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Celebrating 20 Years of FIT NHB: Pro Fighter Alumni

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.

A team photo of the FIT NHB team after a training session.

We hope you followed us these last few weeks to keep up with all of this great content and if you haven’t we have listed a link at the end of the page for all the previous entries of this celebration series.

Over the course of twenty years, you stop keeping track of each body that has entered into the gym and poured out some sweat on the mats. There has been hundreds if not thousands of people who have taken at least one single class at FIT NHB.   

But when it comes to the professional competitors, or the most memorable individuals of the gym, that list is much smaller.

“There are gyms that can boast more pro fighters than our list but most of those gyms have a different business model than we do. The majority of our roster we have trained for many years, created their opportunities, and put in a lot of road time along the way. To appear on this list a fighter would have to have competed at least two pro fights under our banner and spent real time at our gym. There are other very good fighters we could have added to this list but they did not meet the two fight requirement. I apologize to those affected by not including amateur competitors. We’ve had a lot of talented amateurs fighters but after 20 years the list would be too difficult to compile.” – Tom Vaughn

This entry in the celebration series will end a bit different. Head Coach Tom Vaughn took the time to list all of the most memorable athletes listed in their alumni banner. With that, we will get into the comprehensive list of fighters that have called FIT NHB home for their combat sports endeavors.

*Side note from Tom: There are two names that do not appear on the alumni list that definitely needed to be included  for their significant contribution to our team and gym so I’ll start with them.*

Rob Monroe holding mitts for Donald Sanchez

Rob Monroe – In 2006 when Carlos Condit was scheduled to fight in Hawaii’s Rumble on the Rock tournament I got a message from Rob Monroe whom I had met briefly when he lived in Albuquerque. Rob was living in Hawaii at that time and reached out to offer his assistance while we were there. Rob ended up helping me corner for all of Carlos’s fights and I really got to know him better. Rob is a multi-talented individual. Knowledgeable in the fight game, excellent pad holder, great cutman and can wrap hands with the best of ‘em. Later in 2006 after the ROTR tournament Rob called me to say that he was considering coming back to Albuquerque and asked if he could work at our gym. Hell yeah, absolutely. We created a position for Rob helping to manage the gym, doing mitt sessions, and he and I started our kids program together which was huge right away. He also continued to help corner for big fights. Eventually Rob got an offer to move to Phoenix to open a gym and he accepted. We were sorry to see Rob go but wished him the best. Rob segued into working as a cutman for Bellator and then moved to UFC where he still works today. Rob is one of the top guys in the business and travels the world. If you watch UFC you have seen Rob Monroe, guaranteed. It’s always great to see him at the shows.

Pictured: Joe Blake
Photo: Sal Gomez

Joe Blake – Joe’s brother John was the first to train at our gym and Joe followed sometime after. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember what year it was, but John eventually left and Joe stayed. Joe’s skill really developed over the years and I believe he would have been a strong competitor had it not been for a couple persistent injuries. The next best thing was to put him on as an instructor. Joe did a great job teaching classes and motivating students. He was always willing to help out holding pads for fighters/students and went above and beyond. Joe is a high energy individual and I have never seen anyone outwork him. Now the owner of his own gym Elevation Boxing and Fitness, Joe Blake has a good thing going with his wife Amber Brown and daughter Maliyah.

Tim Means – Tim is a template for how an mma fighter should be built. Well rounded, technical , tough, and a cool person. One of my favorite fighters of all times. (4 x  KOTC champion and UFC Veteran)

Carlos “NBK” Condit – Carlos was our first champion and a first for many other things. We accomplished a lot with Carlos. (4 x WEC champion and NM’s first Zuffa Champ )

Teo Baumgartner – Teo is a true martial artist and a guy that I could always count on to catch my back working the nightclub. I’ve never met another Teo in all my years. Seriously unique and a good friend to those that know him.

Jesse Isbell – Goes back to FIT NHB’s earliest roots. Career cut short by injuries. In a category all his own.

The iconic and current home to FIT NHB

Thomas Schulte – An OG that was truly spectacular. KOTC, ROF, and HCF champion.

Lorenzo “NZO” Coca – Lorenzo started fighting at 18 or 19 years old and had close to 30 fights. Was at one point untouchable. NZO is a firecracker.

Chad “Soup Bones” Lemoine – One of my training partners that came to fight for our team. Honor to have him. Very strong and durable.

Lafayette Barela – One of the two most popular fighters EVER on our team. Could sell 50 tickets from Albuquerque in Alaska. The most electric entrances into the cage, the building would rumble. Lafa was blowing thru all competition until his knee injury. Absolutely would have been a UFC fighter.

Lalo Maldonado – Nice guy, easy to work with. Great grappler that only did a few fights.

