How Do MMA Fighters Recover?

After a fight, fighters deal with more aches and pains than you can ever imagine. This is why their recovery is so important as they only fight 2-3 times a year.

In this article we'll go over all of the different methods that fighters use in order to recover quickly and efficiently, and how they recover after injuries as well.

Without Sustaining Major Injury

Recovering is a lot easier when fighters don't sustain a major injury as they don't have to deal with rehabilitation and physical therapy.

Fighters use a variety of different methods to recover and they are all effective, it just comes down to preference.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy targets the soft tissue muscles. The way it works is simple, they'll lay on a massage table (with a towel covering them) and the massage therapist will target certain parts of the body to provide relief.

massage therapy

This is a very effective method that fighters use to recover, the only downside is they aren't able to do this immediately after a fight.

They typically will have to wait until they get home and/or pass all of their medical clearances.

Massage Benefits:

  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Increased mobility and flexibility in the joints
  • Improved soft tissue muscle recovery
  • Increase circulation in blood and lymph
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced stress
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety and depression

Deep Tissue Massage Gun

A massage gun is a hand held tool that you can use to imitate the methods used by massage therapists from the comfort of your home, or anywhere for that matter.

Fighters can use this at any time, which is the main reason for its popularity.

How it Works

It uses percussive therapy to hit the focused muscle repeatedly, a few times a second.

These massage guns come in different speeds, which allows you to work your way up, or tone it down depending on your tolerance.

Price Range

Massage guns can range from $50 and go all the way up to near $1,000 depending on the quality and brand.

Although this may initially sound like a lot of money, it is a lot cheaper than a weekly or monthly massage therapy session.

A lot of fighters will actually use this to compliment their massage therapy sessions, as they cannot always get them scheduled due to their busy traveling schedule.

Ice Bath

Ice bath is a method that has been used for decades.  It helps sore muscles, the central nervous system, & inflammation.

ice bath

The UFC Performance Institute contains a cold plunge tub which means fighters are able to conveniently use them.

How it Works

You immerse yourself all the way in the bath, where only your head is showing. You'll have to stay there for 10-15 minutes before getting out.

You may think "That's really not a long time". Well you're right in normal terms. However, inside an ice bath 10 minutes will feel like 10 hours quickly.

Where it Can be Done

An ice bath can be done anywhere that has a tub, a pool, or even in cold weathered areas.

Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz below demonstrated his 'Polish Bath' by digging and creating his own ice bath.

Acupuncture

Per UC San Diego School of Medicine, Acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process.

acupuncture

This occurs by stimulating specific anatomic sites--commonly referred to as acupuncture points, or acupoints by inserting sterile needles into the skin.

Session Length

A session can last from 20 minutes to 1 hour depending on your experience with acupuncture, pain level of affected areas and comfort level.

Cupping

Cupping is an ancient type of alternative method that was noticeably brought back to the national spotlight after Michael Phelps looked like he was attacked by an Octopus at the Olympics.

michael phelps cupping

It is a form of deep tissue massage that aims to reduce inflammation, promote bloodflow, and relaxation.

Now elite athletes from all sports commonly use this method as well.

How it Works

A therapist will put a flammable substance (herbs, alcohol or paper) and set it on fire.

When the fire begins going out, they insert it into a cup and put the cup upside down on the skin.

Once the air inside of the cup begins cooling a vacuum is created.

This causes your blood vessels to expand and your skin to eventually become very red (later on purple).

Duration

The cup can be left in place on the focused area for 2-3 minutes.

 

Anti Inflammatory Medication

Fighters will also take supplements to aid their recovery or anti inflammatory medication.

Advil, Marijuana, CBD

Why Fighters Would Take These?

Now of course after a fight, the adrenaline begins wearing off and fighters begin to feel pain.

These are all medications such as CBD can be taken orally and that kick in almost immediately providing instant relief.

After fights, fighters need to see the UFC doctor to get checked out and sometimes they are even transported to the hospital, depending on the severity of injuries.

This means that they don't have time to do other methods mentioned on this list, but they can take these medications in the meantime.

Hyperbaric chamber

This chamber is used to speed up the healing of stubborn wounds and infections.

The whole point of this chamber is to breathe in oxygen that contains air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times the average, which can fill the blood with enough oxygen to restore the tissues.

hyperbaric chamber

Unique

This method is more unique as it's not healing the traditional sore or strained muscles. It's actually dealing with open wounds.

Luke Rockhold dealing with a staph infection along with a skin graft not healing is the first thing that comes to mind where this could have helped.

More Generic Recovery

Eating After a Weight Cut

This section isn't necessarily after a fight, it has more to do with recovering prior to a fight.

When fighters have to make their fighting weight class for their bout, their body suffers the consequences.

Fighters will get a few big meals in after making weight, to replenish their energy levels prior to the fight.

eating after weight cut

Rehydration

Fighters will sweat so much during a fight, and even backstage during warm ups.

Throughout a fight, they're pushing their bodies mentally and physically to their limits especially if it goes the full distance.

It's important that they recover by rehydrating with water, gatorade, just fluids in general.

drink water

Sleep

Too much sleep never hurt anybody right? There have been many studies done where a lack of sleep affects testosterone levels directly.

Fighters will need to ensure that they prioritize their sleep to enhance their recovery as testosterone has a direct effect on their life.

When Sustaining Major Injury

When a fighter sustains a major injury that is going to keep him out for a prolonged time, they will have to endure several doctor visits, potential surgery, rehabilitation, no physical contact allowed, etc.

mma surgery

The list goes on and on, but the point is that they will not only have to deal with all of those things, all of the different recovery methods mentioned above become more complicated.

Why? If you've ever filled out a questionnaire for a massage, they will ask you all sorts of personal questions regarding injury history, surgery history etc.

You may be having certain pain in one area, but it cannot get worked on due to an injury that you're currently recovering from.

MMA fighters who become injured are at a massive disadvantage as they will have to take additional daily steps than an uninjured fighter just to be able to recover within a decent time frame.