Do You Need to Be Fit to Start MMA Classes?

MMA classes have risen in popularity due to the UFC and Bellator promotions, making many people interested in learning how to do MMA. MMA fighters have great fitness, but can somebody who is not fit start MMA classes at their local MMA gym?

You can start MMA classes even if you are out of shape or overweight. While MMA classes are physically intense, many gyms have a supportive culture with instructors and peers that will help you reach your fitness goals and build up your MMA skills.

Now that we know fitness is not a requirement to get started in MMA, let’s take a look at other factors that might play into getting started in MMA classes.

Do You Need to Be Fit for MMA?

Having a high fitness level is a requirement to get to a high level of effectiveness in MMA. While there might not be a fitness barrier of entry to your local MMA gym, there is definitely a requirement to be fit in order to perform well in classes or competitions.

If you are nervous about getting started in MMA, talk to the school owner and visit classes to see what it looks like. Finding a gym with the right culture can make your transition into training MMA much easier. The culture of any gym is very important for fun and longevity in the sport.

Building up your overall conditioning is critical if you want to get better at MMA. You might need to take breaks during the adjustment period to training MMA, but that is normal and everyone will initially feel insecure when they are getting started.

Do You Need to Be Strong for MMA?

Being strong is very helpful for MMA. In MMA the stronger more explosive athlete has a big advantage. You do not have to walk into class already strong, but if you want to perform well you need to reach a minimal level of explosive strength.

Adding in a strength training program to complement your MMA training is critical. Take a look here to see an example of a workout that would build the explosive strength required to perform in an MMA context.

Do You Need to Be Flexible for MMA?

Having flexibility is important for MMA. While not a requirement to start training, developing it is important if you want to do MMA long-term. The flexibility gained from mobility training is more valuable and will both reduce injury risk and improve power at the end of your range of motion.

Following a mobility routine is invaluable for MMA as the movement quality and strength gained throughout ranges of motion alongside potential injury reduction are too good to pass up.

How Hard is MMA to Learn?

MMA is a mixture of many different martial arts in the context of a unique environment (the cage). Since MMA covers both striking and grappling from standing, from the ground, and on the walls of the cage, it is one of the most complicated forms of combat to master.

If you are coming into MMA with a developed skill set in a striking or grappling discipline you will be able to adapt a decent amount of your training and learning MMA will be somewhat easier for you.

Wrestlers in particular seem to do well when they transition into MMA since their skillset gives them a better ability than average to dictate where the fight is going to take place, so they can choose to fight in the areas they are most competent.

How What to Expect in Your First MMA Class

MMA schools usually split their training into MMA grappling-oriented classes that blend elements of Wrestling, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA striking-oriented classes that blend Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Boxing.

Good MMA schools will often go further and introduce time slots in which sparring can occur within the rules of the sport of MMA. Both types of classes will include awareness of the situation in terms of what it would be like in an MMA setting.

An MMA grappling class at a good MMA school might go like this:

  1. Warm-up: fast-paced basic calisthenics or jogging to get warm.
  2. Drilling Basic Positional Techniques: practicing basic grappling skills like pummeling for underhooks, arm drags, or escapes.
  3. Technique Sequences of the Day: instructor-led techniques or technique chains.
  4. Drilling Techniques: partnered up drills to learn techniques or technique chains.
  5. Live Grappling: grappling rules that follow MMA rules, with the absence of striking. Simulated or light striking can occur in this context for learning purposes.

An MMA striking class at a good MMA school might go like this:

  1. Warm-up: fast-paced basic calisthenics or jogging to get warm.
  2. Drilling Basic Positional Techniques: practicing basic striking sequences and movements.
  3. Technique Sequences of the Day: instructor-led striking combinations and movements.
  4. Drilling Techniques: partnered up drills to learn striking combinations and movements.
  5. Live Sparring: light to moderate intensity sparring with MMA rules. Catching strikes and trips and usually acceptable in these classes.

What to Wear to Your First MMA Class

Speak to the school in order to get an idea of what clothing and equipment to bring to your first class. Typically you will only be expected to bring yourself and wear gym clothes. If you have workout clothing that does not have pockets that is better since then nothing can get caught in pockets.

Final Thoughts

Mixed Martial Arts definitely require you to develop fitness, strength, and flexibility alongside your techniques and skills. Getting started does not require physical attributes if you pick the right gym with supportive gym culture.

Simply showing up to MMA-oriented classes will level up your overall fitness very quickly, so don’t let being out of shape or overweight stop you from training if you are truly interested in the sport.

For more information and comparative tables on combat sports check out Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Combat Sports?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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