Who says dreams don't come true?
Just ask Todd Bevan.
"To be honest, it was a dream come true," Bevan said after his unanimous decision in his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut late Saturday night inside WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling. "I didn't always know I was going to be a professional fighter, but I always strived my entire life to be a professional athlete.
"So, when I had my hand raised in front of all of my family and friends, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and I realized my dream had finally come true."
Bevan's hard-fought, three-round victory over New Manchester's Rhett Northcraft was part of history as it became the first MMA event in the 'Friendly City's' illustrious fight history.
"That's pretty cool, too," Bevan, whose nickname is 'Jiu Jiu,' said.
Northcraft, a three-time state wrestling champion during his days at Oak Glen High School, had the wrestling background edge over Bevan, who participated in the sport as a Bulldog, but not to the success as his opponent.
However, it turned out to be Bevan's work on his feet that did the trick. He recorded at least one takedown in each five-minute period, and that proved to be the difference.
"The fight was everything I thought it was going to be and more. He's tough as nails," Bevan, who fights out of the Bullpen Fight Club in Wheeling, said of Northcraft. "Stylistically, he was a three-time state wrestling champ, so I knew I had to come 100 percent ready and be in shape. I knew I had to grind him out and that's the game plan that I took into the fight.
"I'm really excited that I won the takedown battle against an accomplished wrestler like him. This is the second or third guy who, on paper, had better wrestling backgrounds than me, but I just flat-out outworked them and got the job done."
The professional boxing, kickboxing and MMA event was dubbed 'Hard Knocks Fight Night 31' and was the brainchild of W.Va. Sports Promotions' Jerry Thomas. It, also, made history in the Mountain State as no other card has ever had all three on the same night.
In fairness to the state of West Virginia, state lawmakers just legalized MMA events late last year, and the first-ever spectacle was held in early January in Williamson.
In addition to Bevan, fighters from the Bullpen Fight Club enjoyed a very successful night, as five of six had their hands raised at the conclusion of their bouts.
In MMA action, Bridgeport's Josh Baker and Wheeling's Chris Goldbaugh duplicated Bevan's performance, with Baker claiming a brutal, close but unanimous three-round nod over Brett Shoenfelt, who hails from Phoenix, Az., via Duncansville, Pa.
Baker seemed in total control through 2 rounds, but an elbow from nowhere caught him flush on the jaw, stunning him and allowing Shoenfelt a late advantage, but not enough.
Goldbaugh, who told this writer Friday night during weigh-ins that he quit his full-time job to fight full-time, barely worked up a sweat in taking out Indianapolis's Chad Montgomery in 2:21 of the first round with a triangle choke hold, making the Hoosier State fighter immediately tap out.
In pro boxing, Wheeling's Johnny 'The Hyperactive Hillbilly' debuted successfully with a four-round unanimous decision of Lost Creek's Johan Cogar. Fellow Wheeling fighter Bruce Runkle followed suit with a unanimous victory over Cleveland's Shane Gierke, but Ronnie Green suffered a tough defeat when he couldn't answer the bell late in the final round after a flurry of punches from Akron's Damon Antoine.
The lone black eye of the event came during setup procedures for the cage, which took 20 minutes longer than the projected 15-minutes. There were at least four, and maybe five, fights in the crowd, which was senseless.
In my opinion, if these individuals, both male and female, want to fight, get into the ring and settle your differences. Not in the crowd!
Other than that, I thought the action inside the ring, and cage, went very well. The majority of the fights went the scheduled distance, with the exception of the pro kickboxing bout when Chad Blevins, of Glouster, Ohio, sent Mark Gentry, of Columbus, to the mat with a pair of stunning kicks to the head.
It was reported that Gentry may have suffered a broken jaw.
See you for 'Hard Knocks Fight Night 32' coming to an arena near you.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org