Lance “The Party” Palmer might be one victory away from being the first mixed martial artist from Lorain County to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The Columbia Station wrestler improved to 7-0 in his MMA career last weekend by capturing the Resurrection Fighting Alliance featherweight (145 pounds) championship in a split decision over Jared Downing.
“I haven’t been called by the UFC or anything, but it’s one step closer,” Palmer said of the organization that is considered the top of the MMA ladder. “My next fight is my last contracted fight with RFA, so if I go out there and defend the title and make it a great fight or go out and get the finish — as long as I win — I could see myself being in the UFC after that.”
After a stellar amateur wrestling career — he won four state titles at St. Edward and was a four-time All-American at Ohio State — Palmer moved to Sacramento, Calif., to train with UFC star Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male.
Palmer’s first venture into the cage was as a professional on May 20, 2011. He downed Emilio Gonzales with a rear naked choke in 2:22.
Palmer, 25, hasn’t looked back. He also captured the Ultimate Victory Challenge featherweight belt in Columbus on Aug. 4, has three submission wins to go with four decisions and is 2-0 — both split decisions — in the RFA.
“The RFA is definitely the feeder program to the UFC, and they pride themselves in getting their fighters into the UFC,” Palmer said. “The last guy that was brought into the UFC from the RFA was James Krause, and he was brought in on three weeks notice against Sam Stout, and he ended up getting submission of the night and fight of the night on top of his regular fight (money). He got $100 grand in bonuses and that’s something that RFA looks forward to, guys going right in and doing well.”
Palmer’s debut in the RFA was Nov. 2 against Fredson Paixao, who fought in the UFC one match earlier. They faced each other on two weeks notice after their opponents dropped off the card.
The win was enough to earn Palmer a shot against Downing, the reigning champ.
Downing looked his best during the first two rounds, but Palmer wore him down and pulled out the win, despite being penalized a point in the fifth round for an accidental low blow.
“Twenty-five minutes in the cage like that, it’s more experience than any type of sparring or practice that you can do,” Palmer said. “For it to go the distance like that, the way it played out and the adversity I had to go through, the adaptation in the cage ... all that stuff plays a huge part in getting ready for the next level.
“(Rounds) 3-5 is when I pushed the cardio and picked up the pace a little bit and he wasn’t able to keep up. And he’s known for his cardio, so it’s good to be able to grind out a guy like that.”
Palmer hasn’t been contacted by the UFC and his hope that one more win is enough to get him there is just that — hope — at this point. But he does have plenty of experience with the organization through his teammates, including working in their corners on fight night.
“I cornered Urijah in his last fight in Vegas, I cornered Joe Benavidez in his last fight in San Jose (and) I cornered Chad Mendes when he knocked out Cody McKenzie,” Palmer said of three Team Alpha Male members fighting in the UFC. “So being able to corner those guys and be behind the scenes and get to know all the people that work for UFC and get my face in there ... that stuff all makes a huge difference for exposure.”
Palmer was also picked by Faber to be part of his coaching staff on last season’s MMA reality show “The Ultimate Fighter,” which pits 16 fighters against each other for a shot at a UFC contract.
Then there’s Palmer’s most beneficial brush with the UFC.
“In January we hired Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig,” Palmer said of the fighter with seven UFC bouts under his belt. “He’s one of the best strikers to ever be in the UFC, or AK1 or any striking competition. He’s the man, to say the least, and he’s been our head coach since January.
“He’s helped me make big strides in my standup game so far. There’s going to be a lot more that we will be able to work on, but he’s stepped up our whole team’s game in the last six months.”
Palmer is back home in Ohio after the latest brawl, but expects to join Ludwig and his teammates soon.
“I was a little overtrained leading up to the (last) fight because I fought five weeks before that fight,” Palmer said. “So I’m going to take a month off to heal up and relax, and then get ready to defend that belt and be 100 percent for the next fight.”
And perhaps punch his ticket to the UFC.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @ShaunBennettct on Twitter.