The great thing about mixed martial arts is that ANYONE can get involved no matter your weight or height – there’s a weight class for you.
You might be looking around your gym and see all kinds of body shapes, wondering what is the best body type for MMA?
The best body type for MMA is usually the Mesomorph (athletic type). This is because they have the perfect balance of strength, endurance, and explosiveness. The Mesomorph can get great at a variety of martial arts, giving them a wide skill set for fighting.
With that said, the different body types can have their own advantages. A good fighter will learn how to use their natural physical gifts for fighting.
In my own gym, I’ve seen body types of all kinds. There’s guys – and gals – who are short and stocky, tall and thin, freakishly big, and everything in-between.
They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some of this is to do with their unique body size and shape.
MMA involves a variety of techniques from different martial arts.
In some martial arts, you might see more of one body type than others. But when it comes to MMA, you’ll see ALL kinds.
Let’s look at the different body types and the martial arts they’re good for.
What are the 3 different body types?
The 3 body types are the Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph. Ectomorph can sometimes be known as the “skinny” or “lanky” type. Mesomorph is often also known as the muscular type. The Endomorph is known as the stocky type and they are usually smaller but with a wider build.
Let’s break it down and look at some examples.
The Skinny type: Ectomorph
Ectomorphs are slim, have longer limbs and their shoulder width is close to their hip-width (like one straight line).
They are usually tall or “lanky“, have little fat, and have a high metabolism.
They usually struggle to put on muscle mass and need a huge caloric intake to make a difference.
Ectomorph MMA Fighters
An Ectomorph fighter usually has a few unique body features which can give them great advantages.
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Because an Ectomorph usually has a longer body, arms, and legs they can have an edge in reach and height.
Having a longer reach can give the fighter a lead with striking and making it very difficult for the opponent to strike back.
Think about the “Spider”, Anderson Silva. He has extremely long arms and legs and is lethal with his ability to kick people in the face with little effort.
The extra height can make them difficult to grapple and control. The taller fighter usually has the upper hand.
An Ectomorph’s limb length can also help a lot when on the ground, particularly in BJJ.
Limbs that have more reach, like the legs, can lock their opponent in place and make it hard for them to escape.
They’ll burn more energy trying to defend or counter as the Ectomorph wraps them up.
A few great examples of Ectomorphs in the sport of MMA are:
- Nate Diaz
- Max Holloway
- Israel Adesanya
- Anderson Silva
There are plenty more great examples of skinny fighters in the UFC as they are often very successful at dominating opponents with reach and cardio.
Specialties for the Ectomorph fighter
An Ectomorph is often talented for Muay Thai and BJJ.
In Muay Thai, the reach advantage makes landing varieties of kicks much easier for the Ectomorph.
In BJJ, the Ectomorph can expel less energy whilst using their long limbs to wrap up opponents, making it difficult for them to evade.
The Muscular type: Mesomorph
Mesomorphs are often built thicker than an Ectomorph and have a wider shoulder width than their hips. They are able to put on muscle mass easier and still burn fat with a manageable caloric intake.
A Mesomorph body type is usually average-to-tall in height with regular-sized limbs and an average or better metabolism.
Mesomorph MMA Fighters
The Mesomorph fighter is the most common. They tend to have a physical edge in building strength and endurance, naturally.
Where the Ectomorph can have advantages in reach and height, the Mesomorph is physically balanced.
This kind of fighter is built for speed and explosive efficiency.
They can have the best mix of strengths of all the body types but could lack the advantages that an Ectomorph or Endomorph has.
Because of this variety of positive traits, the Mesomorph is often referred to as the best body type for fighting. It’s why you’ll see a lot of these types in boxing, martial arts, and even wrestling.
Examples of Mesomorph MMA fighters are:
- Kamaru Usman
- Khabib Nurmagomedov
- Petr Yan
Specialties for the Mesomorph fighter
A Mesomorph has a body type that can adapt to many different martial arts.
They have the strength and endurance mix to apply to various striking and ground fighting.
