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SportsMixed Martial Arts

How the PFL's season format led to a new and improved Chris Wade

The Islip-raised Wade no longer has to wait and hope for a fight, leading to a more carefree approach inside the cage.

Islip's Chris Wade reacts to his win over

Islip's Chris Wade reacts to his win over Yuki Kawana in a PFL 5 lightweight bout at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on Aug. 2, 2018. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Chris Wade is a professional mixed martial arts fighter. He likes other sports, as well, and frequently discusses such things on his Twitter account, going against the grain of most in his chosen line of work.

So, the Islip-raised Wade understands exactly how the Professional Fighters League’s format of a regular season and playoffs works. It makes perfect sense. Fighters earn points for wins and finishes. Those points create a standings table for the dozen fighters in each weight class. Those at the top of the standings advance to the postseason.

What Wade, 31, didn’t realize until he went through it last year was just how much things would change for him physically, mentally and financially.

“It helped me get out of the gym for a little bit and focus on myself mentally and physically,” said Wade, who reached the semifinals of PFL’s first season last year. “It let me kind of disconnect for a little bit. Maybe not every fighter is like this. I feel like I’ll go away and work on myself in that way, and I’ll come back and I’ll be smoking people. I feel better.”

After being “in season” for close to six months, Wade returns from the offseason this week. He begins his second PFL season on Thursday when he faces fellow lightweight Nate Andrews at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum for PFL 2. He has known the date of his fight for several months and he already knows when he fights next (July 25 at PFL 5 in Atlantic City). Freeport’s Andre Harrison also fights at PFL 2 in the featherweight division.

Gone are the days of waiting for Wade. The weeks. The months. Wade made his UFC debut on Aug. 30, 2014, and fought seven times in three years, culminating at UFC Long Island at the Coliseum on July 22, 2017. He had to wait 10 months for that last fight, and he was injury-free.

That constant concern about when the next fight, and its corresponding paycheck, would arrive weighed on Wade (14-5), a homeowner on Long Island and father to 5-year-old daughter Haleigh.

“It was literally crippling me in the cage,” Wade said. “Then when I finally do get a fight, I have all these debts. So, my sole focus is to get my hand raised, not to be the best me.”

It took him one fight in the PFL to change everything, to submit that attitude and fight carefree.  He lost to Natan Schulte by unanimous decision at PFL 5 in Chicago last year. If that was a UFC fight, Wade may have had to start thinking about whether or not he’d get another fight in the world’s largest and most well-known promotion. In the PFL, thought, it was akin to losing a football game in the middle of the season. Sure, it’s less than ideal, but you know there’s another game, or fight, coming up.

“After that Chicago fight, I did soul searching,” Wade said. “I said either you kill off this person that you keep allowing to go into the cage and represent you, or you walk away from this. I decided to hell with this. This is a fight. The ref says go, that’s it. This isn’t a friendly thing. It’s just not. I have respect for people who do it. But, you’re in there trying to hurt me, I’m in there trying to hurt you, and I’m going to get to you first.”

That’s exactly what happened in his next fight, and it was clear within the opening seconds. Wade sprinted toward his opponent, launched into the air with his left foot extended. The foot grazed Yuki Kawana’s shoulder, but Wade’s forward momentum led to the knockdown via thigh. Still, the flying kick sent a message. This was the new Chris Wade.

It also has become a focal point of PFL’s social media marketing campaign. That flying kick was edited together with another viral video of a young girl landing a flying kick to her little brother at home in front of her parents.

“I wish I had a nickel for every time it played,” Wade said of his kick. “I hope I didn’t inspire that particular kick for those two kids.”

He didn’t. That clip existed on YouTube well before the PFL season started.

“I’m just so appreciative to the PFL,” said Wade, adding that he made more money last year than ever before in MMA. “This is what I always envisioned. I always thought I was a marketable person. I thought I was athletic. I thought I could do things other guys can’t do at my weight.”

PFL 2 fight card

On ESPN2, 7-9 p.m.

Featherweight: Steven Siler vs. Gadzhi Rabadanov

Featherweight: Damon Jackson vs. Movlid Khaybulaev

Featherweight: Alexandre Bezerra vs. Jeremy Kennedy

Lightweight: Natan Schulte vs. Bao Yincang

On ESPN+, 9 p.m.-midnight

Lightweight: Rashid Magomedov vs. Loik Radzhabov

Lightweight: Islam Mamedov vs. Ylies Djiroun

Featherweight: Alexandre Almeida vs. Luis Rafael Laurentino

Lightweight: Akhmed Aliev vs. Carlao Silva

Lightweight: Ramsey Nijem vs. Ronys Torres

Featherweight: Andre Harrison vs. Peter Petties

Lightweight: Chris Wade vs. Nate Andrews

Featherweight: Lance Palmer vs. Alex Gilpin

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