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.
It’s hard to explain the kind of expectations Lance Palmer has had to live up to in his young life.
Before he ever even imagined a career in mixed martial arts, Palmer was wrestling at age nine, as he made his impact all the way until he debuted at the prestigious St. Edward’s High School just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where winning wasn’t just an option.
It was an expected outcome.
During his time at St. Edward’s, Palmer racked up an amazing 150-6 record en route to becoming a four-time state champion, as well as the 2006 Senior National Champion. The future Ohio State Buckeye even spent much of his time in high school being filmed as a part of the documentary ‘Pinned’ that followed Palmer as he made his way through the rigors of the wrestling season.
Palmer was constantly tested throughout his formative years. His father even had Lance lifting weights on Christmas day before he was allowed to open presents. All of that hard work paid off, however, as the highly recruited Ohioan chose to attend The Ohio State University on scholarship and went on to become a four-time All-American wrestler there as well.
See, Lance Palmer doesn’t mind the expectations that are laid on his doorstep. He doesn’t mind the pressure that’s been put on him since day one. Palmer embraces it and that’s why he expects nothing less than a championship as he laces up his gloves for his first professional MMA fight.
“I guess pressure for some guys is a good thing. I embrace the pressure a little bit, instead of using it against me. A lot of guys use it against them and it hurts their performance. I use it to help me and kind of push me along through this process leading up to the fight,” Palmer said.
“I put those expectations on myself more than anyone else putting those expectations on me. Before anyone else was expecting me to do well, I expect myself to do the best. I think that’s the way my mindset’s always been.”
Coming up short isn’t something that Palmer is used to, but the sour taste of a loss has stuck in his mind for the last year.
Palmer was last active in 2010 when he wrestled in the NCAA wrestling tournament. He made his way to the final against Big Ten rival Brent Metcalf from the University of Iowa. Palmer had actually defeated Metcalf during the Big Ten season in what was considered a mild upset, so the rematch had plenty on the line for both wrestlers.
In the end, Metcalf got the win and Palmer had to taste defeat, something he’s never, ever enjoyed.
It’s that taste that has stuck in the back of his throat for the past year. It’s served as the motivation for Palmer as he gets ready for his debut this Friday at the ‘Fight for Wrestling’ show in Bakersfield, Calif., where he fights for the first time.
“It definitely keeps me motivated and that’s what motivates me to do well in MMA, and eventually get the belt in the UFC is because of that,” Palmer states about the match with Metcalf. “I talked to Chad Mendes about it too, exactly what he used when he lost to J Jaggers, one of my teammates in the finals when he was in college.
“That’s what he used to motivate him. Now look at three years down the road and he’s fighting for a UFC title. It’s definitely something that’s good in a way, to feel like you didn’t complete your goal and using it to move on to the next thing.”
If Palmer is able to duplicate Mendes’ success in the cage, he’ll be on the right path pretty quickly.
Both Mendes and Palmer share the same management team at MMA Incorporated, and Jeff Meyer, who signed Palmer after college, sees much of the same things in the former Ohio State wrestler as he saw in Mendes just a few years ago.
“He’s got the same qualities that are shared by Chad and Urijah (Faber), any of those top level wrestlers. We know they’re going to have the work ethic and the discipline to do well in the sport,” Meyer stated. “We spent a lot of time with Lance prior to signing him just getting to know him, and on the flipside of it is the marketability. He’s a very marketable guy or will be very marketable.”
The future for Palmer will start on Friday when he takes on Emelio Gonzales in his first fight. Palmer admits he doesn’t know much about his opponent because as far as MMA goes he’s almost as inexperienced as Palmer, but the book is out there on the former All-American wrestler.
Whether it’s Gonzales or another name that is standing across from him when he steps in to fight for the first time, Palmer will have the steely gaze that got him four state titles and four All-American honors.
“I know with wrestling you never look past anybody,” Palmer said about his opponent. “That’s the way I look at it right now. You don’t worry about anybody you’re going to fight, but you also don’t look past them because you don’t want anything stupid to happen. Take it as if it’s a world championship fight, every fight you go into.”
Palmer will have a bigger target on his back from day one in the sport because he has the wrestling accolades in his back pocket, and he trains with one of the best camps in all of MMA at Team Alpha Male.
Still, that’s nothing new to Palmer, who has been under the gun since the first time he stepped on a wrestling mat, and he wouldn’t want anything less out of MMA.
“I’m assuming things are going to be like that, but I don’t really look at it like that,” Palmer commented. “It’s been like that since I started wrestling with a target on my back. So if that’s the way it’s going to be for MMA then I’m excited for it. It will be the same as it was my whole life.”
Lance Palmer will make his professional debut this Friday against Emelio Gonzales at the Fight for Wrestling event in Bakersfield, Calif.
Also check out the trailer for the film ‘Pinned’ which followed Palmer through his senior year of high school in Ohio.
Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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