There are 3 main steps that you need to take to successfully become an MMA fighter. Written out, they all seem very simple, but you will need a lot of dedication and determination to succeed.
The best age to begin practising as an MMA fighter is around 15-16, however, with determination, you can become a great fighter at any age. The UFC and other major mixed martial arts governing bodies are unlikely to allow under 18s to be signed as a fighter.
Find a School
You will not be able to walk in off of the street and just become an MMA fighter. You need to learn from others, and the best way to do this is to find a reputable school. This school does not need to be fancy or high-tech, but it should be one that produces good fighters.
A good place to start your search is on the site FightResource.com. This site will show you a list of fight schools local to you, which have produced fighters or have experienced trainers on the staff.
We suggest looking for a gym that offers Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and boxing. This will allow you to practise many different martial art styles in one location.
Train, Train, Train
You will need to decide which martial arts your training will be based in. For MMA fighters who wish to be in the UFC, it is recommended that you train a mixture of Muay Thai and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. Alongside this, we suggest taking some wrestling and boxing training classes to round out your skillset.
In MMA fighting, being well-rounded is one of the most advantageous personal qualities you can have. The more tools you have to draw on in your arsenal, the better fighter you will become. The basics you need are some form of stand-up fighting and some form of ground fighting.
It is vital that you can defend yourself well, even if your offence is not as strong. MMA fighters tend to have one speciality fighting style and use the other form as their more defensive style.
There are many great videos and books out there to further your training. These will discuss techniques and draw off of professional fighters personal experiences. We would also recommend watching some UFC and BMMA fights, to see how professionals move and hold themselves.
Practical training is vital and you will never become an MMA fighter without engaging in some. You should start your training with some pad work, to get you used to the movements and the feel of impact. This will work on your reaction time.
You can practice for as long as you like, but we suggest doing 2-3 rounds, lasting around 5 minutes each. This will help to build up your endurance in the ring.
You can then move on to sparring with a partner. This is a slightly toned down fight essentially and will teach you invaluable skills for real fights. Sparring works on your power, agility, endurance, and speed. You should both be wearing head and body padding to prevent any serious injuries.
Find a Fight
As we mentioned earlier, for most reputable fights you will need to be at least 18 to participate. We would also recommend having at least 6 months to a year of training under your belt.
If you have managed to find an MMA gym, the trainers and staff there are likely to be able to direct you to an appropriate level of competition.
You will generally be required to submit some personal information prior to the fight, including your height and weight. This is important as the organizers will sort you into a weight class before the fight. This ensures that fighters are evenly matched.
Different organisations have different rules on what is and isn’t allowed during a fight. Some will allow head kicks but not knee strikes. It is important to read through the rule book for the tournament prior to fighting. This means that you will not get disqualified for accidentally breaking a rule.
To ensure you are adequately prepared and rested for your fight, scale back your training in the two weeks preceding it. Look at footage of your opponent and study the way they move and fight. This will give you a level of strategic advantage over them, particularly if you are a newcomer and there is no footage of you fighting.
MMA fighters need to be very tough. The sport is brutal and people do sustain serious injuries, so an MMA fighter needs to be physically as well as mentally resilient.
Most MMA fighters have some background experience in the field of martial arts. This provides you with a good baseline to further your skills from.
A good MMA fighter will be very determined and motivated. You must train hard for fights, and slacking is not allowed. It is unlikely that you will start making money immediately, so it is important to not allow this to dissuade you. You must have enough to get by for at least a year or two until you can begin to rake in the fight rewards.
Training is likely to overtake your life, and you must be prepared for this. There is no time for distractions. Saying this, it is important to have a solid support system around you to ensure you stay motivated.
You must be fast, agile, and mentally sharp for MMA fighting.
The average price for a monthly membership to an MMA gym is around $100. Considering the time you will be spending there, and the fact that the cost averages to around $3 a day, this is actually a relatively decent price.
You will also need to spend money on the protective equipment to be used during spars and fights. The main items you need to buy are gloves and shin guards, although there are other things too, such as fighting shorts, hand wraps, cups, and mouthpieces.