BILLINGS – For eight years, Will Grundhauser built what he calls “his temple,” a martial arts gym in the heart of downtown Billings.
Less than a month ago, the Grindhouse was devastated by a fire.
“I built that place with my own two hands, so to speak,” said Grundhauser. “Filled it with all kinds of great equipment and memories and you know, all my pride and joy, the things I scrub and clean every day were devasted…really surreal.”
Grundhauser is an accomplished fighter, who specializes in the art of Jiu Jitsu. For the better part of 15 years, he has imparted his knowledge and experience on everyone who walks into his gym, and his life.
“You know, most people that come to us are damaged goods,” said Grundhauser. “But we give them the confidence, we give them the community that’s not judgmental, you know. And we’ve got everyone from pre-release, from doctors and lawyers and everyone in-between that train with us.”
One of those considered to be damaged goods is Shane Fichter.
Fichter was born in California, and it didn’t take him long to get caught up in drugs and alcohol.
“We were pretty poor,” said Fichter. “I started partying and drinking and stuff, probably around 14 or 15 years old. I started picking up pills and opiates when I was about 16 or 17.”
By the time he was 25, Fichter was being incarcerated for the third time.
“That pretty much started my stint of being in and out of jail constantly.”
During the worst years of his life, Fichter met his now wife, Thunder.
“He was always this good person, he was just doing really bad things,” she says.
“She’s my biggest, biggest supporter,” said Fichter. “Me and my wife have been through so much together when it comes to addiction. You know, I drug her through the mud for a good seven years while she also had an alcohol problem. And we kind of just beat each other’s dreams and things down because we were selfish.”
One day, when Fichter stood before a judge, about to present his case for why he should be released into treatment, something clicked. Shane told the judge he needed more time in jail to get his head right.
“His ambition changed from chasing drugs to chasing life, you know,” said Thunder. “He wanted to be better at everything.”
He sobered up and settled down, giving he and his wife a life worth living. In that time, he turned to the Grindhouse, where Grundhauser and countless others have given Shane the community, family, and love he so desperately needed.
“Instead of being compulsive about drugs and habit-forming chemical, I am now compulsive about MMA and fighting and training and getting better.”
Fichter wants to be an MMA Champion. He turned pro earlier this year, and looks to pick up his second professional win on Saturday.
But in the bigger picture of life, Fichter is already a champion. He has been sober for four years, his wife for almost two. They are working together to build a legacy for their two young children, free of the demons that almost took them under.
“Why didn’t I start doing this when 20,” Fichter said. “Why didn’t I start working towards dreams and long-term goals when I was younger? But everyone has to learn their own way – I wouldn’t change anything for the world because that’s what’s made me who I am today.”
Part of the proceeds from the fight on Saturday will help benefit the Grindhouse.
Reporting by Brandon Sullivan for MTN News