Part of Chris Wade's mental training for mixed martial arts includes visualizing fighting his opponent inside the cage. How he moves, what he does, how Wade will defend such attacks and mount his own offense.
But when there's no opponent to go along with that scheduled fight, it makes seeing things in advance a little murky.
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"When there's no one to visualize, it's the mystery man," said Wade, a 2005 state wrestling champion for Islip High School. "It's kind of hard to start to get that thought process rolling."
Wade, a lightweight fighter, found out on Aug. 15 his new manager booked his next fight. What he didn't know that night when going to bed -- eventually -- was who he'd be fighting. But, he did know where and when and for whom it would occur. Sacramento, California. Saturday, Aug. 30. Ultimate Fighting Championship.
That made the pesky detail of who would be across from him inside the octagon at UFC 177 a little easier to digest -- once the initial excitement of getting the call to the major leagues of MMA. It's the call just about every fighter awaits, like a baseball player in Triple-A waiting to make it to the big ballpark.
The following day, Wade found out his opponent -- undefeated Cain Carrizosa (6-0), who also will make his UFC debut.
Two weeks' notice is not a lot of time to prepare for any fight, let alone one in the sport's biggest promotion. It's not uncommon either, especially for newcomers. Such a quick turnaround, however, sits fine with Wade (7-1).
"Less time to dwell on it, less time to let the whole idea of UFC kind of start to overwhelm me a little," Wade said. "It's going to happen so fast, I'm going to be looking back on it, I feel like. I'm going to blink, and it's going to be gone."
Wade had just begun training camp for his lightweight title defense at Ring of Combat on Sept. 19 when the UFC came calling. At that point, he had to quickly intensify his preparations. Time to go hard with sparring, lifting, drilling and conditioning.
"You want to be at your peak," Wade said. "When an opportunity comes around like that, it's not always going to be the ideal situation."
Wade is the ninth active fighter from Long Island in the UFC, a group that includes training partners Ryan LaFlare and Dennis Bermudez.
"It's a massive leg up," Wade said of his teammates at Long Island MMA in Lindenhurst. "I know where I am when I'm working with them."
LaFlare is undefeated in his career (11-0, 4-0 UFC). Bermudez (15-3, 7-1) has won seven straight en route to a No. 7 ranking in the featherweight division.
"It gives me so much more confidence," said Wade, 26. "I know if I can hang with them, I feel like I can hang with anybody. Every time they get a win, it's even further validation for me that I'm where I'm supposed to be."