Competing in MMA requires not only great conditioning but also knowledge in all kinds of different sports – Boxing, Kickboxing, BJJ, Muay Thai, Wrestling and others. So the question is how MMA fighters manage do train for those sports and also on their conditioning. I did some research on that and in this article, I’ll try to answer this question.
How often do MMA fighters train? Every fighter is different but in general MMA fighters train 20-24 hours a week/5-6 days of the week when they are in fight camp (when preparing for a fight). In that period they can train 2 or sometimes even 3 times a day on certain days. In the rest of the year, they usually train 1 time a day for 1.5-2 hours, 5-6 times a week.
After a fight, some MMA fighters take max 2-3 weeks vacation (or even more when healing from injury) while others go back to the gym the very next day.
20-24 hours a week is a huge amount of time when it comes to physical training. But they don’t train intensively all that time. A big portion of it is technical training, running and other less intensive stuff. To learn more about how exactly MMA fighters train and how much hours they put in each activity (sparring, strength, and conditioning, technical stuff) continue reading.
MMA Fighters Training Breakdown
Outside fight camp, fighters train more creatively. Most of the time they try new things, learn new techniques experiment with stuff. They also do a lot of strength and conditioning – different exercises with weights or free weight to increase their endurance, power or explosiveness during fatigue. Strength and conditioning is about 20% of the time they workout.
The rest 80% is technique workout (striking technique, jiu-jitsu, wrestling) shadow boxing and sparring. That’s about 8-9 hours a week work on technique and 1.5-2 hours strength and conditioning to build athleticism.
But when in fight camp, MMA fighters need to prepare for a specific opponent. They drill techniques that will work on that opponent and work on their defense against the stuff that this opponent does well. They also bring fighters that have similar style and build as their future opponent to spar with them.
There isn’t much time for strength and conditioning during fight camp because the main focus is on strategy and learning the things that will help the fighter win. During that time, 90% of the time MMA fighters train, they focus on their technique and 10% of the time on strength and conditioning.
The usual fight camp is:
1. Technique workouts – learning new technique/perfecting already learned technique that will work against the specific opponent. Those workouts are usually longer and not so intensive
- 4 days of the week: 3.5-4.5 hours a day (1, 2 or 3 sessions a day)
2. Sparring and conditioning – full 5 round sparring sometimes with fresh opponent each round. After that, they do some conditioning. Those workouts are really intensive and shorter.
- 2 days of the week: 3 hours a day (2 sessions a day)
3. Rest day – MMA fighters usually rest on Sunday during camp. On that day they try to do something non-related to fighting to recover their muscles and mind.
That makes 20-24 hours a week. But some fighters like to run every morning/evening which also should be included. Others can train longer in the gym. Also some fighter train almost all the time the last few days before the fight – always shadow boxing, hitting pads on working on some wrestling/grappling technique with their coach.
Breakdown on Work Hours put in Each Martial Art
When, for example, MMA fighters have to face good wrestlers, they bring wrestlers into the fight camp and put a lot of time working on their wrestling, takedown defense or counter wrestling techniques (submission threats, sweeps on the ground). The same when they have to fight a good striker or BJJ practitioner.
How much time they spend on each martial art really depends on the focus on the fight camp. But a general-purpose fight camp is something like this:
Striking: 5-6 hours a week
Grappling/Wrestling: 6-7 hours a week
Cardio: 6-8 hours a week
Weight lifting and free weight exercises: 2 hours a week
This is usually the training camp for less experienced fighters who just start their MMA career. They usually don’t know much about their opponents because their opponents are most likely also newer fighters so they put the same amount of hours in every aspect of the game – striking, wrestling and grappling.
More experienced MMA fighters have a much more customized fight camp that focuses on their strengths and on the specific opponent.
Staying at the Gym vs Actual Training
The retired UFC fighter Anthony Rumble Johnson mentioned that most fighters exaggerate when they ask them how much time they train. According to him, your body will break if you train for more than 4 hours a day.
He said even though they spend a lot of time in the gym, only about 45 minutes is actual intense training. The rest of the time it’s low-intensity training such as warm-up, some light shadowboxing etc. Also a big portion of the time, they just stay in the gym talk to each other and generally have fun with teammates.
Injuries can be a huge problem during training camp so MMA fighters spend 30 minutes of a 2-hour session in warmups and stretches.
A Usual Day of an MMA Fighter During Camp
In training camp, when fighters train 2 times a day, they usually get up early in the morning, go for a run (those who loke to run) and then go to the gym. The first session is either in the morning or at midday. They eat a nice big meal an hour before that. Some gyms like Jackson Wink, for example, do 1 hard and 1 light session a day.
Then they go back home where they eat again and try to sleep for several hours. The second session is in the late afternoon/evening. Again they eat an hour before the session and right after the session when they came back home.
During training camp, MMA fighters can eat 5-6 times a day and sleep 3-5 hours between the sessions. The last week before the fight they cut weight (besides most of the heavyweight fighters). In that period of time, they reduce their calorie consumption and the last few days before the weigh-ins they get dehydrated by going into saunas, running on a treadmill in nylon clothes so they sweat and other very unpleasant things just to lose some pounds in water.
After the weigh-ins (about 24 hours before the fight) they rehydrate themselves and in that period they can gain more than 15% body weight compared to their weight on the weigh-ins.
You can train your body only so much time. That’s why after they workout a lot of modern MMA fighters train their mind on the game by visualizing, watching fights of their opponent or other fighters or fights breakdowns/studies.
This is another very important detail of their training. Not every MMA fighters do that some have 100% trust in their coaches and just execute what they are being told. But other for example the UFC fighter Jon Jones likes to spend hours watching his opponents’ fights analyzing them and finding weaknesses.
Training hard several times a day is very hard to do for an extended period of time without using special substances.
Since the U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) started testing all the UFC and other MMA organization fighters, the chances of using doping without being caught dropped dramatically.
And using such substances can make your body recover much quicker so you can train more often and harder. That’s why people on juice are so shredder and ripped.
But since MMA fighters can’t use doping without being caught, they tend to work out less nowadays so their body has enough time to recover.
MMA is still a new sport so we aren’t sure yet what is the most effective way to train. Sure, MMA fighters train much better compared to 10 years ago but in the future, they’ll have a much better idea of exactly how and how much they should train to accomplish maximum performance.