UFC fighters are among the elite athletes when it comes to peak physical conditioning. You might think that the hardest part is the actual fight, but the real struggle comes way before. If you want to be the best when you step inside that octagon, you need to leave blood, sweat, and tears in the gym.
Every fighter has a unique UFC workout routine, and it changes every training camp, depending on what opponent they’re facing. There are some unwritten rules and guidelines they follow, though, so keep reading if you want to learn how UFC fighters train and how you can get in that perfect physical condition, too.
Note that they have the best trainers, nutritionists, and technical experts to help them prepare, so following their workout doesn’t mean you’ll immediately be as good in MMA as a UFC fighter. However, it will get you in the right position to thrive in mixed martial arts.
How Many Hours a Week Do UFC Fighters Train?
The number of hours in a gym varies from fighter to fighter. It also depends on what kind of training they are doing, as the fighters spend much more time training when they enter training camp before a fight compared to how much they train outside of camp. Also, being in the gym and actually intensively training are two different things.
That being said, an average UFC fighter trains 1.5-2 hours a day when they are out of training camp, and they do it 5-6 times a week, which sums up to about 8-12 hours of training a week.
When they are in training camp, however, they spend a lot more time training. They do at least two sessions a day (varying the training intensity and type), lasting around 2 hours each. Near the end of camp, the training gets the most intense, with some fighters doing up to three sessions a day, 5-6 times a week.
That sums up to around 20-30 hours a week, which is a huge amount of time in the gym. Some fighters say it’s a bit exaggerated, as much of that time goes for warmups, stretching, and light exercise. Still, it’s very intense, but it’s the price they pay to be elite.
What Workouts Do UFC Fighters Do?
Again, the workout routine will depend highly on the fighter’s individual preferences and the opponent they are facing. For instance, if their opponent is a wrestler/grappler, the fighter will probably spend more time in the gym doing grappling and ground technique and exercise.
Also, the routines change based on training time. If a fighter is in a training camp, the workouts will get more intense and diverse than what they usually do between training camps. Therefore, I’ll focus on training camp workouts, as they are the true representation of what UFC fighters endure to get that peak performance on fight night.
As I mentioned before, each fighter has a unique way to complete the training camp, and they do various workouts, exercises, etc. Also, the program gets adjusted depending on the opponent.
It’s not common practice in lower levels of MMA, but in the UFC, it’s crucial to know the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent and play the mismatches. Even the weakest UFC competition is still elite competition, so you can’t just play your strengths and hope for the best. You have to be able to respond to everything the other guy throws at you.
Even though the workout plan in every training camp is different, and every fighter does different things in camp, some things never change, and that’s the aspect of training.
I’ll divide the workouts into several groups that every UFC fighter goes through in their training. Many workouts overlap, but it’s important to cover everything to be successful in the octagon.
Strength and power are what make MMA fighters so dangerous. Some fighters rely more on brute force (especially at heavyweight), while some are more technical and prefer grappling over punching and kicking. Still, you need strength to endure an MMA match and deny the opponent the chance to overpower you simply.
In training camp, fighters train six days a week, but they do strength workouts only 2-4 days, depending on how much focus they’re putting on power. For instance, Brock Lesnar incorporated strength training in almost every practice, while grapplers like Demian Maia focused more on endurance and technique workouts.
When it comes to pure strength training, the goal is to build muscle in a good, even way. You need to work the entire body and work on different muscle groups each day. If you leave something out, it only allows your opponent to exploit that weakness in the cage.
Some fighters do full-body workouts when doing strength training, but to simplify, let’s say you divided your training by muscle groups. You work on your chest and triceps on day one, followed by back and biceps on day two. Day three goes for shoulders and necks, while day four is leg day. You should implement abdominal and core workouts every day.
The exercises vary depending on the fighter’s preferences. They usually include body-weight training, such as push-ups, squats, pull-ups, sit-ups, etc., and a whole lot of weight training (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc.).
One version of a full-body workout might look like this: Do three sets of five reps of clean, shoulder-width pull-ups. Next, go for circuit training consisting of squats (with weights for extra intensity), chin-ups, and kneeling hip flexor stretches (4 sets/5-7 reps each).
Finish with a second circuit of bench presses, farmer carries (30-50m), and kettlebell swings (three sets/8-10 reps).
Note that this is merely one workout plan that some UFC fighters implement. Every fighter does exercise they prefer. These include deadlifts (and weightlifting of all kinds), lunges, push-ups, etc.
Develop a plan you prefer, but don’t focus your entire training only on strength – there’s no use for it if you can’t back it up with technique and stamina.
Martial arts in general, but especially MMA, are a form of extremely high-intensity workouts. You’ll get gassed very quickly, as it requires explosiveness, power, and endurance. Even some elite fighters competing in the UFC burn out quickly (after a round or two) if they don’t work on their stamina enough.
To be able to withstand three or five rounds (going five minutes each), you’ll have to be extremely well-conditioned. However, it takes more than jogging to get to where you need to be.
Sure, it prepares you for long periods of exhaustion, but it’s a completely different type of muscle activity than MMA. Some fighters don’t even bother running for miles every practice.
