How to be a MMA Fighter
Being a MMA fighter is a long, but rewarding road if you're able to make it to the top.
We'll cover in depth what you will need to do to get there, and what others before you have done to reach their goals.
Choosing your Martial Art
Back in the day you would join one gym and they would only teach one specific martial art, and if you wanted to learn more than that you would need several martial art memberships.
Luckily most schools today offer programs that allow bundles. Most programs will offer you one program price, or several programs all into one price, along with how many times a week your membership allows you to come in.
As long as you go to a reputable gym, you will have no issues whatsoever.
If you are unsure on which martial arts you should choose, we'd recommend reading our Martial Arts guide that details each martial art along with what it is about.
Joining a MMA Gym
The best way to get better at something is by doing it.
You don't have to join a powerhouse gym right away, you just need to get started. You'll always be able to transition into another gym down the line.
There are many good local gyms that you can find, you'll just want to ensure that you've done your research and compared all of them prior to joining.
Luckily, google makes this easy as they provide reviews of each gym submitted by google users.
The average cost of a gym membership is about $100 a month. This typically does not include equipment that is needed to train.
Oftentimes you'll be able to have your membership costs reduced at a % if you're willing to shell out upfront money to pay in full.
That may sound like a lot but there are typically incentives of 5%-20% off the full price when paying in full.
How Many Classes Should you Take Each Week?
It all varies by your situation. Getting into MMA can be a big culture shock for most people as it's a completely different world than they are accustomed to.
Ease Into it
The best approach is to ease into it at the minimum amount of classes you are able to take. Let's say for example it is 2 days a week, once you become accustomed to this you can up your workload to 3, then 5 etc.
The benefit of this is your body (and mind) can gradually adjust to all of the different movements, drills, positioning, and even type of fitness.
Adjusting to Different Fitness
It's a completely different game in terms of fitness when you're grappling vs when you're lifting weights for examples. Your forearms will be completely shot after a hard grappling session even if you are in excellent gym condition.
Does this mean you're out of shape? No. It just means that your body has not yet adapted to this particular type of fitness!
Although you'll be receiving the bulk of your conditioning from actual MMA activities, you'll also want to allocate some time to the weight room and even getting your miles in via running or biking.
Throughout the history of combat sports, conditioning has been a huge factor in becoming the best. Although running had been the main conditioning factor for fighters in the past, biking has now become a go-to activity for fighters as well.
Running gives you the flexibility to be able to do practically anywhere, and all that you need are running shoes.
The downside to this is your muscles receive much more trauma and take longer to heal.
Whereas biking is more pricey, as you'll need an actual bike and even biking clothes and a helmet to safely travel long distances.
However on the upside, it's very low impact and its something that you can do much more frequently without exposing yourself to injuries.
MMA fighters use a variety of different recovery methods after a fight, but they will also take specific supplements to speed up their recovery mentally and physically.
A well balanced nutritious and healthy diet cannot be out trained. Even if you're working out 7 days a week, but have a terrible diet, you'll naturally impact yourself in a negative way.
You can still be improve, but the rate at which you improve can not reach its full potential.
Like any other sport, it's all about getting repetitions in day in and day out. Sparring is something that is crucial as it'll simulate a fight, however none of the fighters are necessarily going 100%.
In avenues like these, you'll be able to 'try out' the new skills that you've been developing through drill work, and tie them into what already works for you.
And if you're a complete beginner, this is where you'll start from the ground up and figure out what you're comfortable doing, what works and what doesn't.
Too Much Sparring
At the same time, you don't want to spar too much as this can hinder your performance and expose you to unnecessary trauma and injuries before even having your fight.
Max Holloway is an example of this as he famously has stopped sparring, but yet has had the best performances of his career.
He explains that he has been doing this for such a long time, that eventually he got to the point where he was being compromised in fights just from sparring.
He mentioned that he knows how to spar, so at this point of his career it's more about drilling and keeping his technique and reflexes sharp, while saving himself from unnecessary injuries.
Avoiding Making the Same Mistake
One of the keys to being a high performer in any field is not making the same mistake twice.
Learning from whatever mistake you have made will advance you so much further than any 'shortcut' that anyone tells you about.
Think about this scenario:
Fighter1 makes the same mistakes day in and day out, week in and week out.
