MMA Training: A Complete Guide

MMA Training: A Complete Guide

MMA is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing sports in the world. From being a marginal event back in 1993, the MMA has evolved to be come a global phenomenon with millions of viewers and fans, and even more money for the organisations and fighters. Due to its popularity with the viewers, MMA has become very popular among “common people” who want to be like their idols, which is why they start doing MMA.

This article is for them, but also for those of you who ponder whether you should start MMA or not. We are going to answer all the burning questions and help you to make your decision on starting MMA training – so, keep reading!

What Is MMA?

Mixed martial arts originated as mixed combat sports in Ancient China and Ancient Greece. The Chinese combat sport of Leitai is one of the first mixed combat sports and utilised elements of different kung fu styles, boxing and wrestling.

In Ancient Greece, such an example can be found in the art of pankration, a very specific martial art that combined boxing – which was very popular in Ancient Greece – and wrestling – which probably originated in Mesopotamia or Ancient Egypt.

Pankration was extremely popular (even the most popular sport, according to some historian) in Ancient Greece and there is vague evidence that similar mixed combat sports were practiced in Ancient Japan, Egypt and India.

Although mixed combat sports originated in Antiquity, it wasn’t until the mid-19 th century that these sports resurfaced and started gaining popularity. Despite the 19 th century being a crucial period for the development of modern forms of many individual martial arts and combat sports, many fighters wanted to combine multiple styles and techniques and challenge the traditional systems that were in development in that period.

This resulted in the creation of a large number of mixed combat sports in that period, most of which have either faded away or have been incorporated into other, modern mixed combat styles and sports.

If you are interested if is MMA considered a martial art, or a mixture of different martial arts, take a look at article we wrote.

Despite a large number of historical influences, modern MMA is considered to stem from Brazilian jiujitsu and vale tudo; the latter is yet another full-contact hybrid combat sport that originated in Brazil. Vale tudo events date back from the 1920s.

MMA events continued to develop as decades passed until 1993, when the first official global MMA event – the UFC 1 – was held in Denver, Colorado. This is the official “birth year” of MMA and one of the most important events in the evolution of mixed and hybrid combat sports.

UFC 1 was televised and it was in a review by critic Howard Rosenberg that the term “mixed martial arts” appeared for the first time.

And the rest is history. During less than 30 years, MMA evolved from a marginal television event to a global phenomenon in which large amounts of money are invested. The popularity of MMA continues to increase and the sport has yet to reach its peak.

How far it can go is pretty difficult to tell, but we can safely presume that MMA will continue to grow in the following years as more people get attached to the spectacular fights and events.

Now that we’ve gone trough the general parts, we shall start with the steps you need to take to train like an MMA fighter. 

Here is a link to the complete history and origin of MMA.

How Do I Start Training for MMA?

Before you start training like an MMA fighter, you’ll need to pick your preferred martial art(s). Namely, MMA is a combat sport that utilises a lot of techniques from different martial arts and combat sports, combined into one discipline. Some MMA fighters know more martial arts, some know less, but every one of them know at least a couple. You can be a master in one martial art, but without at least some knowledge in at least another martial art, you won’t make it very far in the MMA. 

Now, before you start your preparations for MMA, you’ll need to pick those martial arts. You might use some you’ve already trained, or just hire coaches and start off from ground zero with each of them. The decision is up to you. What we are going to do for you here is list some of the most popular and most useful martial arts to train while preparing for MMA. These martial arts will boost your skills and will help you win a fight more than some others. They are:

  • The Soviet, i.e. Russian art of sambo, similar to judo and kickboxing, with a lot of defensive techniques;
  • The Japanese martial art of judo, which is excellent for ground combat;
  • Taekwondo, originally from South Korea, which focuses on the legs, with some punching; 
  • The Japanese art of karate, similar to Taekwondo when it comes to legwork, but with more punching; 
  • Muay Thai, or “Thai boxing”, the martial art predecessor of modern kickboxing;
  • Kickboxing, both the original Japanese style, and the modern American one;
  • Boxing, one of the oldest martial arts, whose focus is on punching the opponent; 
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial art/combat sport that is in many ways similar to regular MMA fighting, and;
  • Wrestling, which is, according to statistics, the best martial art you can train to become an MMA champion. 

