Having started MMA late at 28, I often wondered what is the best age for MMA fighters. If you’re getting started with mixed martial arts, you might wonder if your age is important, too.
Age affects us all and presents different challenges because of it, for the young and the old.
I decided to do some research about the effects of age in MMA and found some interesting results. Let’s look a bit deeper into the evidence and see why.
What age should you start MMA?
The best age for an MMA fighter to start is between 13-16. The adolescent body can learn techniques before it becomes too rigid as an adult. Starting to learn techniques early gives a greater advantage later on.
When beginning a new sport your age can always play a factor, and mixed martial arts is no different.
Combat Sports on the whole can be very intensive and demanding on the body. Because of this, being very young can present a lot of learning challenges.
Your body type is also changing as it grows into an adult. You might not discover your best natural abilities until you are fully grown.
What age is too young to start training mixed martial arts?
Children over the age of 6 can start training some of the martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, and even Wrestling.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gives children a lot of important tools to controlling their opponent whilst on the floor. There is also plenty of lessons in respect and grading in BJJ, like Karate.
Kids will also gain a lot of life skills like honor, duty, and respect in the practices of BJJ and Karate. Their grading system teaches valuable skills like focus and improving themselves.
Youngest MMA fighters in the world
Chase Hooper was the youngest fighter ever to join the UFC, aged just 19. Chase joined up by performing well on Dana White’s Contender Series and was introduced in UFC 245. At that time, he had an 8-0 (wins-losses) record. He won on his debut against Daniel Taymur by knockout.
Across the pond in Asia, Angela Lee won her first MMA world title at just 19 years old in ONE Championship.
It’s clear that fighters are beginning to train at younger ages and it is giving them some extraordinary advantages against their opponents. Having lived and grown up around martial arts is proving to give them a wealth of experience to fall on, even when young in age.
UFC Minimum Age Requirement
You had to be at least 21 years old to meet the requirement to apply to be on one of the UFC’s series, The Ultimate Fighter.
But as we’ve seen in Chase Hooper, the likely requirement is to be able to be classed as an adult in the country or sport they are participating in. Chase joined the UFC at 19 as the youngest ever, but who knows when the first 18-year-old may join the roster.
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When do MMA fighters enter their prime?
The best age for an MMA fighter’s peak is usually between 27-32. Though every fighter might peak at a different age. Statistics of professional MMA fights show that the younger a fighter is, the more likely he is to win.
Many MMA fighters come into the sport at a variety of ages and so their personal prime can vary from other fighters.
Some fighters begin the sport in their late 20s and hit the UFC by 30. Other fighters adapt their knowledge from other single martial art sports like Wrestling or Taekwondo. Some may begin late but have applicable skills that allow them to level up faster than others.
What age is too old to start MMA?
People get started in MMA of all ages, as each martial art can be learned relatively safely without the need to put yourself in an actual fight. Some fighters even began their MMA training between 28-34 years old and made it pro in the UFC.
When should an MMA fighter retire?
The best age for an MMA fighter to retire is usually between 35-40. It depends on different factors. Slower reflexes, injuries, and loss streaks can all play a part. But many professional fighters have continued to the age of 40 and some way beyond it.
UFC Maximum age limit
I mentioned earlier that there seems to be a minimum age requirement for UFC applications. Similarly, they only appear to consider new applicants up to the age of 34 years old.
It seems that the UFC won’t accept anyone older than this. It’s unlikely the fighter would still be at their peak if they are older.
Most fighters in their mid-to-late 30s will have more common injuries. Younger fighters also have a greater chance to win a fight against an older opponent. The UFC knows this and likely makes the fighter roster shift towards the younger fighters.
Oldest MMA fighters in the world
The sport of MMA, as we know it today under the UFC, has been around since 1993 when UFC 1 debuted on November 12th. Since that time, the UFC has had different variations with the rules changing over time.
Since the beginning of UFC, different fighters have come through the ranks and at some very surprising active ages. Here’s a few prime examples:
- Randy Couture was an active fighter in the UFC at the age of 48. He also maintains the record as the oldest title holder ever in UFC & MMA sport.
- Maurice Smith was a Heavyweight champion in the UFC and was an active MMA fighter as old as 52.
- Ken Shamrock headlined many main events for the UFC over his career and was fighting in MMA at the age of 54.
- Yoel Romero started training in MMA at 31 years old, to then compete aged 32, but did have a background in wrestling.
There is a well of data out there that shows that the younger fighter wins more often than the older fighter in any matchup. It would seem, then, that the sport of MMA skews towards the younger fighters.
There have been many examples of fighters achieving great things at both far ends of the age spectrum. Fighters as young as 19 have won world titles, as well as those as old as 48.
But from looking into it deeper, it’s unlikely that you could become a professional MMA fighter if you were older than 34. If you’re in your mid-20s and want to go pro, then you still have a chance if you work hard.
As with most things in life, the best time to start was yesterday. And the next best time to start is right now. Start training today in whichever martial art seems exciting to you. I’m certain that even if you don’t make it to the big stage, you’ll love this sport for the rest of your life.
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.