Punches and kicks can break bones and cut flesh, and submissions can rip ligaments. Both can remove a person from consciousness temporarily. Yet, often the toughest opponent MMA fighters face is their own mind.
Just ask Chris Wade.
He spent the better part of five minutes with Anthony Dizy on top of him at PFL 1 last April, and his mind went to places it shouldn't go.
"I was laying on my back in the first round, and I was talking to myself in my head, I was like, ‘Really? You work this hard, and you put all this effort in for a year while you're off in COVID, and this is what's going on, like, right off the bat?' " Wade said. "You start feeling sorry for yourself a little bit. Like, you know, ‘screw this sport’ kind of deal."
Wade, a former state champion wrestler for Islip High School, was able to shake off that negativity and come back to win by unanimous decision. Wade credited his cornermen Ryan LaFlare and Gregg DePasquale of Long Island MMA in Farmingdale, for helping him snap out of that first-round funk.
He earned three points in the PFL featherweight standings, and through tiebreakers, is in fifth place. Wade will face newcomer Arman Ospanov on Thursday at PFL 4 in Atlantic City. It’s the last of two regular-season bouts in the PFL’s league structure, and only the top four fighters advance to the playoffs later this year.
Wade (18-6) is the first fight of the night, so any nerves that accompany the scoreboard watching won’t build up before his fight. He can go to the cage and operate freely without knowing exactly how many points he’d need to qualify for the playoffs and its $1 million championship prize.
"There's no pressure on the situation of what's developing and what's necessary, that kind of thing. I can just let the fight unfold," Wade said. "I'm not sitting here like, I need a first-round finish, or I need six. That's a little bit of pressure. I think, with having the three points, I can afford to find a situation where I can put this guy away in the second or even in the third, and still be in a good spot."
The division leader is Brendan Loughnane, with the maximum six points, and he faces Tyler Diamond (three points). The two other fighters tied with Wade with three points, Bubba Jenkins and Movlid Khaybulaev, are both scheduled to fight opponents with zero points.
Facing Ospanov (11-3), an opponent from Kazakhstan making his PFL debut, could give Wade an early competitive advantage, he said.
"If he wants to have any shot at continuing to compete this year, or to have a shot at that money, he’s got to come at me pretty crazy right off the jump," Wade said. "Because if he doesn't get six points, he’s got no shot at the playoffs."
"That plays into a guy like myself’s hands. One thing I can confidently say about myself is I'm a tough out. I'm there the whole fight. And you're gonna feel it when you're fighting with me. I know his style. I don't know what he thinks he's going to do. But I could see him overpursuing the first round and really not leaving himself much for the remainder of the fight, which is great for me."
Always thinking, that Chris Wade.
PFL 4 featherweight matchups
ESPN+ bouts, 7 p.m. ET
(in order of their bouts on the fight card)
Chris Wade vs. Arman Ospanov
Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Sheymon Moraes
Akhmed Aliev vs. Loik Radzhabov
Marcin Held vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Natan Schulte vs. Alexander Martinez
ESPN2 card, 10 p.m.
Brendan Loughnane vs. Tyler Diamond
Bubba Jenkins vs. Bobby Moffett
Clay Collard vs Joilton Lutterbach
Claressa Shields vs. Brittney Elkin
PFL Featherweight Standings
(Only the top four fighters will advance to the playoffs)
1. Brendan Loughnane, 6 points
2. Bubba Jenkins, 3 points
3. Movlid Khaybulaev, 3 points
4. Tyler Diamond, 3 points
5. Chris Wade, 3 points
6. Lance Palmer, 0 points
7. Sheymon Moraes, 0 points
*8. Aman Opsanov, 0 points
*9. Bobby Moffett, 0 points
*10. Jesse Stirn, 0 points
* PFL newcomers heading into PFL 4