With confidence and purpose, Chris Wade wore the black and gold PFL jersey at last month’s press conference.
These are the championship colors for the PFLs, the colors designated for the men and women who have advanced through the regular season and play-off games to claim the PFL Championship belt and the colossal million-dollar check.
But this was an event to promote the Six Championship Matches, which was still a month away at that point, so why was Wade who grew up on Islip the only potential millionaire who would rock black and gold?
“I really live that championship mentality,” Wade, 34, told Newsday. “I’m really trying to get the word out, and walk the path. I want to reinforce in my subconscious that I’m a champ, that I’m the best in the department.”
Wade gets a chance to prove it Wednesday night when he faces undefeated Russian fighter Movlid Khipulaev (18-0-1, 1 no contest) at the featherweight championships in Hollywood, Florida.
The clothing selection highlighted Wade’s new fighting mindset in his third season with the PFL after three years in the UFC and three years prior on his way to the MMA regional circuit.
It is more focused. more determined. More goal oriented.
“I’ve been striving for a long time to be mediocre in this sport, I think, on purpose,” Wade said. “I’ve reached every goal I set for myself. I’d like to tell you, ‘Yeah, I want to be the UFC champ,’ but secretly I’m going back from a fight thinking how great it would be if I could just be in the top 15 and then keep getting paid, keep going Get these checks, and I’ll be fine. I didn’t seek that extra level. I was just looking for relief, I guess.”
no more. Marginalized throughout 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic — the PFL canceled its entire season, and New York gyms closed for months — Wade was forced to look internally. Did he still want this for a career? Is it time to put MMA to bed and start a new career that is longer lasting and less physically demanding? Wade (20-6) decided to take it back.
“PFL helped me reset myself,” he said. “There is no hiding anything in politics because the season is going forward. And you have to get to that end result. I love it. It has put some burden on me. Do I want to be the best? Do I want to be the best? Champion? This whole thing has revitalized me.” I was on the verge of giving up the sport. The COVID all wiped out everyone. I went a year without making a dollar.”
Wade barely made it to the PFL roster this season. He competed in the lightweight in the 2018 and 2019 seasons of the NFL, reaching the semi-finals both times, but that wasn’t an option after PFL signed former UFC champion Anthony Pettis.
Featherweight became an option, but it certainly wasn’t just handed to him. Wade was the last 10 featherweight fighters to be announced for the season, and it wasn’t done alphabetically.
“I’ve always known that Chris has all the potential to be a champion,” said Ray Sevo, president of combat relations for the Veterans Association. “He did play-offs in season one. I didn’t see that full potential in season two. And you know, after season two, we weren’t really sure if we were going to bring him back.”
Sefo said he walked out of conversations with Wade in the off-season believing in Wade’s verbal promise to keep his combat promise.
“The tune I heard was about being a hero,” Sevo said. “It was about showing him that he could prove everyone wrong.”
Wade held off his end of the bargain so far. In the regular season, he defeated Anthony Daisy by unanimous decision, then scored the first knockout of his career against Arman Usbanov. Wade earned enough points (7) to advance to the semi-finals of the Professional Football League. There, Wade dominated Bubba Jenkins, outperforming the former NCAA wrestler.
“That’s the kind of skill, the kind of will I see in Chris, and then the reason why I really struggled for him to be in season this year,” Sefo said. “He showed everyone that he can make it to the championship.”
Chris Wade’s Road to the 2021 PFL Championship
April 23: defeated Anthony Daisy by unanimous decision
June 10: Arman Usbanov was sent off at 2:13 of the second round
Semi-finals: Beat Bubba Jenkins by unanimous decision on August 27
championship: Opposite Movlid Khaybulaev on October 27
PFL Championship Fight Card
Main card, 8PM ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+
Women’s Lightweight Championship: Kayla Harrison vs. Taylor Guardado
Lightweight Championship Ray Cooper III vs. Magomed Magomedkerimov
Women’s Lightweight Show: Clarissa Shields vs. Abigail Montes
Heavyweight Championship: Bruno Capelloza vs. Ante Déliga
Featherweight Championship: Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Chris Wade
Prelims, 4:30 p.m. on ESPN+
Light Heavyweight Championship: Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Marthyn Hamlet
Lightweight Show: Loik Radzhabov vs. Rauch Manview
Middleweight show: Omari Akhmedov vs. Jordan Young
Women’s Lightweight Show: Julia Budd vs. Caitlin Young
Lightweight Show: Don Madge vs. Nathan Williams