How Long Do MMA Fights Last? | Normal Fights & Champion Fights
In this page we'll go over how long MMA fights last, how to know when it is 3 rounds vs 5 rounds, and how it has changed through the course of history.
Table of Contents
How Long is a Round of MMA
Ever since the Unified Rules of MMA was agreed upon in the 2000's, all rounds in MMA are 5 minutes long.
'Normal' fights are considered non-championship, and non-main event fights, and in these fights they're 3 rounds long.
3 rounds of 5 minutes is 15 minutes in total, if the fight goes the distance.
This wasn't always the case. In fact, in 2011, Dana White implemented the policy that all main events will be 5 round fights from that moment on.
Championship Fights vs Normal Fights
Championship fights have 2 additional rounds, resulting in 5 rounds total of 5 minute rounds.
5 rounds of 5 minutes is 25 minutes in total fight time.
|Championship Fight||Non-Main Event Fight|
|5 Rounds x 5 Minutes||3 Rounds x 5 Minutes|
|25 minutes in Total||15 Minutes in Total|
You'll often hear commentators mentioning that the fighters are now entering the 'Championship Rounds' and they are referring to the 4th and 5th round.
This is a big deal, as the only way that fighters can experience this is by actually fighting for the title, or being the main event of the night.
Regardless of how often they train for this, it's an entire different game when they enter into those last two rounds during the fight.
'True champions' will try to ramp up the pace of the fight in the final 2 rounds, in order to try to break their opponent/take advantage of their opponent never having been in that (live) situation before.
Time in Between Rounds
Fighters receive a 1 minute break in between rounds.
In this break, they are able to sit on the stool, receive corner advice, drink water, receive 'treatment' for their wounds (cold compression), and they are able to be cleaned/wiped off via towel.
In a championship fight they'll have five 1 minute breaks (5 minutes total), and in non-championship fights, they'll have three 1 minute breaks (3 minutes total).
Overall, a 1 minute break in between rounds isn't a lot of time. A fighter is trying to catch his breath, while having to stay still to get treatment on their superficial wounds, and receive corner advice.
Fighters have some of the toughest jobs on earth, both physically and mentally.
Exceptions to the Rule
Like any rule, there will always be exceptions, and it is no different here. There have been cases where a UFC main event was 3 rounds for that specific night.
UFC on Fuel TV 1
When Jake Ellenberger fought Diego Sanchez in Sweden 10+ years ago, it was a 3 round main event.
Sweden has a max time limit on it's fights, which is 15 minutes. They legally could not make it a 5 round fight. Dana has said after the Ellenberger fight that all Fuel and FX main events will be 5 rounds, but they couldn't make the Sweden one 5 rounds due to the local laws.
Another example is in UFC 234, where the original main event (Robert Whittaker) was forced out of the fight due to a twisted and collapsed bowel.
The original co-main event was Anderson Silva vs Israel Adesanya, which was moved up to be the main event. However, due to the extreme short notice, the fight remained a 3 round affair.