Mixed Martial Arts has grown faster in modern culture than any other sport. The explosiveness, bright lights, and sheer heart demonstrated by its participants have won the hearts of fans all over the world. Competitors such as Conor McGregor have dominated, while female warriors like Ronda Rousey have made MMA a sport that women can equally root for. In early 2018, Rousey’s fame was such that she signed a contract with WWE.
From the UFC’s humble beginnings in 1993, MMA has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Each year sees thousands of fights take place in front of screaming fans in packed venues. The record attendance at the time of writing is 2002’s Pride Shockwave. The event saw 71,000 fans show up to watch their heroes live.
The atmosphere is full of athletic awe, atmosphere, and entertainment. The fights are electric and can be all over in the blink of an eye. The fighters must be prepared for anything, especially those looking to make it to the very top. UFC even came face-to-face with boxing in 2017 when Conor McGregor took on Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match. It was a nice payday for both fighters, with Mayweather picking up £77.4mn and McGregor £23.2mn, as reported in 2017 by the Metro.
As with any sport, there are weekend warriors. Many young men and women take up fighting in search of greatness. After 25 years of its existence, however, today’s athletes are almost godlike when compared to their predecessors.
What was at one time a sport of one-dimensional athletes and tough brawlers, MMA has undergone significant change. Even today’s amateurs train like professionals and the elite superstars of the sport are masters of the craft.
Of course, genetics play a key role in the process of becoming a fighter. Some are born with a physical ability that gives them a head start over their future rivals. That helps to explain why the best fighters come from certain countries, such as the U.S. and Brazil. But what else goes into making a successful MMA fighter?
Motivation is crucial, not just on fight night, but the days and weeks leading up to the fight itself. It’s important, therefore, for fighters to remain motivated enough to train to ensure that they’re as prepared as possible. Elite competitors enter a camp before a bout. These camps can be between five and 12 weeks long and exist for the sole reason of preparing the fighter for a single bout.
Of course, while the importance of traits such as motivation cannot be overstated, there are external elements that just can’t be explained. For example, some of the best fighters were born in July (Conor McGregor 14/7/88, Jonathan Dwight Jones 19/7/87, Patrick Joseph Barry 7/7/79). This backs up Betway’s research on the world’s most successful people, which found Cancer to be the most common star sign among winners.
Fighters have an image of being lone warriors, ignoring such “distractions” as a relationship, in order not to lose motivation. You may then think that these fighters must be single. In fact, the top fighters are usually either in a relationship (Conor McGregor, Nathan Donald Diaz), engaged (Jonathan Dwight Jones, Patrick Joseph Barry), or married (Khabib Abdulmanapovich, Ronda Rousey).
Another trait common among world champions is that they believe they are worthy of their title. Some people may interpret their attitude as arrogance, but it’s simply belief in their ability to win. This is a very important part of a winner’s makeup, as self-doubt can result in self-sabotage.
Fights can even be lost before a fighter has struck his or her first blow, as a lack of self-belief can lead to a lack of motivation. Self-belief can be a powerful resource to motivate competitors during training as well, helping them to stay calm before the fight and enabling them to perform at their best.
A professional bout can take place over 15-25 hard-fought minutes. Each round lasts for 15 minutes, with a one-minute rest. The athletes undergo intense periods of activity with intermittent sections of active recovery. Fighting is neither a marathon nor a sprint. It revolves around intervals, which means that fighters need to excel in both explosive energy recall and recovery.
Endurance can be the one difference between winning and losing. Elite fighters should have a reserve of energy to see them push through until the end of the fight – early stoppages can’t always be achieved and each fighter must keep going.
Therefore, each grappler needs to rely on more than one energy source to keep up with the extensive duration and explosive movements. It’s because of this that MMA training is considered one of the best ways to get fit, even outside of the sport itself. In fact, actor Tom Hardy incorporated an MMA routine it into his preparation for Venom (2018).
Strength and power
Fighters are required to have sufficient strength to overpower, carry, or lift an opponent during a fight. While technique is the no.1 factor here, great strength is always important. That’s why fighters like Tank Abbott, who can bench press 272 kgs, have such an advantage from the moment they step into the ring.
Many successful fighters who have largely relied on technique have found themselves to be outmuscled when they became either trapped or fatigued. Everything from leg strength to grip can play a vital role in the outcome of the contest.
Alongside a conditioning program, all elite competitors take part in a strength-building routine. This is due to the fact that research has proven that strength and power gains can have a positive effect on athletic performance when high-velocity activity is involved.
As we pointed out earlier, however, endurance has a huge role to play in the effectiveness of a fighter’s performance. Not unlike an engine with an empty gas tank, all of that power is worthless should a fighter find himself out of fuel.
Without creating a library-like resource, we can only touch upon the common traits of a successful MMA champion. Not all traits are aligned equally, of course, and there will always be anomalies. The above characteristics, however, are found to be generally commonplace among the most successful fighters.
True MMA champions are powerful, strong, and both mentally and physically conditioned. Above all else, true champions show heart, skill, and athleticism. Genetics can have a big part to play, but much of their makeup is forged. Those looking to their idols for inspiration can follow the habits of these champions in their quest to succeed as an MMA fighter.