The Panhandle's MMA looks to help at risk kids - kotanow.com- Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

The Panhandle's MMA looks to help at risk kids

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Drugs, alcohol, and gangs are still obstacles that face children growing up in the East Overland area in Scottsbluff.

But there's one Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym that is trying to 'fight the good fight'.

"I wanted to make a positive impact in this community, especially on this side of town," says gym owner Ian Connelly. "It's the rougher part of town."
 
He says his troubled past was inspiration for his faith based gym "The Panhandle's MMA".
 
"Faith is how I built the gym.. How I try to live my life," explains Connelly. "And I really think it helps build character."
 
This past weekend Connelly gave a presentation to First Congregational Church in Torrington to speak about the Christ based gym- and some of the young fighters.

One teenager gave a testimonial about how the gym is keeping him out of trouble.
 
"He's 14 years old, he mentions he lives a few blocks from (the gym)and he mentioned that a lot of his friends are doing drugs and hanging out in the streets. But he comes here at night."
 
Rather than giving into peer pressure, that student is putting his efforts into something that will yield a good outcome in the long run.
 
"Those are the kids I would really love to make a difference in," says Connelly.
 
A creed that some parents have already embraced. "Today there's so much violence and they see so much violence and the coach teaches them the skills that they can learn in competition," says parent Misty Bodeman, "And he stresses very much so that they're not going to use against anybody and not to use if for street fights. I think that's really good.
 
And if his students get caught fighting .... they're  banned from the gym.
 
"Everybody knows that the way we teach it, it's a discipline with Mixed Martial Arts- it's for technique. We do it for fun and the only time we use this is either in the gym or if we're competing somewhere."
 
Since opening earlier this year, the number of students needed to make the gym sustainable aren't there - causing uncertainty for its future.
 
"I'm pouring my time and my heart into this," says Connelly. "And it's really stressful at times and I hope and pray that this can stay open, because I really do think it is a positive place for kids to come."

Connelly says that local businesses can sponsor fighters for as little as 30 dollars a month, and provide a safe place for at - risk - juveniles to practice faith based mixed martial arts.

For more information on how you or your children can enroll in classes- or to sponsor a student- call the gym at 308-575-0565 .

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