Dave Spargo – Super Heavyweight that loved to fight. Dave did unusual stuff for super heavyweight. Spinning backfist and stuff like that. Witty, resourceful, and one of the most intelligent people I know. Stay away from politics with Dave.

Jesse Stanich – Somehow got stuck with the nickname “Porkchop” but I don’t know why. He was muscled up and super strong. Used to get Condit in the mount and squeeze him till he tapped. Carlos would be pissed. Was a great guy to have on the team.

Craig Zellner – Hired Zellner at the nightclub and eventually got him to train. He was fast, strong, and intelligent. Z did a stint as a pro wrestler and started his MMA career when he came back to Albuquerque. Craig was a total character that made me laugh a lot. His body was too broken down from sports and wrestling to go very far in MMA but he was able to fight for the WEC for a short run.

Matt “The Killbilly” Priest –  Predominantly a striker but pretty well-rounded. Great composure and fun to watch. Won most of his fights. 4-1 as a pro. Best collection of funny t shirts and total recall for movie dialogue. Thai instructor at our gym now.

Chee Bates –  Chee had good potential but never fully reached it. Pretty well-rounded, strong, and had great cardio. Busy raising his two kids who have both become accomplished martial artist. Owns a successful Taekwondo school now, appropriately named Bates Taekwondo.

Toby “T-face” Johnson – Great guy. He was quiet but not shy. Funny in an intelligent way. Calmest guy ever next to Fedor. Awesome at leg locks. Saved the day a few times on shows where we were upside down.

Marcus Foran – Strong wrestler and a solid fighter. Military guy with a good upbeat personality. We had some fun road trips.

Matt Knaub – Spent a lot of time with Matt and liked having him on the team. He was much better than the world got to see. I think the premeditation of sport fighting threw him off a bit because this guy was not afraid to fight. He worked for us at the nightclub and I could ALWAYS count on him. Saw him fight a guy that was about 6’9″ 350 lbs one time. Not scared.

Lance Friedenstein – Impossible to miss Lance in a crowd. He is a BIG dude. 6’8″ heavyweight that moves unusually well for a guy his size. Fought a bunch early on but is still young and entertaining a comeback. Lance can go somewhere if he applies himself.

Coty “OX” Wheeler – Coty wasn’t as big as an ox but somehow the nickname worked. I think he was tinting windows for a living when he came to our gym. I saw something in him and got him started fighting amateur stuff. He won most of his amateur fights, we turned him  pro, and I managed to get him signed to the WEC which was a big deal. He hit a flying armbar in a WEC fight which was likely his biggest moment. OX was always a character and a likeable guy. From Mescalero, NM. We’d blow the doors off the show down there when he was on it.

Gerald Lovato – Gerald is a guy that has seen a lot in his life. May have run with the wrong crowd in his younger days but came out the other side a solid citizen. Looks intimidating but there is way more to G than meets the eye. The heart of a fighter and the mind of an artist. Proud of what we did with him as a fighter. He fought a lot and saw some places he may have not seen otherwise. (Fightworld MMA Champion)

Pictured: Donald Sanchez

Donald Sanchez – Donald was a kid I felt particularly close to. We did a bunch of road trips together and he was easy to get along with. D has a lot of fights and he is game to fight anyone. Rarely ever missed a day of training. (KOTC champion, Bellator and One FC vet)

Jon Judy –  Hard to capture Jon in a few words. Brilliant in many ways and a major part of what we do.

Joe “Bazooka Joe” Coca – Joe started with us as a teen. I used to put him with guys that thought they were tough – until they rolled with him. Humbled a lot of grown men as a kid, and then became a force to be reckoned with as soon as he was old enough to fight. Stellar pro MMA career but decided to go to school and pursue that. Always a motivated individual Joe will succeed at whatever he does. (FCF Champion (MMA) and Grappler’s Quest Champion)

Anthony Sessions – Anthony wasn’t with us as long as most. He was an undefeated amateur but didn’t fair as well as a pro. Excellent wrestler and a very likeable kid.

Pictured: Frank Baca

Frank Baca – Frank looks like the boy next door but yeah, not really. Calm on the outside but fired up on the inside. From the moment Frank decided he wanted to do MMA he was one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had. He fought a bunch and had a great record. The UFC was interested in Frank but at the time he had already signed to fight in Hawaii. Lost a b.s. decision then UFC wouldn’t sign him off a loss. Frank entered the Bellator 135 tournament but he was off his game at that poin . Took a long break but now training again. Young enough to make a comeback but Frank has a lot of good things going on. (KOTC Champion)

Mike Maestas – Mike is legendary at our gym. Intense and ferocious, his teammates actually considered it an honor to have their ass beat by Mike in practice. I’ve never seen anything like it. The only fighter that ever told me he was ‘having fun” in between rounds. Two time champion but it didn’t seem to mean much to Mike. One time he left the cage before they could put the belt on him. Passed on too young.100% sure Mike would be in the UFC now. (MCC and FCF Champion)

Turrell “Freakstrong” Galloway – Turrell was about 165 lbs when he first started training but he “wanted to fight”. He asked me if he would be fighting at 155 lbs and I said most likely 135 lbs to which he replied – “Are you sure?? I’m freak strong…”. He’s been “Freakstrong” Galloway since that day. In the early days Freak was unbeatable. Life got in the way and took a few turns that set him back. Still training and fighting, Freak is still dangerous and has more fights left. Any day that Turrell walks into the gym is a lovely day.

