10 Best MMA Fighters Who Started Training Late

10 Best MMA Fighters Who Started Training Late

Aging is quite difficult for everyone, especially for athletes and fighters. In this article, we bring you the top 10 MMA fighters who started training late in their lives.

10 best MMA fighters who started training late are Mark Hunt, Chuck Liddell, Vitor Belfort, Randy Couture, Chael Sonnen, Frank Shamrock, Junior Dos Santos, Kimbo Slice, Nate Quarry, and Matt Mitrione.

We will sort these late starters by the age they started training, so check them out, and if you think you are too old to start training in MMA, maybe you should think again. These MMA fighters who started late are living proof that you can become the best even if you start after high school!

Before we start, here are some of the similar lists we made that might be of interest to you. Check them out!

10 Best MMA Fighters Who Started Training Later in Their Lives

Junior Dos Santos – started MMA training at 21

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Eu nasci um lutador, é meu destino estar aqui I was born a fighter I was meant to be here #persistir #persist #teamcigano #seguimosfortes

Objavu dijeli Junior Cigano Dos Santos ?️➕ (@juniorcigano) Vel 11, 2020 u 10:59 PST

Junior dos Santos Almeida is a Brazilian mixed martial artist and a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. He has victories over 5 UFC Heavyweight Champions: Fabrício Werdum, Frank Mir, Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin, and Stipe Miocic.

Before becoming an MMA fighter when he was 21, he was working as a dishwasher in Brazil. His debut was as a kickboxer with only three months of practice.

One of the best Brazilian fighters in UFC history trained Capoeira when he was a teenager and started his serious MMA training when he was 21, by training Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Yuri Carlton.

Despite starting MMA training pretty old, he surprised many and became the UFC champion. His UFC debut was superb – he smoked out Fabricio Werdum in less than 90 seconds!

Junior dos Santos won UFC heavyweight title in combat against Cain Velasquez, whom he finished with a nasty barrage of punches. Dos Santos shocked the world again when he defended UFC heavyweight championship by stopping dangerous BJJ fighter Frank Mir.

“Segano” was known for powerful lead hook and dangerous barrages of punches and Muay Thai combos. The most entertaining knockout of his career happened at UFC 160 when he put Mark Hunt to sleep via a nasty Muay Thai spinning hook kick.

Frank Shamrock – started MMA training at 22

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Always keep your eye on the opponent. #mma #business #entrepreneur #leadership

Objavu dijeli Frank Shamrock (@frankshamrock) Tra 23, 2020 u 11:10 PDT

Frank Shamrock is a retired American professional MMA fighter. He was the first to hold the UFC Middleweight Championship (later renamed the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship) and retired as a four-time defending undefeated champion.

Shamrock was the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound UFC fighter in the world during his reign as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He has won numerous titles in other martial arts organizations, including the interim King of Pancrase title, the WEC Light Heavyweight Championship, and the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship.

Shamrock was 22 years old when he started training in MMA. He started with submission wrestling, and, as we can see now, it was the right move in his career.

His first fight in the UFC was against Kevin Jackson, where he won the belt via armbar. But let’s focus on the most entertaining moment of his UFC career. It happened at UFC 16, where Shamrock defended his 205-pound belt with a slam win over Igor Zinoviev.

Nate Quarry – started MMA training at 24

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Objavu dijeli Nathan Quarry (@zombiecagefighter) Ruj 21, 2014 u 11:38 PDT

Nathan Parker “Nate” Quarry is a retired American MMA fighter who is most famous for his appearance in The Ultimate Fighter, a reality show from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as well as co-hosting the show MMA Uncensored Live.

He grove up as Jehovah’s Witness and was very strictly raised, so he wasn’t allowed to do any organized sports, let alone train in martial arts.

The result of it he hasn’t started training before 24 years old and had his first pro fight when he was 29 years. Quarry kicked off his UFC run with three back-to-back stoppage victories, and even at one point reached a title fight. Unfortunately, he was unable to become UFC middleweight champion – Rich Franklin knocked him out cold with a big left hand in a title combat.

