History to be made in Wheeling tonight

History will be made tonight – not once, but twice – when ‘Hard Knocks Fight Night 31’ invades downtown Wheeling.

For the first time in the history of WesBanco Arena, Mixed Martial Arts will take center stage as three professional cage fights are scheduled. In addition, never in Mountain State history has a card included boxing, kick boxing and MMA action.

In addition to the three aforementioned MMA bouts, there are five professional boxing matches, one pro kick boxing bout and six or seven amateur kick boxing matchups.

“We’re excited,” beamed promoter Jerry Thomas, of West Virginia Sports Promotions, during Friday night’s weigh-in session inside River City Ale Works. “All of these fighters look to be in very good shape, which should make for some very exciting action in the ring and cage.

“This is history in the making,” Thomas added. “This will be the first-ever triple combination card ever held in the state of West Virginia.”

Thomas has been coming to the ‘Friendly City’ for just a tad over 30 years, staging the world-renown Toughman Contest on a yearly basis.

“The Ohio Valley will absolutely love the MMA action,” Thomas noted.

MMA was just legalized in West Virginia within the past year or so.

Highlighting the card are a handful of local fighters representing the Bullpen Fight Club, located in East Wheeling’s Nelson Jordan Center.

Bridgeport has a pair of fighters entered, both in MMA action. They are Todd ‘Jiu Jiu’ Bevan and Josh “The Cake” Baker. They will be joined in the ring by Wheeling’s own Chris Goldbaugh, who will be featured in the main event.

Bevan, a well-decorated amateur fighter with an unblemished 8-0 mark, will be making his professional debut inside the octagon fence. He is paired with Rhett Northcraft, a three-time West Virginia state wrestling champion from New Manchester and Oak Glen High School.

“I feel good. I focused. I’m ready to go,” Bevan said prior to tipping the scales at 153 pounds, 2 less than his opponent. “I’m really excited to put on a show for the hometown fans.”

According to reports, more than 100 tickets have been sold by the Bevan Camp.

Bevan, who had his last two fights either canceled by the opposition pulling out or the card being done away with, was sweating it out a little Friday as Northcraft, 9-5 as an amateur and 0-2 as a pro, was late in arriving for the weigh-ins. He just made it at 155 pounds.

According to Thomas, Bevan will be the first of the three cage fights, so he will be the history maker.

Baker, another former Bulldog football player who weighed in at 153, is 8-1 and will meet Brett Shoenfelt, from Duncan Falls, Pa., via Phoenix, Az., who is 7-4 and tipped the scales at 156.

“I’ve never fought in WesBanco Arena,” Baker admitted. “I’m here (in Wheeling) 6-8 hours a day training, so it kind of feels like my hometown, sort of.”

Baker made his professional debut against Shoenfelt.

“It was a tough fight the first time around and I expect another tomorrow night,” Baker added.

Goldbaugh, a former Wheeling Park Patriot, is excited about fighting in his hometown.

“I feel great. I’ve been non-stop. I actually quit my job to fight full-time,” he explained after weighing at 184. “This is it. I train two and three times a day. This is what I want to do.”

When asked what he knew about his opponent, Chad Montgomery, of Indianapolis, he quickly replied, “All I know is that he is 5-10 and from Indiana. All I’ve done is Facebook stalk him for the past couple of weeks, so I know what he looks like.”

Montgomery (8-5) checked in at 182 pounds.

Other local competitors entered include Wheeling’s Ronnie Green, Bruce Runkle and Johnny Haught in pro boxing bouts.

Entered in amateur kick boxing bouts are Bellaire’s Josh Fisher and Terance Jarrels; Rayland’s Josh Hilliard; Wheeling’s John Moore and Kenny Wilson; and New Martinsville’s Charles Moore.

There will be one female kick boxing matchup featuring Moundsville’s Kayla “Honey Bee” Varney and Charleston’s Laura Byrnes. The two met on the 2012 Ohio Valley Toughman Contest card in a kick boxing matchup that Varney won handily.

Stay tuned to Monday’s edition of The Times Leader for full coverage of tonight’s action.

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com