Why Are MMA Fighters So Skinny? (UFC Tactics Explained)

MMA Hive is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more ›.

Do you ever wonder why your favorite UFC fighters don’t have that many muscles when they fight?

You might’ve watched some pro-Boxing, and Wrestling matches where fighters are bulky and wondered why are MMA fighters so skinny?

MMA is not all about pure knockout power. MMA fighters are skinny because they need endurance, flexibility, agility, and strength. With this body, they can last 25-minute fast-paced fights. If MMA fighters look like bodybuilders, they might not survive a round.

Still confused about why MMA fighters need to be skinny? Help yourself and be enlightened by an in-depth explanation below.

Why MMA Fighters Are Skinny

A skinny guy trying to look tough

You can’t win Mixed Martial Arts with thick muscles alone. As a matter of fact, having more muscle mass might hinder you from performing well in about. MMA is all about speed, endurance, flexibility, and power to damage your opponent in a fight that can go up to 25 minutes.

Having more body fat and thicker muscles will not help you win a match, especially if your opponent is planning to have a 5-round war with you.

Being heavier will make you a lot slower, causing your punches and kicks to be predictable and easy to counter. 

Typically, professional MMA fighters maintain their body weight at about 6 to 13%. Generally, they also keep their muscle mass low because more muscle means less endurance and vice versa.

An MMA fighter’s diet focuses on nutritious-dense foods while severely limiting consuming anything toxic like alcohol or processed foods.

This keeps their calorie intake optimized for their training and leaves very little for fat to develop.

Aside from endurance, having a leaner body composition will give a fighter more advantage on the technical side of fighting.

The same reasons that mixed martial artists are often skinny align with why boxers appear skinny, too.

Boxers need to lose weight to meet their weight class requirements while keeping as much speed and power as possible.

Advantages of skinny MMA fighters

There are a lot of advantages to being a skinning MMA fighter. One is during a choke attempt; with your skinning long arms, you can quickly wrap around your opponent’s neck with a tiny opening. 

This also goes with defending a submission; being skinny allows you to be flexible. You can use this flexibility to roll out of the situation or reverse the lock.

Transitioning to the back for a Rare Naked Choke or going north and south is much easier because you can carry your body weight better. In short, being skinning means you’re more agile and flexible on the ground.

Disadvantages of skinny MMA fighters

The most significant disadvantage for a skinny fighter is going up against a bigger guy on the ground. If you’re thinner than your opponent, control the top position. If you’re unfortunate enough to be pinned down by a thicker body mass, you’re pretty much doomed. 

Another disadvantage is if you’re fighting an explosive fighter. This usually happens in the early rounds, when big guys have their tanks full of energy. All you need to do is be elusive, be careful with what you do, and wait for them to tire themselves out before you let your hands go.

Enjoying this article? Share it with your friends:

Why are UFC fighters not muscular?

A fighter with a buff and muscular physique

You don’t need to look like a bodybuilder to be able to out-strength your opponent in a fight. Having more muscle mass will demand your cardiovascular system to double the work. This extra work will significantly affect your performance, especially in the later parts of the fight. 

If you’re planning to be muscular in a UFC fight, then you better do your best to knock your opponent out during the first round, or you’re done.

Having huge biceps and thighs doesn’t mean you have the power advantage. Yes, your strikes will be heavier, but this will cause you a lot of your stamina, making you run out of gas over time. That’s why Heavyweight fighters tire themselves out after two rounds of throwing bombs.

We can see an excellent example of a skinny fighter winning against a more muscular guy when Sean O’Malley fought Alfred Khashakyan in Dana White’s contender series. O’Malley looks like a stick fighting a more muscular Khashakyan, but his pressure and relentless cardio gave him the key to winning via knockout. 

To this day, O’Malley is a perfect example of a non-muscular UFC fighter showing success inside the octagon. Some other good skinny UFC fighters are Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson, and Max Holloway.

Why do UFC fighters weigh so little?

A man with a towel over his head trying to cut weight for a fight

The reason UFC fighters weigh so little is because of the weight cut. They usually do this 48 hours before the official weigh-in.

Weight cutting is necessary because it tells the UFC if a fighter is eligible to fight under his chosen weight class. It also promotes fairness in both fighters.

Weight cutting is a vigorous process where fighters lessen body water percentage and food intake and do a lot of cardio workouts to sweat a lot. Professional fighters spend a lot of time in saunas or covering their bodies with thick towels to amplify the sweating.

After achieving the weight limit, UFC fighters will immediately rehydrate themselves. This rehydration process will allow them to gain weight instantly. Meaning to say, Lightweights that weigh 155lbs enters the octagon as much heavier fighter.

Some weight cuts are so big that when the fighter gets up to the scale, they look like a different person. We can have Jared Cannonier as a perfect example. He entered the UFC as a fat, bulky Heavyweight beast. 

Jared transitioned into Middleweight as time passed, making him cut more than 50lbs.

What is a typical MMA fighter’s body fat percentage?

A pro-MMA fighter’s typical body fat percentage is between 6% and 13%. Maintaining this percentage of body fat will help the fighter’s endurance and cardio during the fight.

High body fat will make the fighter slower regarding his/her overall movement. At the same time, this excess fat will also tire the fighter much faster.

Take, for example, the UFC veteran Roy “Big Country” Nelson. He is a fat Heavyweight and is not known to win a fight that goes over round 3. Though, that’s only normal for Heavyweights due to their large mass.

How do UFC fighters gain weight?

A thick muscular man training at the gym for gaining mass

UFC fighters gain weight right after their official weigh-in. After undergoing a torturing weight cut, the fighters will rehydrate themselves to put back some of the bodily liquid they removed during the cut. This rehydration is enough to inflate the fighters before the fight takes place.

Fighters also gain weight when the fight is over. Especially after a big win, fighters will surely party it out and eat some celebratory food after depriving themselves during the fight camp. Some fighters are known to blow up after a fight and cut tons of weight afterward.

An excellent example of a fighter like this is Paddy Pimblett. Paddy is a UFC Featherweight, but when he’s not in the octagon, he walks like a Middleweight with excessive eating habits. He is famous for cutting all body fat before each UFC fight.

What to read next

So now you have a solid idea about why UFC/MMA fighters are often so skinny-looking. It all comes down to body fat percentage and maximum strength for their weight class.

I’ve covered more topics about the UFC in other articles, as well as a beginners guide that you might find useful:

Leave a Comment