Gerald “Rooster” Sedillo – Gerald is an absolute buzz saw. I don’t think he viewed MMA as a sport. Once he flipped the switch it was kill or be killed. 95% of the time he was the killer. Could have made it to the big show but he fell in love with being a dad and that’s where his heart is today. (Fightworld MMA Champion)

Tyler “The Beast” East – There are people who would kill to have the attributes Tyler has. One of the rare heavyweights that is shredded, has killer cardio, and moves like a middleweight. As with many others Tyler wrestles with life more than he should and it’s kept him for rising to the top. Still a young man he has time to turn it around. The East name has taken a bit of a beating in Albuquerque but in all honesty Tyler was one of the most respectful fighters I’ve ever traveled with. Ty has some hidden talents, one of them being he is a good cook .

Joey Lujan –  Joey had his own gym but joined our fight team to see how far he could go. Joey is a really talented grappler who was transitioning nicely to MMA when he was permanently sidelined by a back injury. A really cool guy that is all about family. Joey is a good coach and I expect to see him back in the gym business someday if he’s not already.

Isaiah Reyes – Isaiah is one of those baby faced guys that is tougher than hell. He was an undefeated amateur and his pro careered was marred by an inordinate amount of split decision losses. His pro record is 7-6 with 5 of his 6 losses being by split decision. One of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and he is a new dad in love. I don’t know if we’ll see him again.

Pictured: Tim Sosa

Tim “Timbo Slice” Sosa – Tim’s transition from when he started to where he is now is astounding . With little to no athletic background when he signed up we had a lot of ground to make up if Timbo was going to survive in the fight game. We gave him tools, he put in the work. When he lost a fight we worked on fixing the issue and moved forward again. Tim bent a few times but never broke. Tim Sosa is what happens at FIT NHB if someone shows up and works hard. He’s had a shit-ton of fights and gaining ground on guys that had a head start. Proud of what we’ve done with Tim.   (KOTC Amateur World Champion & KOTC Professional World Champion)

Charles Bennett – Known as Krazy Horse but I never called him that because he hates it. Charles isn’t crazy, he’s just habitually not responsible. After watching him in his early career it was a kick having him on our team for a while. We got him on track for a minute but Florida is truly his home and he missed it. Imitated but never duplicated, Charles is the owner of some of the coolest moments in mma. He invented the backflip off the cage and the helicopter slam off the cage to name a couple. Charles Bennett is definitely in my MMA hall of fame 

David Perez – David is the consummate competitor. He lives to test his boundaries. It was an honor to have him on our team and he always motivated his teammates. Legit military man and world traveler. Always locked, cocked, and ready to rock.

Nathan Torrez – There was something really special about Nate Torrez. A lot of people thought of Nate as their best friend because he was easy to feel close to. Nate had this nobleness about him. He was no choir boy but he was honest and real. Nate worked hard on his fight skills and became very good. Strong as heck and kicked like a mule. We all loved and miss Nate. Another one who passed away before his time.

Bill “Wild Bill” Albrecht – Not just a clever nickname, Bill is wild. I met him when I was running KOTC in Oklahoma. I liked his up-tempo personality and invited him out to Albuquerque. He came out and is still here. He didn’t reach his full potential because Bill always has too many irons in the fire. When he was on he was very good. If you’re around Bill be prepared to have some laughs. He’s one of the biggest characters you’ll ever meet and will give you the shirt off his back. ( KOTC Champion)

Pictured: Brenda Gonzales
Photo: Ruby Santos

Brenda “Boom Boom” Gonzales-Means – Brenda is all heart. Definitely in a fighter way, but even more so as a person. She is a cool, caring individual. We are fortunate to have her working with our youth program and I’ve seen the positive impact she’s had on the students, and her teammates for that matter. As a fighter she’s only lost a couple and never really been stopped. The database shows Rin Nakai finished her with a choke but that was only because Brenda’s arm was facing the wrong direction (dislocated). Even then, she stayed cool. Still on the way up, I see Brenda finishing her fight career at the highest level. (KOTC and SCS Champion)

Monica Lovato – Earlier I said Lafayette Barela was one of the two most popular fighters ever, here is the other half. People just loved Monica and of course we do too. Monica fought with everything she had, every time. True warrior spirit.

