Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fightstorm Fitness & MMA owner Brandon Anderson strikes at Jon Bentch during mixed martial arts class Monday night. Classes are coached byBrandon and his wife, Shawna.

Mixed martial arts training facility hits Hardin

A chalk sign scratched into the concrete side of the local M & M Auto Sales building marks the start of a new mixed martial arts – or MMA – training facility in Hardin. Since Jan. 4, residents have had the opportunity to exercise, persevere through fatigue and learn some of the finer points in hitting an opponent. According to participants Karen Molina and Kim Egdorf, it’s actually rather fun.

Both Egdorf and Molina said the classes through Fightstorm Fitness and MMA offered them a good opportunity to push themselves physically.

“I started last Wednesday; this is my third time,” said Egdorf who has been “starving for cardio” since returning from her sport fishing company in Alaska. “I’m going to come Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then probably more.”

Along with the other members of last Monday’s women’s exercise group, Molina and Egdorf participated in different stretches, then donned boxing gloves or pads, and learned the correct way to strike from instructor Brandon Anderson. Classes are also coached by Brandon’s wife, Shawna.

Before moving to Hardin, Brandon – a professional MMA fighter – owned a gym for about three years in Williston, N.D. He spoke from behind the front counter, where before-and-after pictures from the Williston participants could be seen.

According to Brandon, a significant number of people who attend his classes are in it for the fitness, not the fighting. Any of the classes, he said, will get someone in shape.

 “If they train in cardio like a pro fighter, they’ll have the physique like a pro fighter,” he said. “They don’t have to go through all the violence.”

Since opening the gym, he said, he has routinely had 15 or more people participate per class. Egdorf and Molina agreed that Hardin has needed a facility like Fightstorm Fitness for a long time.

“Brandon and his wife are doing an outstanding job,” Egdorf said. “To have someone who knows his stuff and is really into the fitness is wonderful.”

Once the women’s class ended, the MMA students entered the matted room and Brandon began practice with a prayer.

‘Another God thing’

If you ask Brandon, his new location is the result of divine providence and a broken vehicle transmission. Had everything gone according to his plan, the 31-year-old light heavyweight professional fighter would be logging trees near Leavenworth, Wash.

Late in August 2015, investors had set up a piece of land near a national forest, which Brandon and Shawna bought for less than two-fifths of its regular sale price. The spot was located “15 minutes from the best salmon fishing” and they were excited to settle into their new home.

Then the trip fell apart.

It was, Brandon said three days before the class, “another God thing”.

“We were on our way there; we packed up everything in a little Ford and we had our whole house pulling behind it,” he said. “The transmission was brand new and it didn’t even make it to Billings.”

Two days later, the investors pulled out of the deal, leaving Brandon and Shawna essentially homeless. While stuck in limbo, they decided to go camping for a week and examine their options.

Then circumstances fell into place. First, Shawna had two second cousins, Dave and Patti Schaff – owners of Two Leggins Outfitters & Guide Service in Hardin – who they happened to meet two weeks earlier at a family function in North Dakota. The Schaffs welcomed the Andersons and, as it was the off-season, they let them stay in a cabin for a week.

Second, Brandon met Aaron Bad Bear, someone with whom he had trained for 6-7 of his 13 years of fighting.

“I called him, because I’d been itching to train all summer and never had a chance to,” Brandon said. “We got together and he said, ‘This place needs a gym.’ I was thinking of selling my mats at the time, because we didn’t think we were going to open another gym.”

As Brandon spoke, a drill buzzed in the background. Mats covered the adjacent room and the building’s heater would be repaired in time for that Monday’s exercises.

Overall – though he isn’t amid the mountains, forests and Bavarian sights of Leavenworth – Brandon believes he can foster potential in his current spot.

“Hardin, Mont., I never would have thought it,” he said, “but we have some very, very studly athletes here.”

For information on classes and times at Fightstorm Fitness, call (406) 939-3875.