Lance Palmer owns a perfect 7-0 record as a pro. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As a four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Ohio State University, Lance Palmer realized the value of hard work long before he took up the sport of mixed martial arts.
However, the unbeaten featherweight prospect is finally starting to see his “sweat equity” pay dividends in the fight game. Palmer recently signed with the World Series of Fighting and will challenge Georgi Karakhanyan for the promotion’s inaugural 145-pound championship in the WSOF 7 main event on Saturday at the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
“To be honest, I’m not sure how [the title fight] came about,” said Palmer, who replaced an injured Rick Glenn on the WSOF 7 roster. “My managers got a call from World Series of Fighting, but I wasn’t sure how they decided on me. I heard about the chance to fight for the belt, make a good step up financially and fight on NBC Sports Network and thought it was a good deal for me. It’s something that’s great for us and is a great next step in my career. I can’t turn that down. You never know what chances you’re going to get in your career.”
The WSOF 7 main card will air on NBC Sports Network, with the prelims streaming to Sherdog.com. Palmer claims he was already training at Team Alpha Male when he accepted the bout with Karakhanyan and does not believe the relatively short notice will be a factor.
“Camp has been going great so far,” Palmer said. “In our camp, there’s no such thing as really taking time off because somebody’s always getting ready to fight, so you’re helping them to get ready. You’re always training. Plus, I had a fight not too long ago, so I’m just getting everything dialed in. I’m feeling good, and my weight’s good. Everything’s coming on point.”
The 25-year-old Palmer is unbeaten in seven professional MMA bouts, recording three submissions along the way. His professional debut came back in May 2011, when he recorded a first-round submission of Emilio Gonzales. Another win in October 2011, this one a unanimous decision over Chris David, was followed by a pair of victories in February and August of 2012. That set up a fight with World Extreme Cagefighting and Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Fredson Paixao at a Resurrection Fighting Alliance event in November 2012. Palmer emerged with a split decision victory.
Palmer returned to action in May with a first-round submission of Patrick Reeves, and, in his most recent outing in June, he captured the RFA featherweight title with a five-round split decision win over Bellator MMA and Shark Fights alum Jared Downing. In that fight, Downing enjoyed early success in the standup department and was able to defend against Palmer’s takedowns. However, as the bout went along, Palmer landed more shots on the feet, took down Downing an survived a point deduction for an inadvertent low blow in the fifth round, using his superior conditioning to eke out the decision.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better each fight,” Palmer said. “Each fight, I’ve gotten a tougher opponent. [The Paixao bout] was on two weeks’ notice against a tough guy, but I was confident in my training and I was able to beat him. I knew [Downing] was going to be a tough fight. He likes to grind guys out. I’m not offering excuses. You just do your best to win, and you have to beat the best to become the best.”
Even though he does not yet have a knockout to his credit and admits his standup is still the weakest part of his game, Palmer believes his striking has come a long way in the past couple of years.
“My definite weakest area is my standup, but I still feel like I can go with anybody due to the team I train with,” he said. “My power hasn’t shown yet, but my standup has progressed and is showing in the gym. I want to show my standup, but I don’t want to get away from the ground game, where I’m strong. Power and knockouts come in time for those who come to the sport from wrestling. Chad Mendes didn’t have any knockouts, but now he’s knocked out four guys in a row. When you come from a wrestling background, striking is something you have to get comfortable with, and when you do, it’s scary.”
Palmer -- a mixed martial arts fan since high school -- said the idea of becoming a professional MMA fighter was not something that occurred to him until midway through his career at Ohio State.
“I started watching and thought it was pretty cool,” he said. “I never thought about it as career until I was a sophomore in college. I met [Team Alpha Male founder Urijah Faber] when he came to the Ohio State wrestling room to do a photo shoot for ‘Cage Fighter’ magazine. I realized then it was something I could do for a career and make money at after wrestling was over. For me, MMA was just the next outlet. You don’t get any money training for the Olympics.”
Once he finished his collegiate wrestling career, Palmer almost immediately found his way to Team Alpha Male and an ultra-competitive environment that features some of the top lighter weight fighters in the world.
“Team Alpha Male was the team I was attracted to after meeting [Faber],” Palmer said. “Getting to train there is really something special. I can’t really explain it. Just the other day, Urijah was just watching practice and said he was just inspired by how many great fighters we have. When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t realize how competitive it really is. We just make each other so much better. You don’t realize it while you’re in the room, but you do when you step back, look and realize just how good everyone in room is.”