The Evolution of a Champion – Lance Palmer’s Journey Into MMA – Part 4

Four-time All-American wrestler Lance Palmer from The Ohio State University is trained and worked with Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male as he prepared for his professional mixed martial arts debut last week. This is the final chapter of Palmer’s journey from wrestling to mixed martial arts.

Almost a year has passed since Lance Palmer left college at the Ohio State University and decided to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.

During that year he went back to the wrestling world where he started to coach at Virginia Tech, but he never lost sight of the ultimate goal to step in the cage and test himself against another man and see who came out victorious.

On Friday night in Bakersfield, Calif., Palmer finally got the chance to prove himself in a new arena. As a wrestler he had tasted success at every level. He was a four-time state champion in high school, and a four-time All-American at Ohio State.

This was a new challenge and a new sport, but Palmer wasn’t about to be deterred. He attacked this new goal just like he did his wrestling career… with a ferocious attitude and killer instinct.

The calm before the storm, however, started from the days leading up to the fight, and even after a tough weight cut that saw him get down to 145 pounds for the first time in a long while, Palmer was poised like a lion ready to pounce on his prey when he was sitting in the back with his teammates surrounding him.

“Everything was relaxed, I got a good warm up in, I felt comfortable, I had a bunch of my teammates there. Two other guys that were fighting and then Urijah and Chad (Mendes), and a couple of other guys that were there to support me. It was good. I felt comfortable all day long,” Palmer said as he sat in the back waiting to walk to the cage.

The support system that night gave the former Buckeye all the confidence in the world. Palmer was competing in a smaller show called ‘Fight for Wrestling’ with proceeds helping to support college wrestling programs that have lost funding left and right over the last few years.

But the show didn’t have an online pay-per-view or a major cable network with a broadcast, but if you were watching Twitter on the night of the fights, you’d think there was a UFC event taking place.

Team Alpha Male members like Urjiah Faber, Chad Mendes, and Danny Castillo lit up their Twitter feeds with pictures and statement after statement lending support to their teammates fighting in Bakersfield that night. It’s that very support that led Palmer to choose that team, because much like his fellow wrestlers at Ohio State, they went into battle together and always had each others’ backs.

“That’s the thing with the team, it’s like a family,” said Palmer. “All those guys are tight. Danny Castillo and everybody that wasn’t at the fight was tweeting about it after each of our guys won. That’s something that’s important, and one of the reasons I’m out here training with everyone. Because it is like a family.”

In the cage, however, Palmer was alone standing across from opponent Emelio Gonzales, but with a nickname like “Unstoppable,” he wasn’t about to slow down for opponent number one.

“That’s when I was the most calm. I just kind of zoned in and got that tunnel vision like I normally did for wrestling,” Palmer described. “I was probably more nervous just leading up to the fight, the whole waiting process, and then once I got in the cage and the door was closed that’s when I was more comfortable because I knew I was in my element.”

After a feeling out process, Palmer shot in on his opponent and got deep into his body. He picked him up and slammed him to the mat with a thunderous crash that brought the crowd to its feet. As huge as the slam was, Palmer stayed calm and composed while listening to his corner. When the time was right, he unleashed.

The slam wasn’t the moment that really got Palmer excited during the fight though. It was the first time he got to punch somebody for real, that’s when Lance Palmer felt like he was truly welcomed to mixed martial arts.

“I’ve done that before in wrestling,” Palmer said about the slam he landed. “But the best part was probably when I threw the first punch. I threw a big left hand when I postured up and I split him open, and when I saw the blood, that’s when I realized this was a lot better than wrestling.”

The damage was done and Gonzales was on the defensive. Literally smelling blood, Palmer pounced, taking his opponent’s back, sinking in a rear naked choke. A few moments later he felt a slap on his arm. Lance Palmer’s first fight in MMA was over and he was victorious.

The adrenaline flowed through his veins and he felt the excitement that teammates like Faber and Mendes had felt so many times when they were successful. It was one down, but just the first of what Palmer hopes are many wins in his newfound home in the cage.

“When I got done with it, it was like it was over too quick. It was good to get the first win out of the way. It’s just the beginning. I’m excited for the journey,” Palmer said.

If the first fight did anything for besides get him a win, it threw gasoline on an already raging fire inside Palmer. After a long trip back to Sacramento with his manager in the car, Palmer took one day off before heading back into training.

Being a good teammate, Palmer wants to help the people that helped him get his first win on their journeys as well. The first step is over, but Palmer hit the ground running and he’s ready for more.

“I want to train every day so I can fight every week if I have to. We’ll see when the next one comes up, but I’m definitely willing to fight here soon,” Palmer said.

The next time Palmer’s story is told it may very well be his journey to a championship.

Lance also wanted to say a special thanks to his sponsors and the people that supported him as he made his debut Friday night. “I just wanted to say thanks to Cage Fighter, the Shredding Network,, and my management company MMA Inc., Team Alpha Male, and also for doing the series.”

You can also follow Lance on Twitter @LancePalmer

Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for
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