The Impact of MMA Legalization in West Virginia

By Jacqueline Delphin, Evan McCaffrey and Paige Carver

On March 24, 2011, West Virginia became the 45th state to pass legislation for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Passing the law came about after strong opposition by some of the state’s House of Delegates members, who thought the sport was too violent.

An M.M.A. fighter stands with a bloody face in between rounds at Caged Fury 16 on Jan. 28 in Morgantown, WV.

Mixed Martial Arts is an organized fighting event that takes place in a ring surrounded by a cage. Fighters use a mixture of martial arts fighting styles such as Jiu Jitzu and Kickboxing, giving the sport the its name, Mixed Martial Arts.

Since MMA fights were legalized, the sport has grown quite quickly in the region. Gyms that teach martial arts across the state have begun to train fighters and have seen the number of members steadily rise.

One Morgantown gym, Anu Academy, trains people in many different types of fighting, including MMA. Gym owner, Neale Hoerle, thinks misconceptions about MMA made it difficult to legalize in West Virginia.

Neale Hoerle is the owner of the Anu Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Morgantown, WV.

“Simply, the state is very old fashioned. The boxing commission for the longest time were the people that, I believe, were fighting it the hardest, because they didn’t understand it,” said Hoerle. “The old sentiments of barbarism, you know caged fighting is barbaric…these things.”

But now that MMA fights are legal, events are attracting competitors from across the country.

Caged Fury 16 was held in Morgantown on January 28th. Stephanie Frausto, a MMA fighter from Ohio, said she was really excited to be in West Virginia and be a part of it’s history.

“It’s a real big honor to fight here, because I took a year off and this is a really good way for me to get my foot back in the door at such a big show.”

A female fighter trains boxing at Anu Academy in Morgantown, WV.

The event also had fighters from many parts of West Virginia such as Wheeling, Morgantown and Charleston.

Hoerle said these events not only allow local fighters to compete, but it also brings in large amounts of money from the paying spectators.

“For the state it is important to legalize it, because …it was a sold out event. The revenue you’re going to generate from M.M.A. is astronomical compared to boxing.”

More information on the legislation can be found here.


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