Whereas Fighter2 learns from his mistake quickly and is able to advance to more advanced techniques and make mistakes there, to quickly learn from those, and move on to even more advanced techniques.
It's clear even in a month who will be further ahead, now imagine several years from now.
This is a big part to 'evolving' your game.
Dealing With Injuries
Injuries are something that occur in every sport, and like any other sport, injuries also occur in MMA.
We've actually created a guide based that details 5 of the most common MMA injuries.
Despite that, in the 20+ year history of UFC Dana White has once proclaimed that there has never been a death or serious injury.
When you are hurt from a fight whether a body injury or brain injury (such as concussion or you were knocked out), you are immediately issued a suspension of x amount of days.
Fighters are banned from any kind of contact during these suspensions until they are cleared by a doctor.
In other sports such as in the NFL, players often can receive a concussion in a game and be cleared to play a week later for the next game.
Although they do have a concussion protocol that they need to pass, the amount of time where they are back in action is very different than MMA.
Amateur & Training for Fun
Despite having suspensions in the professional leagues after a fight, if you are an amateur or train for fun this wont apply to you.
There have been studies showing that although MMA fighters are more prone to displaying minor and visible injuries (such as bleeding & bruises), they are less likely to receive injuries that matter in the long term health such as concussions, head trauma, unconsciousness, eye and facial injuries and broken bones.
Using the Right Gear & Equipment
You will 100% need gear if you will be training MMA, and especially if your goal is to become a professional MMA fighter.
You will want high quality gear that doesn't break the bank, but will last you a long time, and more importantly give you the best protection.
Luckily for you we've made guides including pros and cons for everything that you will need.
Studying the Fight Game
There is no way around it, you'll have to be a student of the game if you want to become a MMA fighter.
Film, film and more film. In this day and age, it's so much easier to get a hold of useful film to up your game.
There are YouTube channels, Instagram channels of high level coaches and fighters breaking down technique, film of their fights, best way to counter etc.
Stephen Wonderboy Thompson has a Youtube channel where he is constantly uploading useful content of stand up striking.
If they themselves are not uploading the content, someone else is.
John Danaher for example, one of the greatest bjj coaches on earth has many videos circulating around YouTube. He also sells his own step by step detailed courses online on both Gi and No Gi BJJ.
If none of these interest you, or you have already seen every video on earth on those platforms, then you can't go wrong with purchasing UFC Fight Pass that contains a library of over 20,000 fights.
You'll be able to do your own break downs on your favorite fighters, pause, rewind, fast forward to get a great look of any movements as many times as you need.
Start Networking and Promote Yourself
Belal Muhammad posting a screenshot earlier this year of the struggles that he endured, as he sent emails out to different organizations while he tried to get signed into a promotion.
He recently was the main event of a UFC fight card, which shows that promoting yourself in the early days can pay off.
Although MMA promotions are constantly on the hunt to sign the next big prospect, they can't be everywhere and find everyone. This is where self promotion can supplement this and help launch you into an opportunity.
Best Age to Start Training MMA
The best age to begin training martial arts is as early as 3 years old.
However that doesn't mean you can't have success starting out at different ages.
We've written a detailed post on why, along with examples of MMA fighters who have had massive success when when beginning to train at different phases of their lives.
When you have put enough hours into the gym, and made plenty of progress on the mats to warrant taking the next step, it will be amateur MMA.
The easiest way to explain amateur MMA is that it's very similar to professional, except fighters do not get paid.
Since fighters don't get paid, and the money isn't coming in, then they also fight at much smaller venues, with much smaller crowds.
Typically the amateur scene is where fighters prove themselves before being picked up by a professional organization.
How Many Amateur MMA Fights Should I do?
This goes back to the first step, which is choosing a trustworthy gym with coaches that you can trust.
There are many instances of fighters being screwed over by coaches, whether financially or the coaches have another motive putting the fighter in a compromising situation.
Assuming you have a trustworthy gym and trustworthy coaches, absolutely listen to them. Find out what they think of where you are at, what the next steps are, what you need to evolve in your game.
Another part to this is you have input on this as well. This is your career and although you shouldn't shy from challenges, you shouldn't rush a career either, there's a fine line.
There are other competitions that you can do that will keep you in shape, and honestly will help you test yourself and figure out where your skills are at in a certain discipline.
Other competitions such as Jiu-Jitsu competitions & Amateur boxing/kickboxing competitions.