If you have any problems with deciding, take a look at the article we wrote about the best martial arts for MMA based on the number of UFC champions.

Now that we’ve gone over the first step, let us see what else you need. 

How to Choose a Good MMA Gym?

Choosing a good MMA gym largely depends on the country you are in. For a beginner, we have decided to give you a review of a UFC Gym model. It is a very good first step for beginner,

A UFC Gym is actually a franchise model (which means that if you have the money, you can own it) of gyms extended from the UFC. Being a franchise model, every gym is different, depending on the owner. Some are even owned by ex UFC fighters like BJ Penn, Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, Urijah Faber, Frankie Edgar, and Michael Bisping.

UFC Gyms have classical bodybuilding gyms parts included (weights, machines, …), combat sports classes, fitness classes, etc. Why would you want to choose a UFC Gym? Well, UFC is the world’s biggest and best MMA promotor, meaning that their gyms will certainly perpare you for a career in MMA. 

Still, you can choose another type of gym, all depending on your choice of martial art. The good thing with UFC Gyms is that they offer a generalised MMA program, but each gym is different and usually offers something extra, i.e. another martial arts programme, which mean that you can both prepare and learn something new. 

As for the equipment, the main thing about UFC Gyms is that they have absolutely everything. We are talking about specific parts of the gym with weights and machines, just like classic bodybuilding gyms. Then you have areas with all different sorts of tools like sledgehammers, big tires, heavy ropes, bicycles, treadmills.

Everything you could possibly want for your strength and conditioning exercise. Of course, there are also parts of the gym with boxing bags, wrestling mats, even Octagons.

Every little thing you can think of, a UFC Gym will have it. You can train everything you want, be it strength, cardio, putting on some muscle mass, or sharpening your striking and grappling.

On top of that, if you want to incorporate some group classes in your training regime, there are also all sorts of classes, ranging from fitness, boxing, kickboxing, BJJ, MMA, etc. All those classes are coached by ex UFC fighters, Muay Thai world champions, Olympic wrestlers – the best of the best.

Worth noticing is that majority of classes are basic stuff. It is developed for beginners to learn basics and get into the world of martial arts. It’s also a very good place for youth, and women.

If you are maybe not interested in going to combat sports class, there are also excellent conditioning and fitness programs to get you in shape. Some martial arts classes also include sparring. It is a light form of sparring, nothing intense, with a lot of help and instructions from coaches. It is very good for beginners.

Check out our complete review of UFC Gyms.

Also, we made a complete guide on what to look when choosing a MMA class.

What Is the Best Age to Start MMA?

People usually start doing sports at a young(er) age. Children usually do it on their parents’ incentive, while adolescents tend to explore different disciplines themselves.

Scientists and medical professionals always stress out the importance of workout and encourage children to engage in some form of organised sporting activity from an early age.

Although a lot of those children won’t turn professional, the importance of the workout itself is a strong enough reason to start.

But there are a lot of people who start doing sports at a much later age, without having any prior sporting experience. Although we could not get our hands on exact statistical data, we all know someone who started running, working out, playing tennis or basketball in their thirties or forties, just for the fun of it and to stay healthy, of course.

Plus, if you just look it up on Google, you will find a large number of forums and board where people share their experience of commencing with sporting activities, pondering whether they are too old or not.

So, how does this relate to MMA? Well, MMA is pretty physically demanding and although your career might last for a while, sometimes well into your forties, it will be hard for you to make a good professional career if you start off too late.

The best thing you could do for yourself and your prospective career is to start off during your teen years or earlier.

You don’t have to start off with MMA, you can choose one specific martial art or combat sport and then gradually move on to MMA, but the earlier you start with something – the better for your prospective career.

If you still have any questions regarding the age and MMA, be sure to check out our article on the subject.

How Much Does MMA Training Cost?

Money can be a relevant issue in MMA and MMA preparations, especially in MMA gyms, don’t often come cheap. Well, not if you want to become a true professional, that is.

The total cost depends on the gym, the location and the training programme and can range anywhere from $50 do more than $200 a month, meaning that you’ll have to spend at least $1,100 per year to have successful MMA training sessions. 

What Are the Benefits of MMA Training?

