The label "prospect" gets tossed around quite often in mixed martial arts.
Sometimes it's a word that refers to a young fighter at a gym where the coach just raves about this particular student as the next big thing. Maybe it's a newcomer in the UFC who comes out in their first fight and sets the world on fire with a debut performance.
For Lance Palmer, he's heard the word prospect since before he started high school, and the label has never fallen off him.
A wrestling prodigy since he was a kid, Palmer has never known life without cameras in his face or stories being written about him for one reason or another.
A four-time state high school wrestling champion in Ohio, Palmer even had a documentary filmed about him titled Pinned, which chronicled the hard struggles wrestlers go through even at that young of an age.
Palmer then moved to The Ohio State University where he became a four-time All-American, a rare feat indeed, and again the pressure amped up on him every day he stepped on campus and put his singlet on before hitting the mats.
Now fully transitioned for MMA, Palmer is 5-0 as a professional fighter working out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento. Palmer is now training alongside proven veterans like Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez, and the term "prospect" has landed squarely on his shoulders once again.
"It's cool to be known to be a top prospect or whatever, but to me it's about getting to that next level," Palmer told MMA's Great Debate Radio earlier this week. "I mean you can be a top prospect and still not make any money and still be struggling. It will be nice once I get to that next level and get to a point where I can support myself financially with this. It's good to have that little bit of notoriety with being a prospect and people know who I am a little bit."
If fans don't know his name already, they will soon enough.
Palmer will compete at Showdown Fights on Friday night in Utah before moving on to a title fight on June 21 for Resurrection Fighting Alliance. If both fights end in victory and thus move his record to a perfect 7-0, it's likely Palmer will then immediately start fielding calls from promotions like the UFC and Bellator.
"I've kind of always thought of the next level and the next step up of where I want to go, and what I want to do," Palmer commented. "At this point it's about winning these fights dominantly and just progressing myself as a fighter. If I get put into Bellator or the UFC I want to be ready. I want to be in there and go right into the mix. I want to be ready when I get there.
"If I go out there with that mentality in these next couple fights, then these guys are not going to be able to touch me. That's the goal, and I think that's the goal of everyone to get to that level, and I feel like I'm getting there."
Expectation can be tricky in MMA because as much as it can build a fighter up, it can just as easily tear them down when they don't succeed. Palmer isn't worried about having too much expectation heaped on him because no one can ask him to do more than what he already expects of himself.
"For me it's not a thing of pressure, it's what it's been my entire life. People expect me to win, I expect to win dominantly," Palmer stated. "I always put more pressure on myself than anybody else can. In the end, it comes down to going out there and having fun and perform at my best. If I have fun and perform my best, no one's going to beat me."
Palmer's philosophy and mental makeup have served him well as an athlete since well before he was old enough to even drive a car. If he can maintain that same level of stability and continue to physically best his opponents, Palmer will probably find his name on a UFC contract sometime this summer.
Then the pressure and expectations of being a top prospect in the UFC start all over again for Palmer, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
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