This past weekend, FIT NHB (Fighters In Training, No Holds Barred) celebrated 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 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 went through chapter after chapter of how it all came to be and speaking personally, it has been nothing short of incredible to learn the behind-the-scenes history of a gym so pivotal to where the local fight game is today.
Though the event has come-and-go, our series continues on as we approach the finish line of “20 stories” to commemorate 20-years. In today’s feature, we will stray from combat sports and hear how the gym has been part of some major projects in the film and television world.
“The television and movie business film in New Mexico on a regular basis. Our gym has appeared in a couple of movies and a few television series. Also, we’ve had some of our people appear as extras and some actors have trained at our gym while they were here.” – Tom Vaughn
The iconic gym has hosted much more than local legends and traveling athletes and the warehouse style set-up has provided a desirable platform for movies and television shows.
Though it wasn’t always furnished perfectly. After all, every movie isn’t about combat sports.
“The movie scenes shot at our gym were from “Love Ranch” and “MacGruber”. The TV series were “Easy Money”, “In Plain Sight”, and “The Night Shift”. When they shoot a scene they change things to make it look however they need it to. That’s the agreement. They take pictures of everything as is, and then do their thing. Afterwards they put it all the way they found it if not better. This process makes me too nervous to watch. I mean, they are in our gym hammering and sawing things, painting things, moving things ….I can’t handle it! Arlene really likes the industry cast and crew so she doesn’t mind the process. She is always the one that oversees the gym while they are there. When a movie or show comes out it is fascinating to see what it looks like on film compared to what it looks like in person!” – Tom Vaughn
Though Tom may not enjoy his gym being altered, the give back is that some of the gym’s fight roster have been able to score parts, albeit small roles as extras, in the movies and shows shot inside the gym.
“A number of our athletes have been used as extras in the movies or tv shows. Someday you may be watching tv and catch em’ in the background. Arlene was in a scene or two, Nate Baker, Jayme Hinshaw, Shania Arredondo, Tim Sosa, Turrell Galloway, Oliver Parker, Nicco Montano, and Steve Hanna to name a few.” – Tom Vaughn
As it can be expected when your gym hosts movie and show filming, notable actors may end up visiting as well. That was the case for Tom and FIT NHB. Tom talks about some of the actors that trained at FIT NHB.
Denzel Washington – His people really checked out the gym before they mentioned his name. The first time Denzel came in he was really dressed down like a boxer in an old timey gym. Gray worn out sweats, t-shirt, old boxing shoes, etc. His equipment was not new and he had his own boxing trainer. You could tell he takes his training serious. We scheduled him at times where not a lot of people were at our gym. Denzel was polite but kept to himself most of the time. Occasionally he struck up a conversation but we let him initiate it. Denzel trained at FIT NHB for about 2-3 weeks. I think he’s one of the best actors of our time so it was kinda cool.
Sean Patrick Flanery – I knew him as the guy from “The Boondock Saints”. That was one of Matt Knaub’s favorite movies so I think he got a kick out of having him at our gym. I came to realize Sean is an accomplished jiu jitsu practitioner and was (or still is) part owner in a school in California. Sean actually joined in group classes and rolled some afterwards. Really down to earth guy and good at jitz. He was at our gym for a month if I’m not mistaken.
Mario Lopez – Trained at FIT NHB for a few weeks and was there back when we had part of our gym set up as a weight lifting area. He came in at peak hours but he was cool with people and most everyone respected his space. Mario trains hard and is in great shape. He never sparred but his technical boxing skill looked good.
Jeremiah Bitsui – This is a fun one. Jeremiah is a childhood friend of our fighter Thomas Schulte. Jeremiah is from New Mexico and was actually a student at our gym for a good while before his acting career kicked off. Super nice guy and pretty tough. He played Victor in the “Breaking Bad” series and I think he may have a part in the current series “Better Call Saul” but I haven’t seen the show. I finally broke down and binge watched Breaking Bad earlier this year and Jeremiah did a great job. I see his post on Facebook occasionally and we’re all proud of his success.