Honestly, one of my dream UFC fights would be Anderson Silva vs Nate Quarry, as it’d be a real war between two technical southpaws. Unfortunately, they fought in the different eras of the sport.

Matt Mitrione – started training at 28

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How I tell my babies I’m safe and I love them after I scrap. 3 fingers = I love you

Objavu dijeli @ mattmitrione Pro 22, 2016 u 8:12 PST

Matthew Steven Mitrione is an American MMA fighter and former American football player. He was a featured fighter on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights. Mitrione holds notable victories over Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson, Derrick Lewis, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Kimbo Slice, and is known to knock out opponents with his right hand from a southpaw stance, despite being otherwise left-handed outside the ring.

While he was growing he trained in Shotokan Karate and even fought in a few professional kickboxing tournaments as a teenager, but has only started training in MMA when he was 28 years old.

Without a single professional MMA fight, Mitrione was chosen on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter in 2009. He lost in the quarterfinals of the show but earned the chance to fight at the Finale show, a fight he won against Marcus Jones.

Matt Mitrione is famous for his powerful punches and tricky boxing skills. He turned the lights out on Kimbo Slice, Tim Hague, Shawn Jordan, and many other high-level names. His Bellator MMA run was also very impressive – he is one of a few guys in MMA history who knocked out legendary Fedor Emelianenko!

Chuck Liddell – started MMA training at 29

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Objavu dijeli Chuck Liddell (@chuckliddell) Ožu 8, 2020 u 3:22 PDT

Charles David “Chuck” Liddell is a retired American MMA fighter and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Liddell had 23 fights in the UFC; most notable were against Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. He was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.

He made his debut in 1998 during UFC 17 when he was 29 years old. He has a lot of fighting background, but before this, he has never trained in mixed martial arts. His best performance was somewhere in his 30s.

Chuck Liddell is the first real knockout artist in the UFC history. Kempo fighter turned the lights out on Tito Oritz, Randy Couture, Renato Sobral, Jeremy Horn, and Kevin Randleman.

His UFC fights were very entertaining to watch – Liddell will always be remembered as a “kill or be killed” fighter. I wish he fought the former UFC champion Michael Bisping – that would be a brawl until the last dying breath!

Brock Lesnar – started MMA training at 29

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Objavu dijeli brock lesnar (@brock._.lesnar) Lip 19, 2018 u 5:51 PDT

Brock Edward Lesnar is an American professional wrestler, former MMA fighter, and professional football player. He is currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the Raw brand. He used to play for Minnesota Vikings in the National Football League (NFL) before his first MMA competition.

He started training in MMA in 2006 when he was 29 years old. In 2008 he becomes UFC champion by defeating Randy Couture. He was a sensation in UFC, as his fights were some of the bestselling pay-per-view events. For some reason, he became the first UFC PPV-selling machine long before the arrival of the most popular cash cow ever, Conor McGregor. Here is an interesting fact – Brock has never competed at a UFC fight night event!

Brock Lesnar didn’t have technical punches, his strikes were very powerful. Also, his throws and ground-and-pound shots were brutal due to his strength. He became the UFC title holder after a superb victory over another great wrestler, Randy Couture. He defended the 265-pound belt against Frank Mir and Shane Carwin.

Yet, Cain Velasquez’s technicality was too much for Lesnar. The first-ever Mexican champion dragged Brock Lesnar to the ground, trapped him into a crucifix, and unloaded many big punches, which resulted in a bloodbath. The referee was forced to stop the fight because Lesnar stopped defending at one point.

Kimbo Slice – started MMA training at the 31

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Only god can judge me

Objavu dijeli Kimboslice (@kimboslice) Tra 13, 2017 u 6:52 PDT

Kevin Ferguson (February 8, 1974 – June 6, 2016), better known as Kimbo Slice, was a Bahamian-American MMA fighter, boxer, professional wrestler, and occasional actor. He became famous for combat street fights which were spread across the Internet, leading Rolling Stone to call him “The King of the Web Brawlers.”

