How to become a better fighter for MMA [10 Tips]

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So you’re wondering how you can become a better fighter, I feel you. If you’re trying to get better at sparring or because you just want to be able to defend yourself better, then they are both good reasons to expand your knowledge and ability.

So exactly how to become a better fighter?

Being a great fighter takes dedication and a lot of putting yourself at the edges of your comfort zone. By testing yourself and pushing yourself to your limits, you will be able to expand them and make your highest potential as a fighter that much greater.

What’s more is, I’ll break down 10 tips about improving your fight game in the rest of this article. By the end, you’ll have some new knowledge about how to take your fighting skills to the next level.

Let’s get to it.

What makes a good fighter?

A good fighter has natural qualities in physicality, unwavering self-reliance and determination. Whilst many amateurs can learn many of the skills and improve over time, actually good fighters often have true grit. They are extremely comfortable with being uncomfortable, facing opposition and never backing down.

Keys to being a good fighter

The keys of a good fighter is having a balance of awareness, reflexes and efficiency. Awareness allows you to predict your opponent. High reflexes enables you to respond to the fast changing situation. Efficiency from many repetitive hours on technique keeps you in the fight by generating max output optimally.

So to double down on these key skills:

  • To improve your awareness you should spend plenty of time working in different aspects of martial arts/fighting to understand things like distance management and footwork really well.
  • To get better reflexes there’s really good way other than to get practice in it. You can start light by playing tag with a partner. Each of you try to tap each other on the shoulder or thigh whilst changing the difficulty by adding or removing hands or feet you can use to attack. To expand further, work with a coach to test your reflexes, counters and response in pad work. And then the highest level is to get in the ring and do some sparring, where you will be constantly tested and enter unpredictable scenarios and have no choice but to respond.
  • To maximise your efficiency you’d need to put countless many hours into technique drilling. If you’re a beginner or intermediate, work with a coach who specializes in striking. Invite them to pick apart your form and work on it like building blocks from the ground up. Start with the basics, make them perfect, then add more challenging strikes and combinations. By getting perfect at the basics, everything else will be 10x easier and more fast, powerful and less exhausting. It’s all about max output for minimum effort. The greater you can make that gap, the better you’ll become.
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How long does it take to become a good fighter?

It can take somewhere between 2-3 years to reach an intermediate level in fighting and MMA. Some people can even begin professional fighting in this timeframe as they might have natural physical attributes for fighting or have some other background in street fights or sports that make them quick learners.

In my own experience, it took me a reasonable 2 years to feel like I knew what I was doing when entering the ring. Up until that point, I felt like I was constantly going up and down between feeling a pro and feeling like a newbie.

The truth is that everyone’s path is different. Certain things don’t fix together in your mind quite as quickly as others, whether it’s timing, footwork, advanced combinations, or just plain reflexes not up to scratch. Getting bonked on the nose over and over helps with some of these things for some people and others can be more demotivated by it.

Related: How To Get Into MMA

With fighting and learning mixed martial arts, the best route to success is unwavering persistence. It’s going to hurt at times, you’re going to get injured at other times, but it’s the love of learning and the sport itself that drives you on.

How do you beat a better fighter?

There will always be someone better than you in some way. In fighting, this is true every time you try sparring. Beating someone better than you is often about noticing their patterns of movement to know where they are going to be next and countering with anti-style.

Anti-style is the concept of changing your own style in such a way that it wreaks havoc with whatever the opponent was trying to do.

So look at what they are doing, look for those patterns. Understand the patterns they are making, and look to hit it with a vaccine. Lead them into the patterns by making them think they’re getting it their way and instead have a nicely packaged up, gift-wrapped, present in the shape of your fist on the other end of it.

How to become a fighter at home

Whilst there’s no comparison to experiencing actual fighting or sparring as a way to learn, a lot of good fighter training can be done at home. Fundamental striking, footwork and conditioning can be done anywhere, anytime. But challenging your reflexes in sparring scenarios will surely make you better, faster.

In fact, I wrote another article about the best home workouts for MMA which can give everyone a good base to start with.

