How To Become An MMA Fighter

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MMA fighters face off at a UFC event

Many young MMA fans aspire to be fighters from the first moment they watch a fight. They want to become an MMA fighter, but don’t know where to begin.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to become an MMA fighter, this is your chance. We’ve put together a full guide of everything you need to know to begin your journey as an MMA fighter.

Buy MMA Gear

Before you can start training to be an MMA fighter, you’re going to need training gear. Most MMA gyms sell gear, but if you want to be prepared, you should buy your gear beforehand.

You’ll need:

  • MMA Gear Bag
  • MMA Gloves(6-8oz)
  • Boxing Gloves
  • Shin Pads
  • Hand Wraps
  • Rash Guards
  • MMA Shorts
  • Water Bottle

MMA Gear Recommendations

If you need some MMA gear recommendations, we can help you out with that. Here are some gear recommendations for you to buy before you start training.

RDX MMA Gloves: RDX makes a great pair of value MMA gloves that are great to pick up when you’re just beginning your MMA training. They have the look of high priced gloves while having the qualities of one. Offering great wrist and knuckle protection along with an open palm design that won’t overheat your hands.

Venum Contender Boxing Gloves 2.0: These boxing gloves from Venum are a great choice and will last you a long time. They are comfortable semi-leather gloves that give a perfect fit and make you feel like you’re a fighter.’

Elite Sports Shin Guards: Elite Sports Shin Guards are an Amazon’s Choice product that are affordable and have a clean look. They are versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for both kickboxing or MMA. Fully adjustable and designed to keep your shins fully protected.

Anthem Athletics MMA Shorts: Anthem Athletics make some of the best MMA shorts that are available on Amazon. They made their shorts with tear resistant fabric that is quick drying, so you don’t get weighed down during training.  These shorts are currently available in 9 styles and 10 sizes.

Find A Good MMA Gym

The first step to become an MMA fighter is to find an MMA gym. Not just any MMA gym, but one with a reputation for being a good school and producing fighters.

Don’t pick any random gym that’s near your home out of convenience. If you have to travel a little to go to the best gym, you’ll have to make that sacrifice.

Many of the best MMA fighters travel to train for their fight camps. It’s just part of the job.

Do Your Research

You’re going to have to do your research and see which are the best gyms in your area. Look into who the coaches are and what their backgrounds are.

The most known and respected coaches are easy to find on the internet. You can easily find their credentials online and see what their reputations are.

Schedule Visits

Once you’ve narrowed down the gyms you may like to train in, you should contact them and schedule visits. Go see the gyms and meet the coaches to see if you mesh well with them

While you’re there, you can get all of the information you need.

  • Training Schedule
  • What They Teach
  • Prices
  • Beginner Classes
  • Does the gym sell MMA gear?

Try Free Classes

You don’t have to sign up at the first MMA gym you visit. See what gyms offer free trial classes and take advantage of them.

Trial classes are the best way to see if you like the gym and like the way the classes are run. If you train at one that you really like, then that’s the one you should sign up at.

What Discipline Should You Learn First? 

One of the biggest questions that aspiring fighters ask before they start training is which fighting discipline they should learn first. A very good question that has a different answer depending on who you ask.

Let’s go over the benefits of learning either grappling or striking first.

The Benefits Of Learning Striking First 

There are numerous benefits to learning striking first for MMA. The biggest of course being that you know how to strike.

Being proficient at using your fists, elbows, knees, kicks, and being able to mix them together in combos. As you learn striking, you’ll also have an understanding of different striking ranges.

Knowing these striking ranges will also make you able to defend against an opponent’s striking.

The Benefit Of Learning Grappling First 

Learning grappling first also has numerous benefits. As you’ve probably seen in the old UFC fights, straight grapplers almost always beat strikers.

When you put a striker on their back, this cancels out their striking ability. Knowing how to grapple can also open up your striking game and make you more well rounded.

The Real Answer

Either learning striking or grappling first does have their benefits, but neither is the right answer. The real answer is that if you’re in an MMA gym, you should be learning both aspects of the sport simultaneously.

You will need to learn both disciplines in order to be a good MMA fighter. Good modern MMA gyms have both high level striking and grappling coaches to help you learn the basics of the sport.

Learn both disciplines at the same time to become a more complete fighter.

What Techniques Should I Learn?

MMA consists of many different martial arts techniques that you will learn over the years to develop your skills. Here is an overview of all of the basics you should learn when first training to become an MMA Fighter.

Basic Striking

When it comes to learning striking, you of course have to start with the basics. You won’t be learning how to throw jump knees or 360 roundhouses right from the beginning.

The main elements of striking that you will need to learn first include:

  • Stance
  • Guards
  • Proper Punching Mechanics
  • Proper Kicking Mechanics

Everything starts with your stance and learning to keep your hands up. These are the foundations of a good striking game.

Once you learn how to hold a good stance and move in it, you can then learn basic striking combos. These skills won’t develop overnight, so be patient.

Basic Jiu Jitsu

Grappling is a large part of MMA, which is why you have to learn how to handle yourself on the ground. When you’re first learning Jiu Jitsu for MMA, there is one aspect that you should really focus on first. Your defense.

Begin developing your Jiu Jitsu game by developing a great defense. Focus on learning how to defend everything from submissions and escaping bad positions at the beginning.

