If you’re considering getting into MMA and want to take it higher than just hitting the bag, this article is going to break down the steps for you.
Want to know how to get into MMA fighting? Here’s the short answer:
To get into MMA, you’ll need a reputable MMA gym to learn a solid base of the key martial arts such as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well as a coach willing to train and corner your fight. Your coach will likely find you the fight, too.
Keep reading on as I’ll detail what you need to think about to go from a complete beginner all the way to your first amateur fight tournament.
Getting into MMA for the first time
So you want to know how to start MMA training, and maybe even how to become a MMA fighter, which can be a daunting task for some people.
The idea of being punched in the face or having your neck squeezed under another fighter’s weight can be daunting – but it’s actually pretty liberating once you get past your fears.
Getting into MMA was one of the best things I ever decided to do. But let’s talk more about how to actually get started.
If your primary aim is to get into Boxing for the first time (rather than MMA) then I recommend checking out my helpful guide on how to get into Boxing instead.
Can you teach yourself to fight?
To become an MMA fighter, it’s mostly about doing the work. A lot can be learned by watching and studying how to learn mixed martial arts but it is only in practicing the movements, footwork, and muscle response that you can truly learn to be ready to compete.
It is critical to get a good base for MMA by learning from knowledgeable coaches of the martial arts. You definitely need to know boxing, Muay Thai, and at least one form of ground fighting like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Wrestling.
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If you have a good base already, say 1-2 years of training, then you can start refining a lot of your skills on the bag or with a grappling dummy through drills. By this point, you should know what you’re supposed to do but you might just need to run the drill over and over until it becomes twitch responsive.
Can you get into MMA with no experience?
Anyone can start MMA training with zero experience. You only need the inspiration to try something completely new and to want to learn. Every single professional fighter today started MMA with nothing but a passion for it. Their abilities and skills developed along the way.
With a passion for martial arts, you can learn quickly and grow every single week. With a good coach by your side to teach you and guide you from the errors, you will likely make, you can go as far as any other.
I also like to think that to become a decent mixed martial artist you need to learn some key fundamentals aside from just the martial arts themselves.
Those are improving your awareness, reflexes, and efficiency.
Mastering these 3 things is what will allow you to become a well-rounded fighter and give you an edge over your competition as they are fundamentals over and above just learning striking combinations.
Fundamentals like these will help you with every aspect of combat sports. They can’t be taught, only learned through direct experience.
It’s important to know technically what to do when you’re up against a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, but you’ll also need grit and have developed keen reflexes.
What do I need to know before getting into MMA?
Before you get started training in mixed martial arts, you should know a few things that will help you to avoid a few mistakes. These are things I would have told myself a few years ago if I could:
- Injuries are a common part of the sport
- Be prepared to listen to your body to know when to do active recovery and when to push. Getting injured can be pretty demotivating, you need to remember your passion for this sport to keep going forward and not let injury deter you.
- Train with more experienced partners
- By watching, listening to, and training with other fighters that are more experienced than yourself you will not only learn much faster but also potentially suffer less injuries. A better fighter is calmer and doesn’t have anything to prove. Training with another, over-energized, white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu could become a quick ticket to being out of action.
- Don’t worry about looking good, worry about being good
- In my early days of learning to punch and kick, I concerned myself too much with looking like I knew what I was doing rather than being completely open as a student to just listen and learn. No one cares if you’re any good but you.
- Stay humble and listen to the right people
- I experienced plenty of other beginners telling me what they thought I was doing wrong. It gets frustrating when you think you know better than them, and yet they won’t shut their mouth. But it’s a motivation to stay calm, silent and humble. Listen to the coach most of all.
- Spend time watching the best fighters
- If you go into any MMA or combat sports gym, it becomes clear pretty quickly who is at the top of the food chain there. Don’t let this scare you away. Stick around longer in the gym than just for your session and just watch better fighters perform. You will learn tons by understanding their movements and something to try out for yourself next time.
