Never Back Down – Flathead Beacon


At the DeSoto Grill on May 14, Travis Davison called 24 fighters to the side of the patio to climb a ladder, then strike a warrior pose facing their opponent.

It was the night before the third final of Wimp 2 Warrior (W2W), the culmination of an intensive 20-week training program through Straight Blast Gym meant to provide ordinary men and women with the chance to break out of their way. comfort zone and achieve something that you thought was impossible. .

“I have a very giving up nature, or at least I did,” Sarah “Back Breaker” Claridge said. “It was I who didn’t miss a single day of training, in part because I was terrified that if I missed a day, I wouldn’t come back.

Claridge was one of 22 athletes who took part in the third season of W2W, 20 of whom were preparing for the final bout, which took place at the Flathead County Fairgrounds. Overall, the athletes praised both the challenge of the program and the life-changing perspectives they gained from it.

“It was so difficult,” Claridge said. “There were times when I cried in the morning because you’re in pain and in pain and it’s 4:30 pm and you have to prepare to work again.

“As a coach polishing diamonds is pretty easy,” Davison said. “Taking a piece of coal and turning it into a diamond is much more satisfying. I like it more than training our regular fighters.

Sarah Claridge surrounds her opponent Kelly Byrd during the Wimp 2 Warrior cage fights hosted by Straight Blast Gym of Kalispell at the Flathead County Fairgrounds on May 15, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flat head beacon

Travis owns and runs Straight Blast Gym (SBG) with his wife Kisa. When the gymnasium opened in downtown Kalispell in 2008, Travis taught jiu-jitsu, judo, boxing, and mixed martial arts (MMA), while Kisa taught yoga. Now the couple operate gyms in Bigfork, Whitefish, and Missoula, with a new location opening soon in Bozeman.

Travis is a longtime competitor and teacher of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a fundamental discipline for most mixed martial artists, including those competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He believes MMA is one of the best and most complete martial arts and operates his gym with a mindset of inclusiveness and progress.

“When you walk in here and look at the mat, you’re going to see all types of people, all types of political beliefs, all types of religious or non-religious beliefs, athletic men wanting to compete in the cage, 50 – one-year-old doctors and accountants, and a lot of women, ”he said. “When you walk through my doors, your number one goal is not your own performance, but how you can affect the people all around you. If that is your goal, to make everyone around you better at jiu-jitsu, you will improve faster than everyone else on the mat.

Travis started the W2W program at SBG two years ago, after Australian fighter Richie Cranny, founder of W2W, approached him. Cranny’s idea was that people could participate in MMA training the same way they participate in recreational basketball or volleyball leagues as adults.

“A lot of people never finished anything or got stuck with anything,” Davison said. “They never did anything hard and then accomplished it and were able to feel proud of themselves.”

The W2W program lasts 20 weeks and consists of 6 hours of training five days a week.

“Like any program in the gym, we start, you know, by the pool for a week or two, and then we dip our feet in the water,” Davison said. “Then halfway through they have workout days and at the end they have up to 35 minutes of intense cardio which I think 95% of people walking down the street couldn’t finish.

Jackson “The Reach” Sherman had always been in UFC fights, but hadn’t done anything athletic since high school football.

“I thought it would be cool to give something my best once again,” he said. “Obviously I was so bad at the start that I wanted to quit after the first week, but then I fell in love with it. This is what allowed me to introduce myself every day – I was delighted to continue to learn. “

Sherman began to visualize his cage fight weeks in advance to prepare.

“You spend weeks training, but it’s so different when you walk into a cage to fight someone,” Sherman said before his fight. “It’s not really a normal thing to do, but I haven’t finished much in my life before, so I’m going to see it through this climactic fight.

Hasset Monroe, right, takes a swing at David Streeter at the Wimp 2 Warrior Cage Fights hosted by Kalispell’s Straight Blast Gym at Flathead County Fairgrounds on May 15, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flat head beacon

The week before the finals fights, Davison told the class that half of them would lose their fights.

“But I told them, don’t let this little event be the determining factor in what you’ve accomplished for the last 100 classes,” Davison said. “The journey is so much more precious and important than the results, win or lose.”

“I thought to myself that even though I fail miserably and am humbled, it’s still worth it,” Claridge said. “Even the most difficult and embarrassing days that I went through, everyone was there. To have the combat experience and to have lifelong friends is really great. “

The next Wimp 2 Warrior program kicks off in June with introductory classes serving as trials on May 29, June 5, 12, and 16. Davison expects season four to be the most important yet. Trials are open to people of all ages, genders and fitness levels, and will be selected based on attitudes and desire to participate.

“About half of those who complete the program say they don’t want it to end,” Davison said. “They realize that they like to start their day with something difficult, so the rest of the day is easy, and they end up sticking to it.”

For more information on Straight Blast Gym’s Wimp 2 Warrior program, visit

Ashlee Armstrong, right, takes a swing from Sharon Gonzales during Wimp 2 Warrior Cage Fights hosted by Straight Blast Gym of Kalispell at Flathead County Fairgrounds on May 15, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flat head beacon

See more photos in the Wimp 2 Warrior gallery.


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