What does it take to become an MMA fighter?
A lot of young guys dream about becoming an MMA fighter and UFC champions. While it is good to strive towards greatness, the truth is that a very small percentage of people will ever make it to the top of any endeavor, and especially MMA. I discussed that in the video How to train so you can fight in the UFC.
If you are thinking of becoming an MMA fighter, this video will help you decide if that is the right choice for you. Here are 11 factors to take into account:
1. Courage (madness)
Being brave is a must and I don’t mean not being afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is action in spite of fear. Some people will also say that you need to be crazy a little bit to walk into the octagon where you will be punched, kicked and have your limbs stretched. That is correct and it takes a special person to do that.
MMA is a very skill-intensive sport and you need to cultivate a wide variety of techniques in order to be successful. You will, of course, specialize in some areas, but unlike other combat sports where you have to learn less, in MMA you need to know a lot of moves in order to be prepared for what awaits in the octagon.
3. Discipline & sacrifice
MMA is not like a sprint but more like long distance running. That means that you need to be in it for the long run and the results will not come overnight but after years of diligent practice.
That takes discipline and self-sacrifice.
While your friends are out drinking and partying, you have to go to bed early so you would be ready for tomorrow’s training. While they are eating junk you should eat healthy. An ex UFC fighter Sean Sherk once said that he doesn’t eat for taste but for performance. That’s exactly the mindset you need to have.
While there are fighters that party occasionally or more than occasionally, drink or even do drugs, and get away with it, you are much better off without that crap. Diets of MMA fighters are not so strict as the diets of bodybuilders, but they still have to watch what they eat and that will make a huge difference.
All of this takes discipline and self-sacrifice.
4. Brutal weight cuts
And since we’re mentioning discipline, you are definitely going to need it for weight cuts that sometimes get brutal in MMA. Most fighters say that it is the hardest part of MMA, and for a good reason. Weight cutting has been a problem for quite some time, and there are steps taken to come up with a solution, but for the time being it is still going to be extremely hard for fighters that choose to cut a lot of weight.
Injuries, both minor and major, are a part of every fighter’s career. It is very difficult being on the sidelines without the ability to compete or train. Or training with injuries. Still, it is what every fighter goes through and it’s a part of this job. Are you willing to spend months or even years like me doing rehab? Can you endure surgeries, cuts, bone fractures, herniated discs, ligament tears and more? Professional MMA is very hard on the body and you need to be prepared for that if you’re going to make this your calling.
6. Self-reflection and honesty
MMA exposes one to his own inadequacies quite quickly. In sparring, you get that feedback instantly. So in order to improve, you need to be very honest with yourself and be able to see your own flaws. This doesn’t just apply to technical and physical flaws, but also to mental ones. This requires self-reflection which is not easy.
One of the best examples is George St-Pierre and I have mentioned his self-reflection ability and him openly showing vulnerability in How to overcome fear and gain confidence in MMA article & video where I praised him for that.
7. The right team (you can’t do it alone)
MMA is an individual sport when you’re in the octagon, but in most other instances it is a team sport. Without a good team, you will not go far, so be very careful when choosing who will train you. Look for a team with a healthy competitive atmosphere, and not the one where striking sparring is done with 100% of power since that will lead to a lot of injuries. Find coaches who will take care of you and to whom your well-being is the top priority. Not the ones that will make you compete at all costs. And it goes without saying that they need to be experts.
8. Mental toughness
Hard training, injuries, losses, rehab, weight cuts, fights, dieting, day in, day out, year after year. All that requires mental toughness. Some people are naturally tougher than others, but all can develop mental toughness. You can find out more about this in Conor McGregor and the Law of Attraction: Does it really work? video.
9. Tough skin
Having a tough skin, which is a part of mental toughness, also helps. No matter how good you are, there will always be critics. And if you lose a fight than that criticism will increase even more. A lot of that criticism online comes from people that know nothing about our sport and is best ignored. If it’s a constructive criticism, then you should consider it of course.
Don’t take it personally and know it’s a part of the game.
I’ve noticed that the best fighters are usually intelligent, or at least they seem that way to me. MMA is a complex martial art that requires mastering many moves, tactics, and skills. That not only requires perseverance and hard work but intelligence also.
How you act outside of the octagon, while doing interviews and in your personal life is also very revealing. So you need to be smart about how you handle yourself and the whole MMA business to get the maximum out of it.
11. Short shelf life
MMA fighters, in general, have a very short shelf life. Yesterday’s champions are quickly forgotten as the new ones emerge and take the spotlight.
Fame can be very intoxicating and it is one of the reasons why retired fighters in most cases come out of retirement. They miss it.
Be prepared to be forgotten or at least neglected by the media and forums once you start losing. Maybe not immediately, but after a few losses for sure. This game is very unforgiving as the crowds love a victor.
While article “What does it take to become an MMA fighter?” might have seemed gloom to some of you, my intention was not to shatter anyone’s dreams but to prepare you for the reality of being a pro fighter.
Do you agree with me on these factors? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the youtube comments.