Marciano Wilson – I’ve always liked Marciano. He is super cool and unassuming. One time my friend Nick came in to say hello and when he looked down on the training surface he said “IS THAT MARK WILSON!?” I said well it’s Marciano Wilson. He said “yeah Mark Wilson, he played football for UNM and he was badass..”.. Marciano never talked about stuff like that he just came in and trained. After I heard the UNM thing I started noticing how athletic Marciano is. Take him down and he’d back roll to his feet again. Explosive and strong. He was probably hell to tackle on a football field. If we had gotten him sooner he would’ve gone somewhere. I’d like to see him do one more fight someday when he’s healthy.

Nathaniel Baker – Nate is a guy who rarely, if ever, missed a practice. He is a physical specimen and a superior athlete. He is also a well-rounded martial artist. He didn’t fight as often as we wanted him to but was still a real asset to the team. A musician who also works in the film industry.

Pictured: Amber Brown

Amber “The Bully” Brown – Amber is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. You can’t buy or teach what she has. Every Amber interview is who Amber really is. She doesn’t change her character to suit the situation because she doesn’t need to, and she wouldn’t anyway because she’s not pretentious. Amber’s work ethic is off the hook and she has no quit in her.

Ray “Taz Mexican Devil” Borg – Ray’s step-dad brought him to our gym right around the time Ray was turning 18 and asked if we would do our thing with him which we did. Within 3 years he was in the UFC and within 4 yrs in the top 10 Flyweights in the world. It was no fluke. Ray is very talented but the training and decision making process had much to do with the trajectory .  

Amanda Lovato – Amanda has a solid game but probably went pro too soon. She could be good if she decides to keep fighting and gets on track.

Oliver “The Omaha Kid” Parker – Oliver is better than his record. His losses were all to tough opposition. Well rounded with 13 pro fights under his belt. When experience catches up with Oliver he’s going to win a lot of fights.

Sidiah “Rolling Thunder” Parker – Sidiah is about a half click away from doing something great. He is a skilled fighter with over 20 pro fights. I’ve seen Sidiah take a last minute fight, drive 12 hours to the show, KO the hometown favorite, and drive home. All without even changing expression. Sid holds a middleweight title but he wants to make the cut to 170 so that’s the plan now. Once we get this all dialed in the sky is the limit for Sidiah Parker. (current KOTC Champion)

Steve Hanna – Steve is a dedicated/talented martial artist and I like the way he carries himself. He’s a guy that thinks before he speaks which is not only smart but admirable. For the past few years Steve has been diligently working on things to improve his game and he is another fighter that could jump to the A league in the future. Steve is a very good instructor and teaches at our gym.

Nicco Montano – Nicco shocked the MMA world by beating everyone at TUF 26 and winning the UFC world title, all with a busted foot. From someone who sees her daily I can tell you she’s only shown a fraction of what she can do. We expect Nicco will be underestimated for a while before people start jumping on the bandwagon. Nicco is very likeable and has a great story. (former KOTC, current UFC Champion, and TUF season 26 winner)

Evan “The Matrix” Delong – Evan was already “The Matrix” when we got him but I would have called him “Crazy Legs”. He has his own rhythm and it’s really hard to get his timing. Usually gunning for a finish, Evan is wiley as hell and has mad cardio. We’re happy to have Evan Delong on our team and I’m looking forward to see how far we can take him at his new home of 145 lbs.

Pictured: Charlie Williams

Charlie “Charlie Brown” Williams – Before we turned Charlie pro he was the top amateur in New Mexico. Even as an amateur Charlie had the composure of a Pro which is rare for an ammy. 4-1 as a pro, Charlie’s only pro loss was at 145 lbs. Moving forward we’re going to keep Charlie at 135 lbs which is his true weight class. Charlie will go as far as Charlie wants to go. (CCFC Champion)

George “The Magnificent Bastard” Clynes – Great nickname and he is indeed pretty damn magnificent. George is as strong as Tarzan and hits like a truck. A new pro and still undefeated .

Sherwin Price – Sherwin is another undefeated pro. We’re pretty high on this fighter. He trains super hard and improving rapidly. Cool, personable, and talented. Sherwin Price has the right stuff.

Jayme Hinshaw – Jayme is starting to hit the mark. Packs a real wallop for an atomweight, her wrestling is solid, and her jitz is good. Settling into the program, Jayme is working hard and getting better every fight. (KOTC Champion)

Roman “Bestia” Alcantar – We were just getting started with Roman when he got injured in his last fight and it sidelined him for a while. If he decides to continue fighting I think he will do well. BIG welterweight with solid potential. Good guy with a good attitude and a good story to tell

 

FIT NHB Celebration Series (Click Here for the Series)

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