about coming back. The first couple times we didn’t take it serious because Tim had gotten pretty bad before he went to jail. His continued messages began to sound sincere so I took it to the team to see how they’d feel about Tim coming back. Not everyone was receptive to the idea but the ones that weren’t I talked to privately to find out their concerns and to remind them that people change. Ultimately we brought Tim back on a probationary period.” – Tom Vaughn

It turned out that the shooting would lead to Tim being prescribed pills for pain, specifically morphine and Vicodin. It would start the downward spiral that would lead to Tim getting into trouble with law. Tim would dig into the world of drugs and the jail time would cost him nearly four years of fighting as his fight with Fisher and his next outing for the Fight World promotion would stretch out 47-months.

Pictured: Tim Means and his wife Brenda after the RFA show in Albuquerque.

It turned out that jail would be a benefit to Tim who had sunk to a very low point in life, if not rock-bottom, and needed FIT NHB to make that climb back to being that fighter who had the most potential among a roster of extremely talented fighters.

“Tim came back humble and focused. We started to rebuild his fight career and he was once again kicking ass. We got Tim a shot at the KOTC Lightweight Title against Bobby Green who was already known from being on a couple of bigger shows. Tim and Bobby had a battle royale. Ultimately Tim took Bobby’s heart and then took his belt. After the 2nd round Green fell forward off the stool and the fight was over. Green was mentally broken and Tim was the new champ.” – Tom Vaughn

A rags to riches story? An underdog story? A road to redemption story? Check, check, and check. Fighting truly saved Tim’s life and righted a ship that at one point was surely sinking.

Tim was 10-3-1 and the King of the Cage Champion. He had become a staple of the King of the Cage promotion and Southwest region. Impressively, Tim had a 100% finishing rate in his 10-victories and was considered one of the best up-and-coming fighters in the sport.

Including the title fight victory, Tim would notch seven consecutive victories that would include another King of the Cage Title in a different weight class. That impressive run would lead to the most significant opportunity of his career.

“We kept Tim fighting and staying busy. He boxed professionally in addition to fighting MMA. Things picked up momentum and in 2012 our good friend Jason Karpel called us with a last-minute 155 lb opportunity in the UFC. We accepted and Tim won his first fight in impressive fashion. He KO’d a tough opponent in his next fight and things were going great. It became increasingly challenging to maintain his weight so he could stay at 155. He had a weight cutting injury in his 3rd fight resulting in a canceled fight, then he dropped a decision loss to Jorge Masvidal in his fourth fight,  and grossly missed weight in his fifth fight losing a decision once again. The UFC cut Tim at that point  because they felt he was going to continue to miss weight.” – Tom Vaughn

A staple of mixed martial arts in New Mexico, “The Dirty Bird” Tim Means is one of the best offensive strikers in our State’s combat history and a fighter SWFight has worked with for many years.

Tim’s career had hit a speed-bump of sorts. When he was signed by the UFC, Tim showcased his aggressive style of striking by dominating Bernardo Magalhaes and finishing Justin Salas in 66-seconds. It looked as if Tim would go on a tear picking apart 155-pound fighters in the UFC.

“We picked up a deal with Legacy FC and moved Tim to 170 lbs. Right away it took all the pressure off of the weight and focused back on training. After two impressive LFC KO’s the UFC re-signed Tim where he remains today. 17-fights into the UFC where the average career is 2.5 fights is something to be proud of. Tim Means is one of the best welterweights in the world. He lost a couple of questionable split decisions on short notice but still in a great spot to go on a tear. Tim’s best fights are still ahead of him and he is better now than ever. Tim has been criticized for looking like he is in “spar-mode” during his fights. Those kind of comments come from people who don’t know the difference. The best fighters make fights look effortless. Tim’s fights ending in knockouts look the same as the fights that go the distance. It’s called being efficient a.k.a economy of movement. Swinging for the fence produces as many strike outs as it does home runs. Experienced fighters know better.” – Tom Vaughn

Tim has in fact had a great career in and out of the UFC. Being that the UFC is the pinnacle of MMA, that portion of his career is most established. Tim did have two highlight reel knockouts in Legacy FC against Pete Spratt and Artenas Young which are among the best of his entire career. In the UFC though, Means has had spectacular finishes of Dhiego Lima and John Howard. In defeat, Tim has also impressed – his fight with Matt Brown will go down as legend and has a respectable 9-7-1 UFC record as it currently stands.

Pictured: A true throwback from the SWFight vault featuring Tom Vaughn and Tim Means.

The elbows and knees of Tim have become trademarks and he has fought to become a household name in MMA recognizable all around the world.

I can attest that though Tim is a vicious athlete in the cage, he is actually a stand-up person. He is approachable and even with his eight limbs speaking in volume, he is mild-tempered and friendly. This site has enjoyed covering the career of Means dating back to the King of the Cage days and a huge reason for that is Tim is one of the best guys in the New Mexico fight game. Understanding Tim’s struggles to get to where he is today is nothing short of an inspirational story and proof that if you are committed to making a change in your life, anything is achievable through hard work.

“The thing that most impresses me about Tim Means is who he strives to be as a person. He learned more from being incarcerated than any other person I know. Tim made real changes and he is a good man. His  priority is his family and his job. Tim and his beautiful wife Brenda and kids spend their downtime working on home improvements, camping, fishing, and doing things that matter. I have the upmost respect for Tim Means. He is a great example of how anyone can turn their life around.” – Tom Vaughn

FIT NHB Celebration Series (Also Click Here for the 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 
Part Seven – Click Here
Part Eight – Click Here
Part Nine – Click Here
Part Ten – Click Here
Part Eleven – Click Here
Part Twelve – Click Here

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