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How can I Become a Professional MMA Fighter?

By Brad Cole
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Becoming a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is the goal of many martial artists and combat sport enthusiasts. In order to do this, a prospective fighter only needs to do one thing: impress someone high up in a professional MMA organization who can sign the fighter up for a paid fight. A few professional fighters have been able to do this without winning a single MMA fight; most, however, have needed to work for years to get noticed.

The following are some tips and strategies for becoming a professional MMA fighter. Not every fighter will need to complete every stage listed, nor will they do it in the order given. As well, additional steps not listed will need to be taken by each individual when unforeseen and unique circumstances arise.

There are three basic combat (martial) areas that an MMA fighter needs to be skilled in to succeed: striking, grappling, and avoidance. Striking represents punches and kicks; grappling covers holds, submissions, and takedowns; and avoidance concerns blocking, dodging, deflecting, and moving away from an opponent’s attacks. These skill areas are used in the three stages of a mixed martial arts fight in order to win. These stages are called the standup, clinch, and ground stages (games). The first step in becoming a professional is for potential MMA fighters to develop their martial skills sufficiently so that they can successfully compete.

There are a couple of different ways for a fighter to develop their martial skills to the necessary level. Previous training in some traditional sports such as wrestling and boxing can provide a solid martial base, but should be augmented with additional training in order to be successful. A wrestler, for instance, might consider training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in order to learn submissions that can end a fight, and might also train in boxing to learn how to avoid significant damage during the standup game.

Those with no previous martial experience should initially choose to learn a martial art that has significant body contact and translates well into MMA such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, or boxing. An appropriate gym or school should be joined, and a single martial art trained in for between four and six months before an additional art is started. Cardio building and some level of weight training should also be done after a fighter’s body gets used to the martial arts training.

Most aspiring fighters join a fight team once they have decent martial skills. Fight teams are groups that train under a single coach or a small group of leaders. A worthwhile fight team has connections to MMA promotions, fighters currently competing, provides MMA training, and can give specific advice on how to succeed. A fighter has to be invited to join a fight team. Interested fighters usually have to join the gym where the fight team trains, pay dues, let the leaders of the team know that they are interested in joining, and display a significant level of martial skill before they are invited to fully join.

Doing well in sports similar to MMA can also get a fighter started. Winning well-known competitions such as the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships or an NCAA wrestling championship has gotten more than one fighter a professional MMA opportunity. As well, awards and ranks given by noted masters such as a Gracie black belt have created many openings for prospective fighters.

The first big step in becoming a professional MMA fighter usually occurs when a fighter gets their first amateur MMA fight. There are a couple of different ways to get such a fight. First, a well-known fight team can contact a promoter and get a fighter added to an amateur card. If the fighter doesn’t have a team, the prospective fighter can usually contact the promoter of a small fight league or circuit on their own and request a tryout, with a positive showing earning the prospect a fight. Some small fight leagues or circuits have open tryouts for amateur fighters, and announce these on their webpages and to local gyms.

However the first fight is attained, winning or having an impressive showing usually leads to additional fights. A smart amateur will look to fight new opponents that they can both show off their skills against and that would result in increased reputation if they would win. Fighting in different venues and cities is also a good idea, as it can increase a potential fighter’s fan base and makes it more likely that they will get noticed.

Finally, a prospective MMA fighter will need to make sure that they self-promote. Webpages, talking to fans, and putting fight videos on the internet can all help. Visiting the webpages of professional fight promotions and finding out how to submit bios is also a great idea.

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Discussion Comments
By anon347699 — On Sep 09, 2013

No man, go straight pro.

By anon342444 — On Jul 20, 2013

Do I have to fight amateur?

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