- You don’t have to spar heavy with anyone
- Sometimes you’ll just get the guy who wants to knock your head off in what you thought was going to be a light sparring session. They’re usually the unknown fellow who walks into the MMA gym on sparring night with his guns locked and loaded. But guess what? You don’t have to participate and fight with people who are out there looking to injure people. It’s a controlled setting, you can sit out and your time (and theirs) will come. Light sparring is a fundamental way of getting better at footwork, dodging and countering so focus on that in the early days.
- Focus on defending yourself first
- Learning to defend yourself properly is one of the keys to success. Anyone can throw enough weight behind a punch or a kick for it to do something, but can you sustain yourself long enough by keeping yourself protected?
Is it hard to get into MMA?
MMA training for beginners is as simple as finding a gym and committing to learning at least a few sessions a week. Tell the coaches if you want to fight and they will know where to come when they are looking to run an event.
A lot of gyms will run their own fight nights to give up-and-coming, as well as seasoned MMA fighters, opportunities to sharpen their skills and put on a show.
It helps newbies deal with the stage fright and learn what it feels like to have the maximum adrenaline running through your veins and still try to perform in front of a crowd.
What equipment do I need to get into MMA?
A typical MMA gym will have a large quantity of equipment ready for training such as boxing gloves, hand wraps, and shin guards. But each fighter will need their own mouth guard if they are going to be sparring.
But even so, it’s a good idea to get your hands on your own equipment. It can be a bad idea for your wrists to be wearing boxing gloves that have adapted to someone else’s hands, for example.
Plus the amount of body fluids like sweat you can share with others in borrowed or rented gloves is pretty revolting after a while.
Getting your own pair of beginner Boxing gloves that is easy to just start using right away is the smart thing to do.
My first pair of gloves were the Fairtex BGV14, and I still get plenty of use out of them after taking care of them.
Fairtex BGV14 Gloves
High-quality training gloves that are suitable for Boxing and Muay Thai/Kickboxing at an affordable price.
These gloves were a great starter pair that have stood the test of 1-year regular use. I’m sure they’ll continue to give me a great option as a second pair for mitts work or sparring into the future.
With your first pair of gloves, you definitely want to go with a velcro strap and a high degree of comfort.
You’re probably also looking for adaptability and value for money, so a microfibre pair of gloves like the Fairtex is a great option.
Hand wraps go around your hands and wrists as added protection before wearing gloves.
Most gyms have hand wraps readily available and clean for you to use, but if they don’t then you’ll need to get a couple of pairs to make sure you always have a clean set to wear.
Everlast Hand Wraps 3-Pack
Three pairs of elastic hand wraps, each 2″ x 108″ and machine washable.
Everlast is a quality brand that has been around combat sports for generations at this point, so this is the best pick so you’ll have plenty of options.
You can just throw your worn hand wraps in the washing machine with your regular clothes. A good tip is to get a netted laundry bag that you can put inside of before washing. This helps to keep the wraps together during the cycle instead of overstretching the elastic.
Shin guards are there to protect you and your sparring partner when kicks start flying for disciplines like Muay Thai and Kickboxing.
Most guards will cover the tops of your feet, the shin, and even a large part of the knee (though that’s not an excuse to knee your sparring partner in the face!).
Some leg guards are more flexible than others. Some slip on like a long sock and fit firmly around your legs to allow for more mobility, but they might not be as protective.
Fairtex Competition Muay Thai Shin Guards (SP5)
Quality and experienced shin guards manufacturer presents some of the best protection.
Fairtex is a Thailand-native brand so you can be sure of their experience in producing protective gear suitable for fighting like Muay Thai and Kickboxing. These last a long time.
Most shin guards are pretty bulky and safe for many purposes. The only issue is the straps can move around a bit more and require some readjusting mid-fight.
