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How To Get Into MMA & Prep For Your First Fight

How To Get Into MMA

So you wanna be a boxer, in the golden ring?

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.

How to get into MMA? Here’s the short answer:

To start training in 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.

Starting Mixed Martial Arts

So you want to know how to get into MMA training, and maybe even become an MMA fighter, which can be a concerning task for some people. The idea of being punched in the face or having your neck squeezed under another fighters’ weight can be daunting – but it’s actually pretty liberating once you get past your fears.

Starting to learn mixed martial arts was one of the best things I ever decided to do. But let’s talk more about how to actually get started.

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 mixed martial arts but it is only in practicing the movements, footwork, and muscle response where you can truly learn to be ready to compete.

Related: Best MMA Home Workout For Beginners

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.

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 start 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 professional fighter started with no abilities or skills and some at surprising ages before their first fight. They just all share a passion for mixed martial arts.

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.

A beginner MMA fighter learning how to punch

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.

Related: How To Become A Better Fighter For MMA

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 starting MMA?

Before you get started training in the mixed martial arts, you should know a few things that will help you to avoid a few mistakes.

Let me tell you that from my own experience, these are some of the things I would have told my beginner self:

  • Injuries are a common part of the sport and learning
    • 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 great
    • In my early days of learning to box 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 plenty of time just watching the best at the MMA gym
    • 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.
  • MMA is a lot about self defense
    • 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?

Related: Is MMA Best For Self Defense?

Is it hard to get into MMA?

Getting into mixed martial arts training is as simple as to find 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 a seasoned MMA fighter 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 started in 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.

Related: The Best Custom Mouth Guards For MMA

Hand wraps go around your hands and wrists as added protection before wearing gloves.

Different colored shin guards for MMA

Shin guards are there to protect you and your sparring partner when kicks start flying for disciplines like Muay Thai and Kickboxing.

And the mouth guard is very necessary as it goes a very long way to protecting your jaw from shock which is what prevents damage to the brain.

Preparing for your first MMA fight

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 started in martial arts competing is fairly straight forward 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.

The inside of an MMA octagon cage

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 much do amateur MMA fighters train?

Most amateur MMA fighters train 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 fighter, they 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 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 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 showing.

Related: How Much Do MMA Fighters Make In The UFC?

Final Thoughts

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 running off to become the next Heavyweight Champ!

By Joe

Joe is an MMA fanatic and author of MMAHive.com.