When 2007 Peninsula High grad Chris Stone was out of high school and working full time, he admits he may have gotten a bit out of shape.
But instead of hitting the treadmill or taking a more conventional fitness route, he went a different way — mixed martial arts.
With a wrestling background in his past, it made sense for Stone.
“I was always interested in MMA,” Stone said. “I always liked kickboxing and boxing. I wanted to get back into shape.”
Never miss a local story.
So he walked into Gig Harbor MMA, then owned by Dave Bird, and started taking classes.
“I was hooked,” he said.
About three years ago, Bird decided he wanted to retire from owning the gym at 5775 Soundview Drive, leaving the gym’s future in question. So Stone, now 28, stepped up to buy it.
“I still wanted to have a place to train,” Stone said. “We still had a bunch of people that were regulars at the gym, people who had been there quite a while. We needed a place to train. I had a lot of help from everyone. I was still working full time. We had a good group of people at the gym who wanted to keep it going.”
Bird is still involved with the gym, to a degree, but Stone handles all of the business aspects of the gym now.
“(Bird) still comes in and runs a class once a week,” Stone said. “He corners all of us when we fight. He’s still pretty involved.”
The gym is open to everyone ages 5 and older and offers MMA training, kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, submission wrestling and Muay Thai. Stone said the gym has members all the way from young kids to folks in their 50s, and everywhere in between. Some members of the gym fight competitively, but members aren’t required to compete.
One gym member who does fight competitively and professionally is Stone. He made his professional debut in May of 2016, and currently boasts a 2-1 record as a professional.
Both of his wins have come by submission, and his loss by decision. Whether gym members decide to compete or not, Stone has noticed most, if not all who come through his gym develop more confidence in their lives as a result of the training.
“It’s awesome to see the way people make big changes in their lives,” Stone said. “They change the way the carry themselves. Some people lose a lot of weight and gain a lot more confidence in everyday life. We have a member who lost to close to 100 pounds since the first time he came in. It’s huge. It makes me really believe in what I’m doing even more. It’s evidence what I’m doing is working.”
Stone’s sales pitch to people who may be on the fence about trying a combat sport? Just give it a shot.
“You can try a class for free and see how you like it,” Stone said. “We have a ‘Check your ego at the door’ policy. Everyone is friends and cool with each other. We have all ages, all walks of life at the gym together. Everyone gets along. A lot of people are afraid, they think it’s just going to be a bunch of tough guys and meat heads. We’ve got a really good group of people, all different types of people.”
Monthly memberships range from $80 to $110. A full membership covers classes up to five time per week, while $80 gives members a choice of Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing.
The gym’s next professional fight will be from Gig Harbor MMA member Nathan Ullevig, who will be fighting Randy Garza in the heavyweight division at The Point Casino in Kingston on Saturday (Jan. 7). Fights start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission at the door, or those interested can purchase tickets at Gig Harbor MMA’s gym this week.