How to Start Training Mixed Martial Arts at 30 🤼♂️🥊🥋
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the fastest-growing sports globally. The rise of promotions like the UFC, Bellator MMA, Invicta FC, ONE FC onto mainstream sports outlets such as ESPN have everyone from children to grandparents watching the hair-raising knockouts and often bloody matches on television and even training themselves in their local gym.
Nowadays, you’ll find that most professional MMA fighters began training the sport or some variation of it in their early teenage years and mid-twenties. However, this was not always the case and in the early years of mixed martial arts some fighters like former UFC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier (Source), didn’t fight until he was 30 years old.
So, what do you need to do if you find yourself in a position like “DC”, where you think you may be a little too old to learn something new, but you’re intrigued by the idea of throwing on a pair of 4-ounce gloves (Amazon link) and step into the cage?
Know Your Strengths and Your Weaknesses
If you’re interested in starting MMA chances are you’ve competed in a sport (Source) or martial arts discipline in the past.
Did you wrestle in high school and enjoy the “grind” associated with the sport?
Are you a veteran striker with some experience training Karate or Taekwondo as a child or young adult?
Have you competed as an endurance athlete like a cross-country runner or a swimmer or another sport that requires great stamina?
Regardless, if you have an athletic background in any sport it will contribute to your success as a mixed martial arts competitor. Determine your strengths and find a way to leverage those in your training and during competition. Highlight your strengths will also help you pinpoint your weaknesses so that you can spend extra time developing those areas of your skillset.
Try Out Different Gyms
MMA is growing in popularity every year and with such a rise in acceptance by mainstream audiences, more and more martial arts and fitness gyms have begun incorporating some form of self-defense or martial arts into their gyms.
But just because a gym has a mixed martial arts program doesn’t mean it is the right one for you. Every coach and gym has a unique philosophy and culture. Some athletes thrive under certain coaches while others can’t ever seem to gain traction.
Take a page out of the professional fighter’s book: train at several gyms (Source) to determine what works best for you. Most gyms offer free trials before committing to a membership, so take advantage of those opportunities and train at as many gyms as possible before settling down choosing where you will train full time. Things to consider when selecting a gym:
Do they have an MMA program, or do you have to attend separate martial arts classes to round out your training?
Are you looking to compete at the amateur and professional level or are you just looking to use MMA as a fitness program?
What is the culture like at the gym? Do you get along with the coaching staff and other members?
What is the competition like at the gym? A larger and more varied pool of talent will exponentially help your training become well-rounded.
What is the schedule like and how often are you able to attend training sessions?
The most critical element to starting a new habit or kicking an old one, losing weight, or in this case, training MMA is consistency. You can have an amazing practice once or twice a month but if you aren’t committed and attend at least 2-3 practices a week you’re not allowing your body to build the muscle memory needed to throw a high volume of strikes or grapple for a sustained period like you’d see in a fight.
Consistency goes beyond just showing up and training hard at the gym. You must be consistent with your diet, sleep (Related article), and recovery outside the gym as well. You can do everything right in the gym but if your nutrition is lacking because you’re downing soda and chips every night or binge-watching Netflix when you should be sleeping or failing to stretch and occasionally take a yoga class, then your performance will quickly decline.
Incorporate Fitness Outside the Gym
MMA can help you lose weight, tone up, and get into phenomenal shape even if you think you’ve already hit your physical prime. But as any amateur or professional fighter will tell you, you must do the less “sexy” stuff as well if you want to be a successful fighter. This means lacing up your running shoes and going for long runs to build your lung capacity and muscular endurance needed for a fight. Especially at the age of 30 (or older), you may not be in the same physical condition you were during your younger years so you may have to devote a few extra hours during your week to your fitness. In an MMA match, the fighter who doesn’t gas out in the first couple rounds usually can implement his or her game plan better towards the end of the fight and breakdown their opponent.
There are plenty of strength and conditioning coaches (Source) who specialize in combat sports athletes that you can take advantage of their social media to learn the best exercises and routines to train for MMA.
If you’re starting MMA at 30-years old, chances are you have a full-time job, possibly a family, or other high-priority responsibilities that take up most of your daily routine. If you’re just starting in MMA don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to master the skills. Enjoy the learning process and remember that MMA should be fun. Of course, there will be aspects to learning the game that you won’t particularly relish such as those long-running sessions, drilling the same guard pass over and over again, or cutting weight before a fight, but for the most part, you should be focused on having fun every time you step foot into the gym.
Remember, some of the greatest MMA fighters in the world didn’t step into the cage until their later years so don’t let your age deter you from testing yourself in one of the greatest sports in the world.