After winning his second straight $1 million prize and inking a new multi-fight contract, Lance Palmer was probably one of the PFL’s biggest fans.
Now seven months later, the two-time featherweight champion is asking for his release from the promotion in a public fight that’s turned personal.
According to the four-time All-American wrestler from Ohio State, his initial issues with PFL started after the promotion announced that the entire 2020 season would be scrapped due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The PFL would then return to action sometime in spring 2021 to stage its third season.
At the time the announcement was made, PFL also stated that fighters under contract would receive a monthly stipend “throughout 2020” to help support them and their families. Palmer signed his new deal with PFL this past December.
“We knew that once they cancelled the season there would be no season, but now it’s at a point where everyone else is fighting,” Palmer explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “You’re talking LFA, Titan Fight, every small organization all the way up to ONE FC and UFC and we’re sitting here with no plan to even have one fight this year. That’s what my gripe was about.”
At 33, Palmer is arguably in the prime of his career and sitting out for 18 months isn’t ideal for any athlete.
Issues were only compounded when the PFL added that fighters would receive this monthly stipend to help offset the loss of a salary for 18 months but Palmer says what was actually offered to them was wholly inadequate. More than anything, Palmer just wanted to fight but at least if he was going to be sidelined for over a year, he hoped the organization would at least compensate the athletes for lost wages.
“I’m not getting paid to sit there and wait,” Palmer said. “The amount that they were offering everybody was ridiculous anyway. $1,000 a month for five months.
“It’s not even $1,000 a month for 18 months. I mean $1,000 a month, I don’t care how rich or poor you are, that’s not enough money to pay your bills.”
Based solely on those issues, Palmer was already upset with his situation at PFL but this past Friday essentially burned whatever bridge was left between them.
On the PFL’s official Twitter account, the organization released a statement regarding social media posts made by Wayne Palmer, who is Lance Palmer’s father, saying “we are aware that PFL was tagged in social media in connection with repulsive posts made by Wayne Palmer towards the black community. We stand in solidarity with the black community and the PFL does not condone in any way racist or misogynistic views.”
Wayne Palmer’s Instagram account is private, and the PFL never explained any specific posts they were responding to with the statement.
For his part, the reigning PFL featherweight champion isn’t condoning or justifying whatever his father said on social media, but regardless of the content of those posts, he has absolutely no idea why the organization decided to address it at all.
“They’re salty about me coming out in the media about it because none of the other fighters would and then they post something on Friday saying they were tagged in my dad’s Instagram account saying that he posted something they don’t agree with,” Palmer said.
“If it’s not more clear that they’re reaching for something at this point, I don’t know what is. One, my dad’s not employed by PFL and two, his beliefs and thoughts aren’t my beliefs and thoughts so I don’t know how you can tie those two together in any way.”
Palmer says he was alerted of plans to respond to his father’s Instagram posts by PFL president Ray Sefo, and while he holds no ill will towards the former K-1 champion, he never understood why they were having a conversation about this in the first place.
“PFL was tagged in one of his posts, I don’t know which one, Ray [Sefo] called me and said ‘we have to make a statement cause we were tagged in this post’ and I’m like what does that have to do with anything?” Palmer said. “The UFC gets tagged in posts everyday. You never see them make a statement about somebody that has no affiliation or an employee. It’s really weird.
“They didn’t even mention me in that statement either. So everybody in the comments section on that post is really confused and nobody really understands. I’ve gotten messages from all the fighters, the list of people goes on and on from PFL and people who’ve been released by PFL, how they have my back in this whole thing and they’re glad I’m talking because not a lot of people in PFL are saying anything.”
What was initially just a fight about being shelved for 18 months, and not receiving proper compensation, has now turned into a much more serious battle in Palmer’s mind because the promotion decided to go after his father.
“Honestly, it was only the fact that they were going to sit everybody for 18 months until Friday when they posted that statement about my dad, which has nothing to do with anything,” Palmer said. “If they’re so focused on what my dad’s private Instagram is saying, not even about them, this has nothing to do with them at all. So I have no idea what they’re trying to do at this point but they’re not focused on setting up a show, that’s for sure.
“Honestly, at this point with the defamation of character and slander with that last post and all of the things going on with that, I honestly just want my release so I can go elsewhere. I’m out on a job right now. I’m working. It’s not like I’m sitting at home asking for a free paycheck. But if you’re going to hold me and not release me, I at least want to get paid fairly for 18 months, not for five months. That’s a slap in the face.”
PFL has released several fighters from their roster since the 2020 season was first delayed but none of the athletes who were let out of their contracts were defending champions.
Palmer knows it’s not going to be an easy fight to secure his release but that’s ultimately what he wants. Between past grievances and now worrying for the safety of his family after his father was mentioned in that social media post, Palmer just doesn’t see how his relationship with PFL can be salvaged.
“I think that’s probably the best option for them at this point to be honest,” Palmer said with hopes that the PFL would release him. “I don’t really see a way to mend that situation when they bring somebody’s family members into it. My dad has nothing to do with contract negotiations or the way I feel about the season being cancelled or anything else. We’re looking into it right now. I really don’t feel comfortable fighting for them knowing that they’re not fighting for me. That’s kind of where I’m at.
“I just want to fight. That’s what it comes down to. At this point, I’m just not comfortable continuing with them.”