Boxing is often an excellent tool for the Mesomorph. Boxing training will push the fighter to the highest potential for stamina and conditioning.
Along the way, they’ll learn to become excellent strikers to use in MMA.
The Mesomorph should also dive into Wrestling to expand their athleticism. Using their natural abilities in strength and endurance, they’ll grow their whole fighting game.
The Stocky type: Endomorph
Endomorphs are often regarded as “short and stocky”. They have the same shoulder width as their hips.
An Endomorph can gain serious mass fast but could struggle to lower their body fat percentage and they’ll usually have a bit more around the midsection.
Struggling to cut weight can be a real problem for professional fighters when they try to make weight for a competitive fight.
Endomorph MMA Fighters
You’ll often see Endomorph fighters in the heavier weight classes as they are able to put on weight easier leading them into those fight divisions.
The Endomorph can often be considered the best body type for fighting on the ground game because of their lower center of gravity and strong legs, among other things.
Examples of Endomorph’s in MMA are:
- Daniel Cormier
- Alexander Volkanovski
- Justin Gaethje
- Amanda Nunes
It shows that despite what people usually think about an Endomorph, they don’t always have a lot of extra fat.
The Endomorph body type is about the hip-to-shoulder ratio. They’re often considered “pear-shaped” as they are wider at the bottom.
For women, this translates literally. But for men, it usually can seem like they are one wide width from shoulder to hip.
Specialties for the Endomorph fighter
With the stocky build of an Endomorph, they have a natural grounding and solid base.
This low center point of gravity allows them to twist at the hips to generate a lot of power. It can make them great at close-quarter striking with hooks and uppercuts.
The thick and shorter fighter can also be very powerful in wrestling.
They usually have a lower height that makes it easy for them to attack the legs.
Once they secure a takedown, their strong midsection, hips, and legs allow them to control the fight on the ground.
The combination type: Honorary mention
It’s worth pointing out here that a small percentage of people have a combination of body types.
Some fighters could appear as the Mesomorph body type but have long arms, giving a reach advantage.
Others could have most Mesomorph features but slightly wider hips that allow them to generate more torque power.
Here are some examples of combination type fighters:
- Conor McGregor, who is Mesomorph with uniquely long reach
- Tony Ferguson, who is a mix of the types but mostly appears Mesomorph also with a long reach
- Alistair Overeem, who has a very mixed body type with a long reach, wide hips yet a near athletic body
- Jon Jones, who is very tall and thick and seems to have a great balance across his entire body which likely helps him to be as successful as he is
- Bruce Lee, the one and only who had a bit of a combination body type between the Ectomorph (skinny) and Mesomorph (muscular) which gave him incredible speed and power
Choosing a martial art based on body type
If you’re not sure about which martial arts training to choose, your body type could be a good reason to start with one in particular.
Different body types have unique natural advantages due to things like limb length, speed, cardiovascular efficiency, strength gains, and more.
All this being said, there isn’t always the best body type for MMA or fighting or any other sport simply because the grit and determination of any athlete is usually the biggest factor.
These suggestions also come from my own experience in different martial arts and commonalities I’ve seen. Let’s take a look.
Best martial art for the Ectomorph (Skinny) body type
As a reminder, the Ectomorph body type is typically tall and skinny and has a harder time gaining muscle mass and strength.
But they do have unique advantages of often being taller and having longer limbs than other body types of the same weight.
So if you think practically about the advantages of being taller and having longer limbs, it makes me consider two main martial arts to focus on.
Students of this martial art, particularly successful ones, are often fitting with an Ectomorph body type.
It’s because their limb length gives them advantages in striking their opponent with high kicks and also managing distance and keeping the opposition at bay with long-reaching arms.
The Ectomorph also benefits from having high cardiovascular efficiency and natural speed that works really well in a sport that is more often about striking success rate than, say, trying to wrestle someone around the ring which requires more strength.
I often see rollers on the mat who fit the Ectomorph (tall and skinny) type, as well.
