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New Year’s Eve is becoming an annual “Garden Party” for Lance Palmer, as the featherweight will throw down in his second straight Professional Fighters League championship on Dec. 31 at Madison Square Garden.
Winning a PFL championship is no easy feat, as competitors must fight twice in one day should they make it to the quarter- and semi-finals. Palmer hasn’t had any problems in that department, easily winning both fights en route to his 2018 championship victory. “The Party” repeated his success in the 2019 quarter- and semi-finals, and is in prime position to take home another belt and $1 million prize when he faces Daniel Pineda in this year’s finals.
Whether it’s facing one opponent or several in a single day, Palmer is used to the grind of tournaments. As a four-time All-American wrestler and former Big Ten Conference champion for Ohio State University, Palmer is comfortable with the PFL format due to his extensive wrestling background.
“There’s wrestling tournaments that I’ve done where I’ve wrestled eight matches in one day,” Palmer tells Muscle & Fitness. “So the playoffs wasn’t anything new to me. You get fatigued and things like that, but that’s when the training comes in,” he adds. “You’re kind of calloused to train through that and be prepared for that if it happens.”
Riding a 10-fight win streak going into his fight against Pineda, the defending featherweight tournament title holder has consistently trained at a championship-level throughout his MMA career. Palmer trains under coach Mark Henry out of New Jersey with the likes of Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez, both former UFC champions, and is used to getting into sparring matches so intense they’re pay-per-view worthy.
“I have all these guys that push me every day, and we push each other to get better,” says Palmer. “It’s like watching world title fights every round.”
Whether it’s in the gym or on a televised fight card, the key to performing like a champ, according to Palmer, is conditioning. During a typical day in fight camp, Palmer will run in the morning before taking part in a pair of morning and evening training sessions, usually consisting of sparring, jiu-jitsu or mitt work with his boxing coach. In addition to his usual training five days a week, Palmer also works with a nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach that have him on “a strict plan” to ensure his body is “burning on all cylinders.”
“It consists of some sort of resistance training on a bike, and then it’ll go to some treadmill work,” says Palmer, who does strength and conditioning work twice a week. “Then it’ll go to some sort of either metabolic weight training or some heavy weight training, depending on what part of fight camp I’m in.”
Palmer credits his improved conditioning for his recent victories, including his third-round TKO win over Luis Rafael Laurentino during the second round of this season’s PFL featherweight tournament in July.
“I finished the guy in the third round, and he clearly broke as the fight went on,” says Palmer. “You could tell he’s just not as fast with his punches and kicks and combos. And then the third round was the round that he wanted to be done, so a lot of the conditioning had to do with the pressure you’re allowed to, or able it put on your opponent.”
Recovery has become just as important to Palmer as conditioning, especially now that he’s in his thirties. These days, “The Party” makes sure to rest twice a week—once during the week and once on weekends—to recover from the grind of training.
“Two days off a week is perfect, and splitting those days up throughout the week,” says Palmer. “Some guys will train hard five days straight, take two days off in a row. But that’s not the correct way to do it, if you look at it scientifically.”
“Your body can’t recover that fast in that period,” he adds. “You’re better to put a heavy workload on for a couple of days and then take that workload off for a rest day, and then put another heavy workload on for a few days, and take another rest day. And that’s kind of what I’ve implemented over the last couple of years, and it’s definitely helped me out a lot.”
Hoping to start the New Year off with a bang, Palmer is confident that he’ll take home his second straight featherweight title and a million-dollar prize.
“I feel more confident than I have in a long time,” says Palmer. “I know that I’ve done everything I can, and I’m the most prepared that I’m ever going to be. And that’s kind of what brings on a confidence that I know I’m going to win this second season.”