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SportsMixed Martial Arts

For LI's Chris Wade, it's about the PFL title, not the million bucks

Chris Wade during a training session at Long

Chris Wade during a training session at Long Island MMA in Farmingdale on Aug. 17, 2021, ahead of his next fight in the PFL semifinals. Credit: Newsday/Mark La Monica

Don’t show him the money. At least not yet.

"I’ve purposely not asked," Islip’s Chris Wade said about his paycheck for next Friday’s semifinal bout in the Professional Fighters League. "I say that because I know the million dollars is the title. I’m so fixated that I don’t care about what any of the other things are."

Wade has been here twice before. And after losing in the PFL semifinals the past two seasons, he found comfort in the fact that, well, he still received a pretty nice payday.

Not this year.

He’s focused on the big check at the end of these playoffs. The one with the six zeroes and two commas. The one that’s comedically oversized for the photo op.

"I don’t want to be content with like, ‘Oh, it’s actually a substantial amount of money,’ and put a thing in my head like if it didn’t go your way, you actually still did pretty well. No," Wade said. "I think I was there a little bit at one point, the last year. I was having talks with myself, ‘Oh it was still a good night.’ No! I have to want more. I can’t be content like that."

Wade, the No. 2 seed after the two-fight regular season, will face No. 3 Bubba Jenkins in the PFL featherweight semifinals at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. The fight will air on ESPN2, starting at 10 p.m. The winner faces the Brendan Loughnane-Movlid Khaybulaev winner in the $1 million championship round on Oct. 27.

That would be a good night, indeed, for the 33-year-old Wade, who also co-owns apparel company Island Strong, the Loyal to the Soil beer brand and Long Island MMA’s second location in Islip.

But first he must get past Jenkins (16-4), a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler and 2011 national champion while at Arizona State. A longtime Bellator fighter, the 33-year-old Jenkins is on a five-fight win streak. In his first season in the PFL, Jenkins decisioned two-time defending champion Lance Palmer and Bobby Moffett to reach the playoffs. Wade (19-6) decisioned Anthony Dizy to open this season and then recorded his first career knockout when he stopped Arman Ospanov in the second round.

Wade will enter this year’s semifinal unlike the way he did the past two years. Fresh. Unharmed. Not exhausted. In the PFL’s first two seasons, eight fighters advanced to the playoffs and they competed in the quarterfinals and semifinals on the same night. This year, four advanced to the postseason.

"It’s so much different. All the people that ask me, either they don’t realize or they don’t think that it’s a big deal to them," Wade said. "But all those other times where I lost to someone in the semifinal, I had already competed that night and won. And won pretty convincingly. And people don’t understand what that does to your body when you win and then you crash. You used a lot of wrestling or something, your arms are gassed out, your body doesn’t want to warm up and go again."

Wade (19-6) is 7-3 in the three seasons of the PFL. (The PFL uses a traditional sports league format with a two-fight regular season, playoffs and championship.) Two of those losses were in the semifinals in the second fight of the night, losing to Natan Schulte in 2018 and Loik Radzhabov in 2019, both by decisions. The Schulte loss was a split decision where Wade outstruck him almost 3-to-1 and had the same amount of ground time.

Wade’s lone loss in the regular season, where they fight once a night like most every other MMA event, came in his first PFL fight, also against Schulte, who won the PFL championship in both 2018 and 2019.

"I like myself and my chances to give everything that I have in a one-off bout," Wade said. "I’ll take myself all day."

New York Sports