After developing a great defense, you can then open up your game and not be afraid of anything your opponents try.

Basic Wrestling

Wrestling is arguably the most important aspect of MMA that you must learn. In modern MMA, almost all of the top fighters have a background in wrestling.

You will have to learn how to execute everything from:

  • Single Leg Takedowns
  • Double Leg Takedowns
  • Sprawls
  • Sit-outs

To go along with these wrestling basics, you will also have to learn to fight from the clinch. Knowing how to hand fight to defend takedowns and get in position to land takedowns.

Conditioning 

You’re not only going to have to spend hours training, but also dedicate part of your week to doing conditioning. Every MMA fighter in any of the big organizations does some form of conditioning to build up their strength and endurance.

The options you have for conditioning training are literally endless, but here are some of the best options for you.

HIIT Training 

HIIT training is a go to style of conditioning for many top MMA athletes. The short rounds of explosive movements followed by brief recovery periods are perfect for the demands of MMA.

These types of workouts mimic how a real fight can really feel. Quick bursts of energy during attacks followed by brief rest periods when you’re setting up your next move.

Also one of the great things about HIIT training is that they aren’t time consuming. You can get in a great conditioning session in less than 30 minutes.

Circuit Training 

Circuit training is another great idea for conditioning that is similar to HIIT training. In circuit training, you can implement elements of MMA training into your workouts like bag work and ground and pound.

Mixing these in with a variation of light weights, plyometrics, and explosive movements like hitting a tire with a sledgehammer. Then just like with HIIT training, you have endless possibilities for your workouts that can be done in a short timeframe.

Roadwork & Weights

Then of course, there are the oldest methods of conditioning that include roadwork and lifting weights. Roadwork is the old boxing term for running.

Since combat sports became a profession, fighters have implemented running and weights into their routines. Going for 3-5 mile runs everyday and lifting weights every other day in between training.

These styles of conditioning have been proven effective, which is why fighters have used them for years.

Training Schedule 

If you really want to be an MMA fighter, you’re going to need to be dedicated. You are going to have to sacrifice almost all of your free time in order to become a fighter.

Everything you do will revolve around your training schedule. If you have a job or school schedule that allows it, you should be training just about every single day.

Five days per week is the minimum with each session being 2-3 hours per day. Training twice a day would be even better to help you get in shape and progress your skills.

On top of your training, you will also have to make time a few days a week to do conditioning workouts. This is the life of fighters, whether they’re training for a fight or just developing their skills.

A Really Important Thing To Remember When You’re Training

When you’re beginning your training, there is sort of an unwritten rule about telling your coach you want to be a fighter. They’ve heard thousands of people tell them they want to be fighters and next to none made it happen.

You can tell your coach that you want to be a fighter, but don’t tell them when you want to fight. They will know when it’s the right time to let you try an amateur MMA bout. 

Trust in your coaches and they will guide you in the right direction to become a fighter.

When Will I Be Able To Fight?

When you’ll be able to fight will depend on if you already have a base in another combat sport. If you already have a background in boxing, wrestling, or Jiu Jitsu, you will be able to fight soon.

For those that are starting from the ground up in MMA, you will have to wait much longer to fight. You will have to train at least two years before you can even think about getting an amateur fight.

But don’t stress about how long it will take for you to be able to fight. Just train and when your coach thinks you’re ready, you’ll fight.

What Type of Fighter Should I Be? 

The type of fighter will depend on what facet of MMA you are best at and your body type. For example, if you are gifted with power, then you’ll probably be more of a striker.

But in all honesty, you should strive to be a complete fighter. Being well versed in every area of MMA, so you can handle yourself wherever the fight may go.

Amateur Boxing, Kickboxing & BJJ 

To develop your skills as a young fighter, you should also take the opportunity to do other amateur combat sports. This includes amateur boxing, kickboxing, and BJJ competitions.

Amateur Boxing & Kickboxing

Testing your skills in amateur boxing and kickboxing competitions can really help sharpen up your striking games. Training for one of these competitions will help you develop better punching or kicking mechanics. 

They will also help you understand the two different striking ranges by fighting in both styles. It’ll also give you knowledge and experience if you ever wish to transition between different combat  sports.

BJJ Competitions

BJJ competitions might be the best thing that you can do to improve your grappling for MMA. The intensity is like a fight, except you’re not getting hit, which is a positive.

A lot of young fighters will routinely compete in grappling competitions to sharpen up their ground skills. There are also numerous BJJ competitions put on, so you can always be competing in between MMA fights.

Amateur MMA

If you have a good coach, when they think you’re ready they will sign you up for an amateur MMA fight. These are fights where wins and losses don’t mean anything.

You’re competing to gain experience and develop skills to maybe transition to pro if you’re good enough. Since amateur fights are about gaining experience, you should fight as much as possible.

Try to fight more than 10 fights during your time as an amateur. Then if your coach thinks you’re ready, you will go pro.

Be Patient & Train

The best piece of advice that we can give you is to just be patient and train. Training to become an MMA fighter is a marathon and not a sprint.

You have to take the time to develop your skills and make sure you’re ready to fight. If you are patient and take the time to train properly, then you’ll have a better chance at a fighting career.

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Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years. Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.

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