Lance Palmer didn’t need to join the hordes of people who sat down recently and filled out a list of resolutions.
The MMA fighter will be just fine if 2019 goes as smoothly as the previous year.
“The last year in general has been crazy because I got married in November of 2017 and 2018 has been a whirlwind,” Palmer said during a phone interview Thursday. “I can’t believe it’s over, honestly, but a lot happened during 2018 … so it’s been awesome.”
The Columbia Station native ended the year with a dominating victory that earned him the Professional Fighters League inaugural featherweight world championship and a $1 million paycheck.
Palmer dominated top-seeded Steven Siler from start to finish — using punishing leg kicks, slick takedowns and brutal ground-and-pound to easily win a unanimous decision.
“I feel like I brought one of my best packages together, it was one of my better fights,” Palmer said. “And I felt like I got one of the best Steven Silers I could have gotten from every fight I’ve studied of him during his career. I’m glad I got to fight him at his best on New Year’s Eve. Everything went exactly how I wanted to end the year, so I’m happy with that.”
Palmer improved to 17-3 as a professional mixed martial artist and is riding a six-fight win streak that stretches back to March 18, 2017. He lost by decision in that fight to Andre Harrison, then avenged that defeat in the PFL semifinals last October.
The successful run through the first PFL season didn’t happen by accident. Palmer made the decision to alter his training regimen, moving from Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif., where he’d trained since graduating from Ohio State, to Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
“I’m really happy with the way my striking has improved and I’m happy with the move that I made nine months ago,” Palmer said. “The coaches and corner men that I brought together during this season of PFL, those guys never worked together before that. Everybody usually just goes to a gym and uses the coaches that are there. I put these coaches together from all different parts of Las Vegas who’d never interacted before. So to see that come together as a coaching staff and get along and become friends, that’s more impressive to me than anything.”
Palmer’s head coach is Eric Nicksick, while he trained in striking with Eddie Barraco and in jiu jitsu with Casey Halstead.
“They helped me grow so much over the season,” Palmer said. “I felt like I was only getting better as each fight went on and I knew with that type of momentum nobody was going to be able to stop me.”
Not many have been able to stop Palmer’s wrestling. He won four state titles at St. Edward and was a four-time NCAA All-American for the Buckeyes, winning a Big Ten championship and finishing as the national runner-up his senior year.
Palmer took Siler to the ground seven times during the five-round title fight, and controlled the action while the fighters were off their feet.
“Going into the fifth round I felt like I hadn’t lost a round yet,” Palmer said. “I felt like the only way he could get a win was to squeak something out to get a finish and catch me with something. So I knew going into the fifth I had to be just as sharp as the first.”
The fight took place at Madison Square Garden and was broadcast live on NBC’s Sports Network. With the title belt and $1 million on the line, the spotlight was bigger than any Palmer had fought under before.
Thankfully, he had his wife Jessica, father Dwayne and younger brother Collin with him in New York City to help calm his nerves.
“I would take my family any day over anyone else,” Palmer said. “My dad is the most supportive person. He cares so much that it’s almost too much. My brother is the same way. When we grew up traveling together and wrestling all over the country, it was us against the world. That’s kind of how they look at it and how I look at it when they come to watch me fight. They get super nervous for me and I know they’re very passionate about our family succeeding, and that’s why I love having them there.
“My youngest brother Jordan couldn’t make it because his wife is about to have their second baby, but they watched on TV and supported me from Dallas, Texas.”
Between New York and Dallas, the victory was celebrated in Lorain County and throughout Northeast Ohio.
“I know the support was there from people from Columbia Station and people who talk to my grandparents all the time,” Palmer said. “I had people from kindergarten all the way through middle school who were happy for me, saying they watched the fight and congratulating me.
“I felt the love and that’s something that was really cool.”
The championship win automatically puts Palmer on the PFL roster for another season, and he’ll head back to Vegas in March to prepare. Until then, he’ll be working on Plan B — being a firefighter and paramedic — while spending time with his wife in their new home in Columbus.
“I’ll be 32 in February and I’m giving myself until 35 right now in MMA,” Palmer said. “So I’m working on getting all my fire certifications done in Columbus so I have something to fall back on once I’m done fighting. I did my EMT certification right before the season began last year, and I know the city of Columbus is starting to take applications for that right now, so that’s my focus right now.”
Palmer said coaching wrestling, possibly on the collegiate level, is also an option after he’s done fighting. Short-term plans include starting a family.
“That was the main reason for the move back (to Columbus) in April of 2017,” he said. “My wife and I met here and our families are in Ohio and this is the middle meeting point of where our families are. When we have kids, we plan on trying to have kids after next fall when she’s done training for Olympia for bodybuilding, we’re at that point where we don’t want to be 2,000 miles away when we have little ones and family that want to see the babies.”
So … maybe he has one resolution.