When Team Alpha Male was beset by turmoil late last year, Lance Palmer considered jumping ship.
The well-documented departure of former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw from Urijah Faber's Sacramento gym turned into one of mixed martial arts' loudest and longest-running soap operas. One which ultimately had a spillover effect onto the rest of the gym's roster.
In Palmer's case, he was pressed into cornering Paige VanZant, Chad Mendes, and Faber in Las Vegas during the three-shows-in-three-nights run leading up to UFC 194 -- just one week before Palmer himself was scheduled to defend his World Series of Fighting featherweight title in Sin City against Alexandre Almeida.
Palmer lost his title to Almeida in an upset, and found himself pondering his future after the bizarre turn of events.
"It was a pretty messed up time," Palmer told MMAFighting.com. "I should have been winding down my training camp for my title defense, getting ready to cut weight, and all that, and instead I'm flying out to Vegas and back home and then back out to Vegas again. I was just completely mentally drained, I had no mental energy, and it showed that night in the cage. I know things just couldn't keep going on like that."
Palmer, a four-time All-American wrestler at Ohio State, took some time off after the loss, and shopped around a bit, doing some training with Colorado's Elevation (he remains friends with Dillashaw) and Albuquerque's JacksonWink.
But after making the rounds, and giving the situation in Sacramento time to settle down, he saw Team Alpha Male make constructive changes, ones which eased his pressures trying to juggle his fighting career with coaching wrestling, and decided to stay on board.
"It was real tough in the gym for awhile there because it was, like, everyone was doing their own thing," Palmer said. "But there's a new structure with the team, we've had Justin Buchholz, Chris Holdsworth, and Danny Castillo step up into coaching roles, and that means the rest of us have been able to put the emphasis on our careers and not have to worry about doing too many things."
Palmer (10-2) is ready to return to action and is looking to regain the title he lost. Palmer rematches Almeida (18-5) in the co-feature bout of Saturday night's World Series of Fighting 32 in Everett, Wash.
"My head's where it should be," Palmer said. "That's the big thing. I didn't have my best performance last time, but the issues which affected me last time have been fully addressed."
That said, it's not like it was Palmer's performance against Almeida last year at WSOF 26 was terrible, in fact, Palmer still thinks he should have gotten the nod in what was a unanimous-decision loss.
"He went to the hospital at the end of the night, Palmer said. "I didn't. I know that doesn't necessarily mean one person won the fight and one didn't, and I know I didn't have my best night in the cage. But for me to go in there during a time when my gas tank was almost empty, and still do enough in my mind to win the fight, okay, I didn't get the decision. But that tells me that I didn't have a bad game plan, I just needed to get my head right, and this time I'm coming in with my head in the right place."
And with that, Palmer hopes to help the gym keep writing it's comeback story.
"At the end of the day, I wanted to stay," Palmer said. "I don't have any issues with those who decided to leave. Everyone has to follow their own path. But I believe we're writing the next chapter at Team Alpha Male, we're the ones who saw things through to the end, and when I win my World Series of Fighting title back it will be the next chapter in that book."
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