Story by Chris Graham
Brothers Beau and Kyle Baker couldn’t get the competitive juices out of their blood. So the former state high-school wrestling champions started a mixed-martial-arts training club – with themselves as the charter members.
“There’s a lot more guys that I’d like to get in there that I know are walking around out there doing nothing that I know would love to start competing again. That’s kind of where we were at,” said Beau Baker, who with his brother will be competing at Mixed Martial Arts in the Valley IV at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg Saturday night.
“We still had that hunger to compete, but wrestling only goes so far,” Beau Baker said. “This was something that piqued our interest. And there’s a lot of guys walking the streets out here that were state champions in high school or state runners-up, and they can really get in there and do well for themselves – and it’s a lot of fun. It’s really a lot of fun.”
The Bakers are the founders of Valley Chute Box, which operates out of a training center located just across from the Fairgrounds.
“I think it’s important to say that we don’t just go in there and punch each other in the head all day. We have organized practices,” Kyle Baker said.
And that’s the key to Valley Chute’s success in the rough-and-tumble world of MMA – which is a mix of disciplines including wrestling, boxing, karate and other combat sports.
“We train a different discipline every night – and mix it up between striking with your feet and grappling and wrestling,” said Beau Baker, who at 28 is his brother’s senior by two years.
“We’re not spending a lot of time having them comb through a lot of technique – we’re just focusing on how to win at this level. And we’re getting out there and actually competing with the really big gyms that have been established for years – we’re doing quite well against these guys, and people are taking notice of what we’ve got going on up here,” Beau Baker said.
And it’s long since been the case that Valley Chute is not just The Fabulous Baker Boys anymore.
“We just started adding guys over time – and once we got the gym space, we started inviting people in. We probably have had 60 guys walk into the door, and we keep a good, steady 40 people who are walking in – and we average a good 15, 20 guys a night,” Beau Baker said.
“We’ve got a really hungry group of guys in there that range from JMU students to local kids to just a whole lot of hungry guys in there that just love the sport and eat up everything we show them,” Beau Baker said.
The guys are hungry for a chance to make a name for themselves in a sport that Kyle Baker, among others, feels is “going to take over the combat-sports world altogether.”
“I think boxing is going downhill – it’s more or less guys out there with a lot of technique trying not to lose,” Kyle Baker said. “These guys with four-ounce gloves, you don’t leave much room for error if you’re not blocking properly, if you’re not keeping your hands up. You’re getting kicked in the head, kneed in the head. It’s just a real exciting sport. I’m glad to be involved with it.”
Chris Graham is the editor of The SportsDominion.