If you're an avid reader of the "fighters to watch" and top prospect rankings, you're probably already familiar with Lance Palmer.
The four-time All-American wrestler out of Ohio State University made his intentions to pursue a career in mixed martial arts public immediately following the conclusion of his decorated collegiate career.
"The Party" Palmer took his talents to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California and the family-atmosphere of the top fight team for smaller fighters has quickly molded him into a can't-miss prospect.
After starting out his career with three wins in as many fights, Palmer went home this past weekend to take on 5-2 fighter Jon Washington in Columbus, Ohio at UVC 20 for the promotion's featherweight title. In front of friends and family for the first time, he utilized some new striking techniques en route to winning the belt.
Palmer spoke with MMAmania.com following his victory to discuss his fight strategy, the benefits of training alongside UFC talent and how close he feels he is to getting a shot against the big boys in this exclusive interview.
Check it out.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You really debuted some awesome leg kicks at your fight on Saturday. Can you talk the addition of those to your game and how effective they were in your fight?
Lance Palmer: Yeah, he switched his stance up so I knew I had to throw. I had to switch my game up a little bit because I knew his game was just gonna be reacting to my shots and my takedown attempts. I didn't want to get caught with a knee on a shot or anything. Once he switched his stance up, I just threw the leg kicks and that set up my striking and my takedowns. Once the leg kicks started working, I just kept kicking him because I knew it was hurting him. It only took about three leg kicks and I could tell he was limping a bit so then I started using them for my game throughout the rest of the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Talking to some people who were at the fight, they told me they'd never seen someone get that hurt from leg kicks that quickly. Did you just feel like you were hitting the sweet spot with each strike? What was it?
Lance Palmer: When I was in Las Vegas as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter show with Urijah Faber, I got to work with Mark Dellagrotte who's a great Muay Thai coach and the technique he showed me for leg kicks is something I'd been working on to help my game and the way I was kicking, it was damaging him badly with the first couple that I threw. I ended up throwing some slap kicks in there but the first couple were hard and they made a good thud. That's when you know you've landed a good kick.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He'll probably be limping for a couple days.
Lance Palmer: More than a couple days, it'll be a couple weeks. (laughs) It was pretty bad. I got a couple pictures of it. He came out to the locker room after the fight and he was showing us. There were welts and bruises and everything all over it.
Lance Palmer: That's exactly what Chad Mendes said. He said, "Man, that looks like Faber's leg!" He didn't check any of those kicks and that was part of his downfall in the fight. I don't think he was expecting me to throw leg kicks and he didn't know how to react to it. That's probably why it ended up that way.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One of his biggest reactions early in the fight was that he actually shot in and got you on the ground. How surprised were you that he actually tried to do that considering you were a four time All-American wrestler?
Lance Palmer: Well I wasn't really surprised that he tried to shoot because I think he was feeling uncomfortable with how things were going on the feet. He dove in and luckily I was able to scramble and roll through so he didn't get the takedown but that's the game. You've got to be ready for anybody to shoot. Just because I'm a wrestler doesn't mean that no one is ever gonna shoot on me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You finished the fight real strong getting a takedown there late. What made you want to finish the fight on the ground?
Lance Palmer: Well, I knew that I had to seal it up somehow because it was the third round. We were up on our feet and he fell from one of the leg kicks and I had to work into his guard a little bit. I wanted to get a legit takedown and seal up the end of the fight and I definitely feel like I did that.
Lance Palmer: It's great. That's why I train at Team Alpha Male because it's a great support system. It's just like a college wrestling team. They're like brothers to me. I cornered Chad in his last fight and he cornered me for this one. That's kind of what we do. We corner each other and help each other get better every day.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of the college wrestling team, your fight took place in Columbus and you got to meet up with a whole bunch of old friends that you hadn't seen in a while. How nice was that, especially after the fight where you'd won and you got to go party and hang out with everyone you hadn't seen in a while?
Lance Palmer: Yeah, it was cool. I got to see everyone and I got to see a lot of my old teammates and a lot of the guys that are on the Ohio State team now that I knew when I just graduated college. It was cool and a lot of the guys from the regional training center in the wrestling room, they were out too. It was great to get to see everybody and get to see my family too. They hadn't been able to see me live until last night. It was nice to finally be able to relax after a long day.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did it add any pressure at all coming home and being the hometown guy for the first time after spending over a year training and fighting on the west coast?
Lance Palmer: It wasn't really stressful or anything because of the that. I felt like I was the away team and Washington was the home team because he lives and trains here. For me, it was more just getting my family and friends to get to see me fight. I think it excited me more than it made it stressful.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are you like before your fights? Some fighters are really wound up and some try to get all "zen-like." Which type of fighter are you?
Lance Palmer: I get a good warm-up in and after I'm warmed up, I just want to feel relaxed going into the fight. I don't want to feel tense. My teammates do a good job of keeping it light-hearted in the locker room all the way up until fight time and that's just how our team is. We like to joke around and keep things light so it's not to stressful. That being said, when it's time to get serious, we definitely know how to do that too.
Lance Palmer: I had a big hematoma on my stomach two weeks out from that fight so I had to pull out. Hematoma's heal on their own but they just take some time. I'm gonna probably end up fighting him here in the next couple months.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you talk about the speed you've adapted to mixed martial arts? It wasn't that long ago that you declared your intentions to compete in mixed martial arts and here you are with a 4-0 record already.
Lance Palmer: Yeah, I think it's just being able to adapt for each fight and the team I train with. All the guys are top notch guys in the world. It's easy to get better if you put the time in.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With the rate that you're improving, how close do you think you are to getting a shot at one of the major promotions? You're already starting to pick up titles in the smaller promotions now.
Lance Palmer: Yeah, the title was just another stepping stone. I feel like with each fight I'm fighting better guys and taking that next step up in competition. I think it's only a matter of time until I take the next step. I'm not going to rush into it. Right now, I'm beating the guys I need to beat and once I get the call to step up, I'll take that. I feel like I'm ready right now and with the team that I have behind me, I feel like I can fight anybody at any time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you ever pay attention to the hype? There's a lot of prospect rankings out there that have you listed as one of the brightest featherweights in the world right now.
Lance Palmer: Not really. I don't really buy into that stuff too much because it's all just rankings. Even people's records are flawed because some guys fight a bunch of turds and other guys fight really good guys. You can't go by a guy's record or what somebody ranks you. You've just got to go out and beat whoever they put in front of you.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How quickly do you want to have a turnaround for your next fight? I'm assuming you got out of this last fight relatively unscathed?
Lance Palmer: It'll probably be October sometime, about eight weeks.
Lance would like to thank all his friends and family that came out, all his sponsors especially the Cleveland and Columbus area sponsors that have been with him from the first fight of his career on. It's great to have such a solid support system. You can follow him on twitter @LancePalmer.