Again, what UFC fighters do for endurance and stamina training depends on their preferences. Many fighters love running, so they do it in the gym, and they also go jogging every morning or evening. On the other hand, others prefer cycling, which is also a great form of building endurance.
Although both increase the lung capacity and help you not to get gassed quickly, both aren’t explosive outbursts but rather continual, long, low-intensity workouts. MMA is different, though. It requires short outbursts of energy repeatedly – virtually every time you move in that cage.
That’s why fighters tend to focus more on short, high-intensity outburst exercises and intervals to develop fast-twitch fibers in their muscles. Those fibers help the muscles endure the huge amounts of force they have to withstand inside the octagon, especially if the fight goes the distance and lasts 15-25 minutes.
Those exercises include circuit training with dumbbells, Tabata workout on a treadmill, etc. These forms of exercise are highly associated with strength training, and they can be done interchangeably.
For instance, Jon Jones shared his endurance training regimen (excluding cycling, jogging, sprints, and other classic forms of stamina building). He does Tabata intervals on a treadmill first.
Tabata is a form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) first introduced in Japan, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, and it’s basically an equation as follows: 20/10 x 8 = 4. The 20 stands for seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest. The 8 represents the number of rounds, equaling four minutes of training in total.
The exercises you do can vary, from treadmill sprints (which Jones does) to low skipping, squats, planks, etc.
After Tabata intervals on a treadmill, Bones does ten dumbbell jump squats, 25 dumbbell lunges, and ten dumbbell jump squats again, taking thirty seconds of rest between sets and doing 5-7 sets, depending on how intense he wants the workout to be.
If you combine the high-intensity outburst workouts with classing endurance drills such as jogging or cycling, you get a beast that can go for the full 25 minutes without even breathing hard. Sparring also plays a vital role in endurance, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
Strength and endurance training is vital for success, but no fighter can compete at UFC level without thorough, proper technique training. On average, around 60-70% of training camp is dedicated to technique, with the number varying depending on each fighter individually.
Of course, fighters put focus on their strengths first. For instance, a striker will polish his striking as much as possible to have the upper hand on his opponent. However, the biggest part of technical training is watching the film, studying the opponent, adjusting, and exploiting their weaknesses.
If a striker gets matched up against a wrestler/grappler, he’ll try to exploit his advantage on the feet and outstrike his opponent. However, you have to be aware that the wrestler will try to lunge in and take you down, and if he succeeds and gets into his comfortable position, it’s game over.
That’s why fighters have to find that perfect balance in training camp when doing technical training. You need to use your strengths, but you also need to prepare yourself for your opponent’s advantages and neutralize them.
In that case, you’ll work on your takedown defense to prevent the fight from ever going down on the mat. You’ll also focus your work on grappling to know what to anticipate on the ground and avoid getting yourself into a bad position, either for ground-and-pound or for a quick submission.
If you have a striker-vs.-striker matchup, some fighters like to just play their strengths, while others seek to surprise the opponent and work on their grappling to exploit the weakest part of the enemy’s game.
It all depends on the matchups and how willing the fighter is to work on their technique. Relying only on physical attributes can only get you so far. For example, Anthony Johnson destroyed the competition in the light heavyweight division but got stopped at the final step two times.
Both times, the champion (Daniel Cormier) neutralized that brutal force with superior technique. The fights ended with a submission each time, showing that superior technique beats raw force most times.
Of course, you need both to dominate in the UFC. Francis Ngannou stormed through the heavyweight division only on force and then got schooled at the last step. He recollected, worked on his technique while maintaining his power, and became the champion. If he continues to improve his technique, nobody is touching him for a long time.
Finally, sparring is the part of the practice that puts everything you worked on to the test and makes you combine your strength, endurance, and technique training into fighting shape. Sparring is how fighters sharpen their technique and put to use what they worked on.
It’s also how they prepare themselves for three or five rounds of intense war in the octagon, meaning they work on their endurance, too. Usually, they go for five rounds of sparring straight, getting a new, fresh opponent each round to intensify the training further.
In the end, the intensity of the sparring helps you build your strength even further, look for new angles, and polish your all-around game as much as possible.
You need each of the components to be successful, but sparring is crucial to put it all together and become an elite force. Kamaru Usman, for example, is known for his incredible cardio, and he once stated that it’s because of intense, long sparring sessions, not just running or cycling.
How Much Does It Cost to Train at a UFC Gym?
Luckily for us, MMA fans, UFC Gyms, facilities, and training staff isn’t reserved only for UFC fighters. There are over 150 locations where you can train at a UFC Gym at a reasonable price, getting the highest-quality training possible, including equipment, personal training, access to UFC training facilities, etc.
Membership price varies depending on what you want. If you want One Club Access, you’ll pay a $99 initiation fee and a $69 monthly fee after that. The All Club Access has an $89 monthly fee, or a $649 annual fee, with a $0 cancellation fee.
You can get a longer free trial if you bring a friend (up to a free month if there’s three of you), and if there are no UFC Gym locations near you, you can get an online membership for $10 a month, which includes live stream classes, video classes on-demand, online personal training, etc.