He started his MMA career when he was 31 years old, signing a professional contract with EliteXC in 2007. He also fought in UFC and Bellator MMA.

Kimbo Slice competed in the UFC once, where he lost dominantly to Matt Mitrione due to his poor cardio. His Bellator MMA journey was partially successful – Kimbo turned the lights out on Frank Shamrock and destroyed Dada 5000, but that fight was later overturned to no contest because Slice was positive on nandrolone.

Kimbo will always be remembered as a toe-to-toe brawler with powerful hooks. Unfortunately, his mixed martial arts career hasn’t been much successful because of his poor defensive skills. For example, Seth Petruzelli knocked him out cold after only 14 seconds!

Yoel Romero – started MMA training at 31

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Let’s Gooooooo ! #seeyousoonboi #ufc248

Objavu dijeli Yoel Romero (@yoelromeromma) Ožu 6, 2020 u 9:01 PST

Yoel Romero Palacio is a Cuban MMA fighter and former freestyle wrestler. He fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, competing in the Middleweight division. Yoel’s last fight was in Bellator MMA, where he lost to Vadim Nemkov via decision. Yoel is one of the most powerful fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.

As a freestyle wrestler, Romero is a former world gold medalist and an Olympic silver medalist. He won six world and Olympic medals in total.

Even though he has never won the UFC championship, his abilities have earned him several comparisons to the greats of the sport. Romero destroyed Luke Rockhold in a title fight, but he was ineligible for the belt because of a weigh-in miss. Also, Robert Whittaker defeated him twice via unanimous decision in UFC title bouts.

Yoel started his MMA training when he was 31 years old and had his first MMA debut when he was 32 years. He is one of the oldest UFC fighters in the history of the sport. Interestingly, despite his background in freestyle wrestling, Yoel mostly chose to stand and bang against strikers.

Unfortunately, “The Soldier of God” was cutting too many pounds, so his cardio has never been on point. He lost a title combat to Israel Adesanya due to his poor cardio and movement, despite he was way more powerful than a Nigerian-born New Zealander.

Randy Couture – started MMA training at 34

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Objavu dijeli Randy Couture (@xcnatch) Ruj 27, 2019 u 10:51 PDT

Randall Duane Couture is an American actor, former U.S. Army sergeant, retired MMA fighter, and former collegiate and Greco-Roman wrestler.

Couture is one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, he became a three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, two-time UFC Light heavyweight king, an interim UFC Light heavyweight title holder, making him a six-time UFC Champion and the UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament winner. He is also the oldest UFC champion in history.

The UFC Hall of Fame member Randy Couture holds notable wins over Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mark Coleman, and James Toney. He lost his last fight to Lyoto Machida via a crane kick to the chin. But he’ll always be remembered as the oldest active UFC fighter. In his match against Machida, Couture was 47 years old. This record will probably never be broken.

The former 205-pound and heavyweight champion competed in the same weight class as legendary Jon Jones, but unfortunately, Randy retired when legendary “Bones” started his domination. It would’ve been an epic fight if it came to fruition.

All his achievements in MMA are even bigger when you know that he started MMA training very late. His MMA career started when he was 34 years old, and in 10 years he made all those records. He is definitely one of the best MMA fighters who started training late.

Mark Hunt – started MMA training at 36

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Wowsers and New ????????

Objavu dijeli The Super Samoan (@markhuntfighter) Lip 1, 2019 u 9:13 PDT

Mark Richard Hunt is a New Zealand MMA fighter and former kickboxer of Samoan descent. Hunt competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and was the winner of the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix. Despite he has never competed in the NCAA division, Mark showed very decent takedown defense, scrambling, and defensive wrestling in his long MMA career.

