Begin your MMA Journey on the Right Path
Like the name implies MMA – mixed martial arts – is the smorgasbord of combat sports. It’s Jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, kickboxing and sometimes judo or taekwondo. No martial art is banned, some simply have more value in the octagon than others.
Maybe you have watched the UFC or Bellator and have your own favorite fighters. Maybe it’s their number of wins, or maybe you just enjoy the show they put on, but there is a high percentage that your favorite fighter represents the fighting style you favor.
MMA Fighters and their fighting style
Nick Diaz began his MMA career as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete and became a superlative boxer. Famed boxing coach Freddy Roach who once called Diaz more fighter than boxer, later he named Diaz as one of the top MMA boxers, coming in fourth after B.J. Penn, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva.
#1 on Roach’s list, Anderson Silva is a 3rd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and an expert in Muay Thai and Taekwondo.
Conor McGregor, also a great boxer and kickboxer has great hands and karate movements.
Demian Maia, a 5th degree BJJ Black Belt, is an exceptional ground fighter and to date has never been submitted in an MMA bout.
Also at home on the ground is Tyrone Woodley, a former D1 collegiate wrestler, two time All-American and Big 12 Conference Champ. Tyrone is also a BJJ black belt.
Before his retirement in 2019, the great Georges St. Pierre trained in BJJ, boxing, Muay Thai and gymnastics.
So how do you get started?
Anyone considering seriously training in MMA is actually training in two, three or more combat sports. Begin by picking a discipline or two to train. I recommend a striking discipline like boxing or Muay Thai and a grappling discipline like BJJ, No-Gi or wrestling.
Commit to investing mental and physical energy into learning the fundamentals. This takes time and perseverance. 3-5 classes a week. It’s great fun and great exercise and it’s essential preparation for MMA.
Since MMA is a complex and nuanced sport, it’s important to choose the right gym for your needs. In our academy, MMA is by invite only. One reason is that we hold Open MMA Sparring which is a designated time for teammates to work on their striking and grappling techniques through free form fighting. If you haven’t yet acquired the fundamentals of combat sport, you are not only wasting your time and your teammates time, you could possibly get hurt in the process. There are no shortcuts worth taking in MMA.
How do you choose an MMA gym? Here are some factors to consider:
The instructor’s credentials and qualifications – Your MMA coach should have fought MMA or coached MMA bouts. Period. End of story. Your coach must have an effective curriculum in place. They must have the experience to assess your strengths and weaknesses and have the resources at their disposal to put you on the right track and keep you on track.
Look for a gym that has a Jiu-Jitsu Program with a reputable BJJ black belt with experience coaching MMA. That same gym should also have an experienced striking coach or two who can teach boxing and/or Muay Thai.
Ask if they have a competition team. If so, that is a good sign. It keeps all the fighters on top of their game even if you don’t plan to compete. It also creates comradery.
Take a trial grappling and/or striking class. Is it chaotic? Or is there discipline, safety protocols and comradery that is based on respect and commitment to growth. Avoid the fight club culture. Hard sparring is only for those who have dedicated the time to be able to do it safely.
What Equipment Do You Need
Most MMA gyms will have equipment to borrow or rent. You will need to purchase a mouthguard to absorb the shock of a wayward fist and protect your teeth. MMA gyms should have mouth guards and hand wraps for sale.
You have a cup that fits into compression shorts, jock strap or groin protector, bring it. If it’s your first time, wear shorts and a t-shirt or a rash guard. That and a large water bottle and sweat towel is pretty much all you will need in the beginning. Later, you can buy small, lightweight, fingerless MMA gloves which allow grappling. After training seriously for a while, you may want to invest in your own shin guards.
Your MMA Journey
MMA is an intensely rewarding sport that is easy to fall in love with. It’s a remarkable feeling knowing you can handle yourself. MMA is not for everyone. It’s no walk in the park but for those who can sweat, ache, feel exhausted yet still be having amazing fun