Strong out of the Chute

Story by Chris Graham
sportsdom@ntelos.net

The game plan for 24-year-old Adam Prickett going into his Mixed Martial Arts in the Valley IV fight with Eric Ohene-Bekoe had been to keep things at standup as much as possible.
But the Verona man went back to his training at Valley Chute Box in Harrisonburg and decided to shoot for Ohene-Bekoe’s legs just to see where his ground game was.
“I felt it was pretty easy to take him down. And I thought it might be in my best interests to keep it that way. So we changed what we were going to do,” Prickett said after scoring a majority decision over Ohene-Bekoe at the November event at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds.

The ability to change on the fly in a combat sport comes with training and experience. Pricket credited his trainers at Valley Chute for giving him the base of knowledge to be able to lean on there in the ring.

“We train for everything, so really we’re well-versed in everything. Most of us are pretty good in everything. I feel that I’m pretty good in each area. So it’s not a big, drastic change,” Prickett said.

Valley Chute Box was breathed to life by brothers Beau and Kyle Baker, a pair of former state-champion wrestlers at Turner Ashby High School who talked themselves into the sport of MMA and then willed their training center into existence.

“When it started out, it was me and Kyle,” said Beau Baker, who at 28 is two years Kyle’s senior.

“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.

The training is intense. “We train a different discipline every night – and mix it up between striking with your feet and grappling and wrestling,” Beau Baker said.

And the MMA athletes who are on hand for the instruction run the gamut. Prickett is typical – a former high-school wrestler, he was drawn to Valley Chute after watching MMA on TV and deciding to give it a shot.

One person who stands out is James Madison University senior Tyler Moyer, who will be going active-duty in the United States Army upon his graduation from college in May.

“I’ve had combat-sports training in the Army, so I thought this would go well with what I was learning there,” said Moyer, like Prickett and like the Bakers a former high-school wrestler who also trained as an adolescent in tae kwon do and continues to train in jiu jitsu.

The Bakers – both professional MMA fighters now – help bring the various disciplines of combat sports together in a way that makes sense for everybody who trains at Valley Chute Box.

“We don’t just go in there and punch each other in the head all day,” Kyle Baker said. “We have organized practices. I know a lot of people might be scared to come in there and think that they can’t just walk in the door and jump into a practice – but we have that happen every day. It just takes the courage to get up off the couch and walk in the door.”

You probably hear a recruiting pitch in there. Now you know how the Bakers have grown their training center from two MMA fighters to a few dozen in a short amount of time.

“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,” Beau Baker said. “That’s kind of where we were at. We still had that hunger to compete, but wrestling only goes so far. 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.”

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion and The New Dominion.


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