Fighters feel invincible at best; broken at worst. Victory only repairs some things. But still they go in search of it, and the glory it brings. Daniel Straus and Shane Kruchten are two such men, and the protagonists form the backdrop to an intriguing match-up at Bellator 219 at Pechanga Resort and Casino, Temecula. Both men have been involved in incidents that threatened their lives, and have bounced back with a resonance so powerful it has captured the imagination of the fight public – and beyond.
The main event and co-main attractions are both 155-pound contests at the casino in California, the headliner featuring Southern California’s Saad Awad (23-10) against the striker Brandon Girtz (15-8).
Yet arguably the most compelling contest on the main card is the lightweight matchup that pitches former Bellator featherweight champion Straus (24-8, 1 NC), who returns to action following a motorcycle accident which came close to rendering him almost permanently disabled, against U.S. Marine Corps veteran Shane Kruchten (12-4), who has a harrowing yet enlightening tale of his own to tell, involving PTSD, alcoholism, attempted suicide and utter redemption. The two men epitomise what is at the heart of fights sport, and its fighting spirits.
Check this: In the early morning hours on Dec. 17, 2017, a motorcycle accident left Straus’ career in jeopardy. Initially paralyzed, then told by doctors that he may not ever walk again, Straus has battled back to be able to step back into the fighting arena to resume his career. Through a painstaking rehabilitation process, what some doctors are calling almost a medical miracle, Straus is back. Will power is an incredible force. “I‘m having mixed emotions,” Straus told DAZN’s news agency Sporting News this week. “The closer the fight comes, like any other fighter, I’m nervous and I have those emotions, but I’m excited.”
“I’ve made it this far, so there is nothing that will stop me from getting inside the cage. Now, it’s just putting the nerves to the side and getting back to what I know and what I do.”
The 34-year-old added: “At first, I had no interest in following and what guys were doing. The further it went on, the more I rehabbed, it would be hard to watch life move on past you. Here recently, I’ve been able to sit back and watch some of the guys and even talk to some of the guys and it’s a breath of fresh air. Before my last fight, I didn’t realize how long I have been in Bellator and running at the top of the food chain,” he added. “So, it’s been nice to sit back and see everything that has been going on.”
Meanwhile, Kruchten has an equally compelling narrative. The storyline running through Kruchten’s adult life is almost unreal. An ex-US Marine, he was blown up by an IED as a teenager in Iraq, returned home depressed and suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, fell into alcohol and drug addiction, and ultimately attempted to end his own life.
Picking up $700 worth of drugs nine years ago, he tried to kill himself, overdosing and dying before being revived by police officers. Luckily for him, an undercover cop had sold him the drugs, and broke into his home and found him flatlining. Little wonder he is in a what he calls his “second life, a new lease”.
Kruchten, also 34, is truly inspirational. Having recovered himself, for the last twelve years he has taken to cage fighting. Before that US military psychologists said he had a personality disorder, and he was honourably discharged and diagnosed with PTSD, one of many with the same condition between 2004 and 2007. A lost soul, he took to drink and drugs, and even joined a biker gang for a while. The addictions made his PTSD even worse. By 2004, Kruchten’s 6ft 1ins frame had ballooned to 262 pounds, he was self-medicating with 30 cans of beer a day and was on what he calls ‘the self-imposed Burger King diet’, and in a bar one day, volunteered to fight in a live MMA event — at heavyweight. Unwise perhaps – but it was the start of a new, life-changing, career. The greatest thing Kruchten does now is shares his life experience. He gives inspirational talks to Marines afflicted with PTSD, and his cell phone number there on his social media. He says anyone can call, any time. This happens to be a fight worth watching – on the storyline alone.