Each sport has its specifics and there are a lot of things you can learn in different sports. Training sessions always offer something specific, which is why we are going to show you the basic structure of MMA training sessions, i.e. what the sessions actually focus one. 

But, before we go there, let su see some of the main benefits of MMA training:

  • fat loss 
  • increase in muscle mass
  • power improvement (explosive, maximum, repetitive)
  • improving speed and agility
  • endurance improvement (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • improving flexibility
  • improving coordination
  • injury prevention
  • learning self-defence
  • improving self-discipline
  • improving mental strength
  • increase self-confidence
  • stress reduction

Now that we’ve gone through that part, let us see what you will get from MMA training sessions:

  • Strength – one of the biggest benefits of MMA training is a significant increase in strength. This is due to the different styles and techniques that are associated with MMA training and require full bodywork;
  • Endurance – Strong fitness training is also included in MMA training. By gradually increasing endurance, your heart, lungs, and other body systems will be at much higher levels;
  • Balance – with improved strength and endurance comes superior balance and flexibility;
  • Fitness – with MMA training, your level of overall fitness will drastically improve. MMA fighters are perhaps the most trained athletes of today;
  • Perseverance – we train our students to be persistent and never give up, which significantly reflects on their persistence in everyday life;
  • Community – work in a great sports atmosphere and a mutually supportive community, and;
  • Feel better overall – after MMA training you will feel satisfaction in other segments of life. Many participants felt drastic improvements not only physically but also psychologically.

As you can see, MMA training builds you from outside as well as inside. You will gain confidence, a lot of it, just make sure to use it the right way, and not to look for a fight around every corner. 

Is MMA Good for Self-Defense?

You might wonder whether MMA training will help you with self-defence, since a lot of people take up combat sports and martial arts because of that; the answer is – yes, it most certainly will. How? Let us see. 

Although it combines a lot of martial arts, MMA doesn’t use the sophisticated teachings of some Oriental martial arts, which are highly focused on self-defence and learning how to defend yourself in a variety of different situations. On the other hand, people who have experience with MMA training sessions state that it’s the best possible discipline for self-defence.

Why? It’s complex, it’s diversified and it teaches you a lot. Certainly, MMA is a regulated sport and the cage fights aren’t completely identical to street fights, i.e. real-life fight you might be a part of in an unavoidable situation, but they teach you a lot. The combination of different styles can be extremely beneficial for your defence.

It is exactly what the critics say is wrong with MMA, but many practitioners say that this diversity is the best thing about MMA’s self-defence techniques. Of course, MMA’s self-defence isn’t your standard self-defence you can see in Oriental martial arts, but is rather an offence-based self-defence style; sometimes, offence is truly the best possible defence.

Here are our complete and detailed breakdowns of MMA usage for self-defense, and how does MMA compare to other martial arts when it comes to self-defense.

What Equipment Do You Need for MMA Training?

Like every other martial art and/or combat sport, MMA requires some specialised attire for both practice and fights. Initially, the UFC was very open about the attire of its fighters. This resulted in fighters wearing attires specific for their favourite or primary martial art. But that changed after a while and although the fighters still have certain liberties, it is only within a predetermined ruleset. 

All fighters must wear approved shorts, without shoes and no tops; tops are only required for female fighters. The necessary equipment includes padded gloves (they are open-fingered and must have at least 1 inch of padding around the knuckles), a mouthguard to protect the jaw and teeth and protective cups instead of the more used jockstraps (for males only). To ensure the regularity of a fight, the attire is thoroughly evaluated by a state authority before the match.

So, as you can see, while the MMA does require some equipment, it still has a very liberal stance towards its attire and is not as demanding as some other martial arts or combat sports, such as wrestling, karate, etc.

A vital piece of equipment that often goes overlooked in the world of MMA is the speed bag. Working with one can fine-tune your hand speed and hand-eye coordination, and enhance your performance in the ring. Curious to explore more on how to integrate this tool into your training regimen? Check out our guide on the top speed bags that can fuel that exponential growth in your combat game.

We have a whole article about what should you wear to MMA training, so do check it out.

Is MMA Dangerous?

The issue of safety in the MMA is a very complex and thoroughly studied/analysed thing. Due to the brutality of MMA fights, people often wonder whether MMA is one of the most brutal, if not the most brutal combat sports out there? Simply put – it is not. But we’ll have to explain that answer. 