He made his debut in UFC in 2010 when he was 36 years old. His fight with Junior dos Santos, in 2013, is regarded as one of the best fights in the history of UFC, Mark lost it when he was 39 years old.

Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt is the first-ever walk-off knockout artist. Hunt turned the lights out on Roy Nelson and started celebrating before Nelson’s face touched the floor. He repeated the same in the bout against Frank Mir. This revolutionary, respectful behavior brought him many fans all around the mixed martial arts community.

And now just to add one honorable mention. UFC welterweight title contender Belal Muhammad is one of the best UFC fighters at the moment, a technical God with many decision wins over some of the greatest minds of the game. But can you believe that the all-time greatest Palestinian mixed martial artist started his MMA training at the age of 22?

His first UFC fight happened in 2016 when he suffered a decision loss to Alan Jouban. Many MMA fighters train since the age of five or seven, but Belal had zero fighting skills after high school!

Frequently Asked Questions about Best MMA Fighters Who Started Late

When did McGregor start fighting?

Conor McGregor had his first professional MMA bout in 2008 when he was 20 years old. Conor’s first UFC fight happened against Marcus Brimage in 2013. The legendary Irishman was 25.

Chuck Liddell started MMA training at the age of 29, but he had a lot of experience in Kajukenbo, Kempo, Koei-Kan Karate, and Brazilian jiu jitsu. Interestingly, he is one of the rare UFC fighters who have never integrated their skills into mixed martial arts before his first MMA bout.

Start by visiting an MMA gym. If you have a background in martial arts, focus on your weaknesses. It means, a striker should train Brazilian jiu jitsu and wrestling, while a top-notch grappler has to learn to strike or at least block kicks and punches.

The MMA world is stacked with high-quality Octagon warriors, you must learn everything if you plan to succeed in mixed martial arts.

I will focus on the five oldest MMA fighters who ever participated in the competition. The oldest guy is John Williams, who competed in one professionally sanctioned MMA bout at the age of 70.

The second place belongs to Skip Hall, who took part in an MMA bout at the age of 63. The third place belongs to the former UFC heavyweight champion Dan Severn, who had his last bout at 54.

Place number four is reserved for Ken Shamrock, who lost to Royce Gracie when he was 52 years old. Finally, number 5 on the list is Maurice Smith, who also tested his luck at the age of 52, and lost the bout via unanimous decision.

Yoel Romero started MMA training at the age of 31. His first MMA fight happened against Sascha Weinpolter in Berlin, where Yoel scored a fantastic TKO win in only 48 seconds!

Guido Cannetti, he’s 43 years old.

Glover Teixeira is the oldest UFC fighter who fought for a title in 2023. He lost the light heavyweight belt bout in January via unanimous decision at the age of 43. Also, he used to be the oldest guy on the roster before his retirement. Brazilian jiu jitsu expert from Minas Gerais proves that fighters who started late can touch the sky.

The oldest active UFC fighter in 2023, right now, is Guido Cannetti. “The Ninja” comes from Argentina, and he’s 43 years old at the moment.

First, visit an MMA gym, start training, and don’t expect to become a superb striker like Wanderlei Silva overnight or a Brazilian jiu jitsu God like Royce Gracie after a few training sessions. Patience is a virtue, learn, visit your training sessions regularly, and when your coach feels you’re ready, test your skills in the amateur circuit.

If you start winning, build your social media. Humble fighters rarely fight for UFC championships because the crowd loves trash talk and action – focus on building your Instagram or Twitter when you score a few back-to-back wins.

Have you reached UFC? Train even harder and don’t expect to dominate like Anderson Silva! The era has changed, and now everybody learns every single aspect of the game – work with the best, push your skills to the next level, and try to win the belt!

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He has been training in kickboxing for over seven years and holds a Taekwondo black belt. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. Vladimir is a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster. He was known as The Bulgarian Cowboy in the Western world. In addition, he has a YouTube channel where he talks about his love of esports, one of the fastest-growing fields in the world. Our testing and reviewing method.
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