LI’s Chris Wade almost quit MMA. He is now back in the PFL and ready to fight.
For nearly three weeks in his hotel room in Atlantic City paid for by someone else, Chris Wade enjoys a beautiful view of the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. Not too shabby for the 33-year-old mixed martial artist from Islip.
But it’s bubble life for Wade, where such amenities offer nothing but a sight as he spends his time within the confines of the Ocean Resort Casino honing his skills and reducing his weight for his first PFL Season 3 game on Friday.
“I swear to you, I haven’t been out since April 6,” Wade said recently.
If the background for the pandemic seems a little brighter to Wade, that’s because it is. The coronavirus put the sport on hiatus in March 2020, and a month later the PFL postponed its season to 2021. That left Wade with no one to fight. When New York City gyms were closed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, it left Wade with no one to train or teach Long Island MMA. Wade, like millions of Americans, was unemployed.
We tend not to think of MMA fighters in these terms, as more often than not they only fight two or three times a year. But without fights, no fight scholarship came for Wade. And with no private lessons or lessons to lead, there was no additional income for several months.
“I’m gnawing at money that I thought I would be in there and grow for the rest of my career,” said Wade, who has a 7-year-old daughter named Haleigh. “It was a blessing to have it, but I basically ate the majority to pay my bills and stay afloat.
Uncertainty as to whether gyms will reopen and when his next fight will – or could be – Wade (17-6, 5-3 PFL) considered putting his combat gear in the closet in exchange for regular employment with stable income, benefits and a longer earning window than MMA.
“There was a lot of soul-searching to be done,” Wade said. “I almost gave up the sport a few times. I had some pressure from people in my life to go in another direction. And I was really about to do it. some nights I lay there and just said, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ “
Ultimately, however, it was how he answered a different question.
“I had to ask myself, will I constantly live with regrets if I walk away from it?” Said Wade. “And for me, the answer was, yes.”
Wade said he heard from the PFL in February about his return for Season 3. He credited Ray Sefo, PFL president of combat operations, with championing Wade’s return. There was going back and forth as to whether it would be at lightweight, where he’s competed his entire career, or dropping 10 pounds at featherweight.
Wade eventually landed in the featherweight division, a weight class so far led by two-time defending champion Lance Palmer (22-3, 10-0). The first for Wade is Frenchman Anthony Dizy (13-3) on Friday night.
Each fighter gets two regular season games where he earns points based on the result. A win is three points, but bonus points for saves per round (three points for Round 1, two points for Round 2, one point for Round 3). The top four fighters advance to the playoffs, up from eight in previous seasons. Also finish both fights in one night in the playoffs.
“I was in a bubble. I couldn’t see my daughter, I’m with people who, you know, didn’t necessarily believe in me,” Wade said. “And unfortunately, like this guy, he might be a nice guy. But he has to pay for all of this because he’s the only one I can get away with right now.”