Four-time All-American wrestler Lance Palmer from The Ohio State University is training and working with Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male as he prepares to make his professional mixed martial arts debut in May. This four-part series will give an insight into Palmer’s journey as he gets ready to transition from wrestling to fighting.

Lance Palmer and Urijah Faber

It’s been a few years since Lance Palmer first walked into Steelwood as a freshman at The Ohio State University.

Steelwood is the training facility for wrestling at Ohio State, but the program itself has a legacy that stretches for miles. With names like Tommy Rowlands, Mark Coleman, and Ed Potaker, Ohio State carries a lot of weight in the wrestling world. That was a lot of pressure on Palmer as he stepped into the school as a four-time high school state champion from Ohio.

Palmer lived up to his legacy however taking home All-American honors each year he attended Ohio State, even as a true freshman.

It’s that desire to win that Palmer carries forward into his MMA career. It was a similar feeling for the former Buckeye as he stepped foot into Ultimate Fitness in Sacramento, Calif., for the first time and saw fighters like Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, and Chad Mendes staring back at him.

It was tough on Palmer at first because he’s a natural at wrestling, but with MMA he had to learn how to throw a punch the right way. He had to learn how to shoot in on an opponent and not give up a guillotine choke. It’s that learning that brought Palmer back to his first days of his wrestling so many years ago.

“It was just different. Wrestling is a grind too, but it’s a lot of work. You’re learning new stuff, and you’re always trying to figure out new ways to make things work, so it was a little mentally draining at first, but it’s good,” Palmer said about learning his new craft.

“It’s more mentally draining just because you’re trying to learn the techniques of everything.”

Learning is what takes time, and while Palmer is a naturally gifted athlete, everything has to develop. He’s being smart about his training, however, and making sure to listen to coaches like Faber, who have been in the highest of highs in fights and the trenches when they’ve faced defeat.

“Definitely a patience factor comes in there because you want to just go in there and do well right away because that’s how I’ve been my whole life,” Palmer explained. “Training hard and winning, that’s the goal of everything. Going in there and being humbled it’s something that’s awesome because I’m with such a good team, but also I had to keep a lot of patience, and I still do have to keep patience as I keep learning.”

He’s willing to show patience because Palmer knows that all the hard work is going to pay off. Just like when he got pinned in wrestling, Palmer picked himself off the mat, asked his coach what he did wrong, and then fixed it so he wouldn’t do it again.

It’s the same mentality when he’s training with his partners at Team Alpha Male.

“With wrestling, I’m always learning and getting ready for matches. It’s always been like that so for me it’s easy to take in everything as I’m training for a fight. I’ve always been training, so that’s just a part of my life. It’s not too overbearing and it’s actually good because I’m sparring, and doing different training with Faber and Master Thong. I’m learning as I’m getting ready for my fight. I think that helps me more than just training,” Palmer said.

The squad that Palmer has around him at Team Alpha Male reminds him a lot of the coaches and wrestlers he met while at Ohio State. It’s very much like a family, with a similar goal in each and every fighter that steps into the gym… to be the very best in the world.

“It’s great to have such good people too. They’re not just great fighters, they’re great people. I consider them my good friends and we help each other. As Urijah says it, it’s a co-op and we help each other,” Palmer explained.

“My mindset has always been to be at the top of whatever I’m doing, so these guys all have the same mindset and it helps in training that we’re all on the same page.”

The sparring that Palmer is involved in every day is intense, but his education about mixed martial arts grows with each punch landed or each submission attempted.

The work is tough and the days are long, but Palmer knows that the payoff will come next weekend when he finally makes his professional MMA debut. He also really wants to wash the bad taste out of his mouth from the last time he was involved in active competition.

Palmer’s last match at Ohio State was a defeat in the NCAA National Finals against rival Brent Metcalf from Iowa. That loss hasn’t sat well with Palmer, because losing is something he doesn’t do well.

“As I was telling somebody last night, I was telling somebody about I used my national finals match from last year, that fuels my fire to train and get back in there. I ended on a note I didn’t want to end on with college wrestling,” Palmer said.

“It kind of helps my attitude every day.”

Palmer will take that fuel and continue to churn his engine as the days wind down to his professional MMA debut in Bakersfield, Calif., next weekend as a part of the upcoming “Fight for Wrestling” show.

Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for
@DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon a question or comment.

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