The general safety of a sport is determined through the injury and fatality rates, meaning the number of serious injuries or deaths per fight or during a certain time period. The injury rate can be analysed both in training sessions and in fights, while the fatality rate is only observed in fights. 

As for the training sessions, we have to say that MMA is somewhat more dangerous than other sports, when it comes to injury rates. Among other combat sports, MMA has the highest injury rate in training sessions (78%), although it is not much higher than in boxing (70%), for example.

This does not mean that there is a 78% chance that you’ll be injured during MMA training, but rather that amongst all the injuries in the MMA, 78% of them are made during training sessions. On the other hand, just 22% of all the injuries in MMA come during fights, which makes MMA safer than a lot of other tough combat sports. 

As for the fatality rates, MMA has one of the smallest fatality rates in all of combat sports, meaning that it can be – without much doubt – considered as safe, despite the brutality and aggression that we can see during fights. 

We recommend checking out how MMA compares to boxing when it comes to safety. The numbers might surprise you.

Is MMA Good for You?

That’s it, folks. We’ve given you a thorough guide to MMA training and we hope we’ve answered all your questions. If you want to know more details on certain issues from this article, you can read about them in our individual articles scattered across the site. But, before we wrap this up, we are going to give you a short list of reasons why we think MMA training is good for you, which might motivate you to start soon. Here we go:

  1. The benefits of physical activity – any physical activity is highly recommended and MMA is certainly a discipline that demands a lot from you, but also gives you a lot of benefits. You’ll be healthier, more mobile and will generally look and feel better. 
  2. Socialisation – although MMA is an individual sport, training sessions, going to the gym and sparring sessions all require close social contact and can, perhaps, lead to the formation of a strong friendship or relationship with someone. Just remember how Rocky Balboa, the main character of Stallone’s cult franchise, had a close relationship with his coach. 
  3. Discipline – MMA is a martial art that requires a lot of determination and is very demanding. Not everyone can do MMA the way should be done and if a person does not have the required discipline, he may quit. Luckily, MMA does build one’s discipline so it can be beneficial in that aspect likewise. 
  4. Learning your limits – since doing MMA requires a lot of discipline, it has to teach its fighters to control themselves. You do not fight to kill someone; you fight to win and there are certain limits you’ll have to adhere to in order to be a good fighter. 
  5. Self-defence – people who take on MMA while learning how to attack, also learn how to defend themselves. Although you should always avoid confrontations when possible, life sometimes doesn’t allow you to escape or avoid a conflict. In such situations, it is better to know hot to defend yourself than not. 
  6. Building confidence – while teaching you how to attack, how to defend and how to win, MMA also builds on your confidence. It allows you to create a better, a much stronger image of yourself and the confidence you have in the ring, during a fight, will emanate to all other aspects of life. 
  7. New knowledge – MMA is not just punching and kicking, it is a very complex martial art where tactics usually play a much bigger part in winning, than just pure physique. Learning new tactics and tactical approaches, but also new fighting styles, doesn’t just increase your knowledge, it stimulates your brain as the adrenaline of a fight demands for a quick response. 
  8. You’ll feel younger – this one is more for our older readers, as the physical and health benefits of MMA will, undoubtedly, result in your body, and with it your mind, feeling younger. The mere fact that you can hold out and win a fight against someone who’s probably younger than you will be a boost so strong that you’ll probably feel at least 10 years younger. 
  9. You’ll grow as a person – each new experience is special and enables you to develop yourself as a human being. MMA has a lot of different aspects and approaches, and learning (about) them will certainly enable you to grow as a person. 
  10. You never know… – relating to the above-mentioned stories, you’ve heard that legendary boxer Rocky Marciano started at the age of 25 and ended with an unbeaten run. You never know what the future hold, so even if you start at a later date, just remember that you might become the new Marciano. 

Also, for more information, check out 15 different reasons why MMA training is good for you.

If you went through a whole article, we suppose you are really interested and confident to start your MMA journey. Take a look at our content about MMA. You will find a lot of interesting and useful stuff.

And that’s it for now. Keep checking to see our new content and more on the topic of martial arts.

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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