The mouth guard is very necessary as it goes a very long way to protecting your jaw from the shock which is what prevents damage to the brain.
There are plenty of cheaper options for boil and bite mouthguards and then there is a custom mouthguard that offers the ultimate protection for the dedicated fighter.
Impact Professional Custom Mouthguard
The perfect fit is suitable for all varieties of martial arts training.
Impact are one of the industry leaders in providing professional fighters with custom jaw protection with their mouthguard collection. Suitable for complete beginners, too!
It can be really beneficial to dedicate some extra funds to a custom mouthguard to protect your jaw and your pearly whites.
When you have a mouthguard adapted perfectly to your teeth and gums, you’ll be at a much greater protection level than a simple boil and bite version.
How to get into amateur MMA fights
Once you’ve got your teeth into training the beautiful arts of face-punching, then you’re ready to start thinking about your first fight.
It’s a good idea to prepare mentally as well as physically. Talking to your coaches and other fighters who have been through the experience is a good way to get a ton of knowledge about this straight away.
But allow me to answer some common questions you’ll have.
How do I get my first MMA fight?
Getting into MMA competition is fairly straightforward by just making it known to your coach and making yourself available. Moving up into actual tournaments, divisions or whole promotions is a whole other story. One which usually means making a name for yourself.
Sometimes you might need to prove yourself as worthy of a fight for it to be interesting for your coaches and a rival to make the fight happen. So the better you get, the more interest you’ll generate.
When other people in the gym ask you “Are you getting ready for a fight?” then you’ll know you’re on the right track.
How to get into shape for MMA
Getting into shape for MMA requires a multi-disciplined approach to strength and conditioning. It should include training to build up your cardio to have a big gas tank for fighting while maintaining maximal strength for your weight class.
Following a good program is essential to being successful in building up your conditioning to be able to fight. Many fighters can have good skills, or be particularly strong, but if they have a poor level of endurance then they can often lose.
Underground MMA Conditioning System
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It’s key to help your body pump oxygen efficiently around your body and fast to the demands of fighting which is being under constant pressure and applying it to your opponent.
A solid strength and conditioning program will include nutritional help and testing alongside the training to ensure that every angle is covered.
If you’re looking for a strength and conditioning program for MMA, I highly recommend the MMA Underground Conditioning System from my friend James De Lacey at Sweet Science Of Fighting.
How much do amateur MMA fighters train?
Most amateur MMA fighters train in 3-5 classes a week. It’s important for amateur fighters to get a broader skillset of the different martial arts whilst also improving their talents. Some of these sessions should usually include strength and conditioning to keep training and prevent injuries.
At the professional level, even for a small promotion MMA fighters, will train multiple times every day as it becomes their sole focus.
You realize this all too well when you walk into the gym to find the same faces at all the classes you attend. It seems like they never leave the gym.
And in reality, some of them don’t. They are there every day to learn and grow and ultimately become good enough to win fights and make a handsome living.
How long should you train before your first MMA fight?
Amateurs can fight as soon as they feel ready. Some find their first fight after just a handful of training sessions. Each MMA fighter should be preparing between at least 2-3 weeks before the fight to get their body, diet, and mentality ready.
Famously, Max Holloway had his first amateur fight after just a couple of training sessions. Some people are just ready to fight straight away as they want to test their abilities in a real competition.
Do amateur MMA fighters get paid?
An amateur MMA fighter will usually get paid something small for their participation. A lot of amateur fights are put on for charity which gives competitors a reason to fight and to generate cash for a good cause. Amateur fight pay can be as low as $50 for a show.
Whilst it is pretty simple to get into MMA, just join a gym and be open to learning, getting into your first MMA fight can be a more challenging route as you’ll need a coach by your side to train you and get you ready for a fight.
It’ll take discipline as you begin your very own fight camp but before you know it you’ll have finished your first fight, beaten Chuck Norris, won the girl, and run off to become the next Heavyweight Champ!
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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.