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To sum it up quickly:

  • Shadowboxing for improving awareness, movement, footwork
  • Jump Rope for getting better stamina and being able to stay light on your feet (bouncy)
  • Pushups for building a strong core (that’s right, it helps your core stabilizers)
  • Heavy bag work for pushing your muscles to power output
  • Burn out rounds for taking your entire body and muscles to their max and learning to deal with it!

There’s lots more detail in the article about this workout, so give it a look if you’re looking to get started at home.

How to be a good fighter without training

To become a good fighter you will need to do some form of training. Even if you don’t wish to pursue physical conditioning parts of becoming a fighter, you can work on improving your mental awareness of fighting by watching a lot of fights.

Head over to YouTube, search for fighting in various different formats and take notes about what you are seeing be successful and not.

Look at the UFC, Bellator, One Championship as well as bare knuckle and even organised street fights. You’ll learn a lot from every fight you see if you’re ready to absorb.

Just make sure to pair it with some actual technique tutorials, so you also understand the mechanics behind every strike. Like this one with professional UFC fighter, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone:

How to become an unstoppable fighter

Becoming an unstoppable fighter requires an extreme level of hard work. A fight can can be on multiple levels. You need to be not only highly physically conditioned but also have a range of skills across fundamental fight arts like Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing and Muay Thai.

If you look at the records of unbeaten fighters in professional sports, it is always clear that they are some of the hardest workers in their field.

Khabib Nurmagomedov, who retired in 2021, had the unbeaten record of 29-0 (wins-losses). Khabib’s training camps for his fights were gruelling.

He’s ended up with broken foots and destroyed leg muscles whilst training against specialties like leg kick fighters. Like in preparation for his final fight with Justin Gaethje at UFC 254:

How to be a good street fighter

Street fighting is almost always a bad situation to be in. Just one lucky punch, no matter how good you are, can take you out completely. Then things could be extremely dangerous. Some people try bare knuckle fighting with a referee, which normal fight skills training will help anyone do.

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How can I improve my fighting skills

The best way to improve your fighting skills is to find yourself a great coach. Finding the right coach for you can be a challenge. They need to align with your mentality and fighting style but be able to push you to fix any weak points and maximize your strengths.

In my experience I have only worked with a few coaches and whilst some have been excellent teachers and masters in their knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily equate to being the right match for you.

It can take time for you to decide what kind of fighting style and approach you want to take as you move from beginner to intermediate and further. When you have begun to start feeling more comfortable in your own gloves, then finding a coach that matches with that is important.

There are many boxing coaches in the world from which you can learn a great deal about becoming a great boxer.

It’s worth trying a coach for 2-3 months and seeing how you work together. Can you communicate well with each other? Do you listen or disregard what they say? Mutual respect and a willingness to learn are key here.

But when you find the right coach for you, it’s like finding gold. You want to keep pushing yourself and make them proud. It’s worthwhile.

Can you naturally be a good fighter

Many fighters are born with a natural gift for fighting. Powerful physical attributes, speed or amazing reflexes can all be gifted. These abilities can pay off massively during learning to fight, which translates well into having an advantage over your opponent.

I’ve watched and sparred with fighters of many kinds. Tall and slim, short and thick. Super fast or super strong.

In sparring, you’ll encounter many shapes and sizes and have to deal with what comes your way. This will help you to learn pretty quick that you need to adapt every single time you put on the gloves.

I’ve had fighters practically ignore my presence as they duck and weaved around my strikes without even looking me in the eye. And others have been so more physically larger or powerful that they’ve swarmed me into the corner with no escape.

But guess what, each time this happens you deal with it. You learn a little something. And the next time, you change your approach. Because that’s what is most beautiful about learning to fight; the goal posts are always changing and you are always forced to grow and change.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a better, good or even great fighter is often always the same road. It takes a ton of commitment and mental fortitude, some of which people don’t naturally have.

But you might some or many of the natural abilities that you just need to focus in on and maximize, then you could become a better fighter.

I hope this article helped you learn something.

About the Author

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Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe is a passionate mixed martial artist in training, having studied Boxing, Muay Thai, and BJJ at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club.

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