Their height and limbs usually give them a unique advantage of being able to wrap up sparring partners easier. They often have greater flexibility than other body types as well. They find it a much simpler learning curve to wrap their legs in different positions around the opponent.
Other body types will struggle with even simple locks, holds, and positions simply because their limbs can’t reach for it as easily.
Holding people in locks and holds that require less of your energy makes you a very successful roller in BJJ.
Best martial art for the Mesomorph (Muscular) body type
The Mesomorph is usually the most balanced body type because it has similar benefits to an Ectomorph and Endomorph.
They’ll be able to build muscles and strength better than an Ectomorph and still maintain a good maximum potential for flexibility, speed, and burst energy.
It may be one of the oldest combat sports on the planet, but it can often go overlooked as a martial art skill to perfect.
Becoming an excellent striker needs a mix of skills like:
And more. Whilst you’d do well to learn a variety of striking on offense and defense, the fundamentals in Boxing are simply unbeatable if you have a good teacher.
For example, getting Mayweather-level agility at avoiding and returning strikes in Boxing, then you can always take those new talents over to Muay Thai or more MMA fight-specific training.
Take your pick
As a Mesomorph you can also pick whatever martial art sounds most interesting to you. You’d have enough of the prerequisite physical attributes to do well in any if you put the work in.
With that ability, mixing things up among various martial arts or being very MMA-specific and you’d be able to get the needed skills to be a good all-around MMA fighter.
Depending on what’s available to you in your area, try these martial arts for getting a good base for MMA (UFC style):
- Muay Thai
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Mesomorph is likely the best body type for Karate. You have the right physical features to be able to have power, speed, and flexibility for kicks.
Pushing it even further, you can try expanding your abilities by mixing in some of these martial arts that are less MMA specific:
- Judo – learn to throw people really well
- Aikido – learn to use someone’s weight and momentum against them, really well
- Jeet Kune Do – Bruce Lee’s martial art which mixes many techniques
- Krav Maga – a self defense training martial art that could come in handy to escape tight situations
- Taekwondo – learn some of the best kicking techniques with knockout power
- Wing Chun – get a better level of “flow” in close quarters combat
- Tai Chi – whilst you won’t learn a ton about actual fighting, there is a lot to learn about flow and close contact movement. Plus you’ll probably become a lot more mindful and enjoy those benefits.
Best martial art for the Endomorph (Stocky) body type
The Endomorph is more often stocky and sometimes has a pear-like body shape. For a man, they’ll often have shoulders, waist, and hips all the same width.
With the stocky type, they could be shorter but with thick muscle density, bigger legs, and a solid base.
More often than not, those I see being most successful with this body type are doing:
Just by being slightly smaller than your opposition, yet having the strength and lower base balance, the Endomorph can have a quick advantage over opponents.
I’ve seen firsthand the abilities of the stocky but short guy who is able to attack the legs fast, stay low, and burst to explode in lifts and takedown attempts to catch their opponent off guard.
If you’re a stocky guy like this – I highly recommend finding a Wrestling gym or coach.
The Endomorph can also do really well in becoming a high-level boxer, just like the Mesomorph.
The difference is that the Endomorph will need to learn slightly different techniques to fight in the pocket with their opponent.
As they’re usually shorter, maybe even slightly slower than a typical Mesomorph boxer, they need to work out how to close distance quickly and do damage to the body and hooks and uppercuts from up close.
A Mesomorph will use their height and reach advantage against a shorter opponent – the trick is not to let them!
To sum up, the Mesomorph usually has the best physical features for fighting.
But MMA includes many different kinds of martial arts, for which different body types have certain advantages.
You might find that you can develop the best base for MMA for your own body type and then use it very effectively in a fight.
Tall and slim types can control opponents on the feet more easily with their reach.
Athletic body types can be good at a variety of martial arts and excel in burst strength output due to their great stamina.
A thick body type fighter can take the lead in wrestling an opponent to the ground and staying on top.
You have the body type you were born with so use it to your advantage with the tips in this article.
Learn how to use your abilities and against different kinds of opponents. You’ll become a great all-around fighter in no time.
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.