Kara Viscosky of Merrillville works out with trainer Nick Wayne during a boxing class at L.A. Boxing in Merrillville. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:37AM
A high-profile re-branding of a Merrillville fitness center has reminded its staff that even though they’ve got a good thing going, there’s always a chance to offer more.
L.A. Boxing at 5206 E. 81st Ave. (Route 30) in Merrillville will officially become a location of UFC Gyms Nationwide this month. Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White confirmed the organization’s purchase of the California-based L.A. Boxing franchise on Jan. 7.
Merrillville L.A. Boxing co-owner and mixed martial arts promoter Danielle Vale was not certain exactly when new signage would arrive or when work would begin on a new paint job for the 5,000 sqare foot facility. Any changes, however, would further enhance core strengths of the gym: personalized instruction and industry know-how.
“The re-branding of L.A. Boxing to a UFC gym brings more opportunities and choices for members whether that be a bigger variety of classes, guidance with nutrition and fitness as well as providing a huge support system to help individuals achieve their fitness goals,” Vale said.
She said from helping those who are looking lose a few pounds, to training the aspiring MMA fighter, the business has carved out a niche among Northwest Indiana gyms since its opening in 2008.
Through its acquisition of smaller MMA circuits and aggressive television marketing, the UFC has not only become No. 1 in its sport, but has arguably pushed MMA into the mainstream. Fighters such as Munster’s Stephan Bonnar, who lasted one round against Anderson Silva in October, and Chesterton’s Eddie Wineland, who won by decision over Brad Pickett in December’s UFC 155, have gained national attention.
“It’s by no means easy,” Wineland said of his fighting. “There’s a lot of blood sweat and sometimes tears.”
Wineland maintains his job as a full-time Chesterton firefighter. Ten years ago he fought his first pro MMA bout and later worked his way up the ranks of the World Extreme Cagefighting organization. The WEC merged with the UFC in October 2010 and since then the New Breed Academy Chicago and Duneland Vale Tudo fighter has earned a 2-2 record.
Support from family, friends and trainers has been key to his success, Wineland said. And he can see L.A. Boxing’s new UFC name inspiring more locals to train in the sport.
“Paul and Danielle (Vale), since I first met them, have been nothing but nice,” said Wineland, who is ranked as the No. 4 bantamweight MMA fighter in the world. “They basically said ‘here’s the key to our gym. Anything you need, just say it.’”
As a recent college graduate, 25-year-old Gina Whetstone said she wanted to establish a healthy fitness routine as a component of living at home in Hobart. At L.A. Boxing, she noticed the intense-looking trainers, but quickly got over feeling intimidated.
“I went in for a trial and absolutely loved the total body workout,” said Whetstone, a two-year gym member. “And they’ve pushed their members more by adding a circuit class.”
The Vales have recently added kids classes to their gamut of circuit training, kickboxing and boxing courses. They also said they are eying expanding the cage fighting area.
As they encourage their clients to stay in motion, they know that as owners they have to continue to build on their success.
“The only constant in sports is change and our gym will continue to meet the needs of people who strive to become the healthiest that they can be,” Danielle said.