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SportsMixed Martial Arts

LI's Chris Wade, Pat DeFranco fight for Ring of Combat title

Keith Trimble, center, of Bellmore Kickboxing Academy watches

Keith Trimble, center, of Bellmore Kickboxing Academy watches Andre Harrison (foreground) and Chris Wade spar in the cage. (Aug. 1, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Among the clichés effortlessly put forth by many professional athletes is this Seinfeldian gem of nothingness after losing a game: "We'll learn from this."

Rarely, if ever, do they actually point to a lesson in need of learning.

But here comes Islip's Chris Wade, who lost his last mixed martial arts fight, decided he'd learn from it, then learned from it, then, get this, said what he learned abut it.

"I started to do more striking, started to really try to create an emphasis of not separating each part of the sport but rather to blend them and work more on transitions to each," Wade said. "To me, it's all out the window now. It's a fight. You have to be creative, you have to be inventive."

Wade suffered his first career loss last March in World Series of Fighting. This Friday, he'll fight Shoreham's Pat DeFranco at Ring of Combat 47 in Atlantic City. The lightweight title fight will serve as the main event on a card featuring five title fights.

"When you're undefeated, it is hard to be critical of yourself," said Wade, a 2005 state wrestling champion at 140 pounds for Islip High School. "When you're beating guys and it's not even close, you think nothing needs to be fixed and everything you're doing is perfect."

Wade (5-1) wants what most up-and-coming fighters want: a spot in the UFC, the world's top MMA promotion. He's surrounded by such fighters at his gym at Long Island MMA in Farmingdale, namely Ryan LaFlare and Dennis Bermudez. Combined, Bermudez (five) and LaFlare have won their past eight UFC fights.

DeFranco's environs are virtually identical, the differences being fighter names and his gym's ZIP code. DeFranco trains under former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra in Levittown and striking coach Ray Longo in Garden City. He bumps elbows (and fists and shins) with UFC lightweight Al Iaquinta and middleweight champion Chris Weidman.

"Being around everybody, it becomes less of a dream and more of a reality," said DeFranco (4-2). "If I put my work in and do my work, I can do it too. It makes me want it even more."

Wade and DeFranco, both 26 years old, have trained with each other a couple of times in the past but not for a while. They both said they get along with each other, but they're more friendly acquaintances than friends.

But at this stage of their careers, it's not about picking opponents. Neither fighter can really turn down the chance to gain the exposure now for bigger days later. Ring of Combat, a regional promotion run by Bellmore's Lou Neglia, has sent more than 80 fighters to the UFC over the years.

That's where DeFranco wants to be. That's where Wade wants to be.

"We both want the same thing," Wade said.

On Friday night, one of them will be a step closer. The other, well, he'll have something to learn from.


Pat DeFranco vs. Chris Wade (lightweight championship)

Jason McLean vs. Julio Arce (bantamweight championship)

Keith Berish vs. Ariel Sepulveda (middleweight championship)

Adam Kantaev vs. James Jenkins (featherweight championship)

Elijah Harshbarger vs. Chris Cope (welterweight championship)

Leodegario Muniz vs. Jose Villanueva

Mike Santiago vs. Frankie Perez

Jonathan Hughes vs. Stephen Regman

Darren Mima vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Mike Elshamy vs. Oluwale Bamgbose

Allen Crowder vs. Gil Isabel

Kenny Gaudreau vs Gregor Gillespie

Long Island-based fighters include DeFranco (Serra-Longo), Wade (Long Island MMA), James Jenkins (Serra-Longo), Merab Dvalishvili (Serra-Longo) and Gregor Gillespie (Bellmore Kickboxing Academy). Chris Cope, a contestant on Season 11 of "The Ultimate Fighter" runs UFC Gym in New Hyde Park and trains with Longo and Serra as well . . . All five titles on the line Friday were vacated by fighters who moved on to the UFC after winning the Ring of Combat belt.

New York Sports