As promotions such as the UFC continue to explode in popularity, more and more people are looking to take up MMA.
If you’re looking to learn how to start MMA, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a lot of information to digest, especially if you’ve never taken up a martial art before.
With that in mind, we’ve written this guide on how to get into MMA, providing you with all the information and details you need to get started.
Let’s get to it.
What Does MMA Stand for?
In order to learn how to become a MMA fighter, you’re going to need to know what it stands for. MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts, which is a term that hasn’t been around for very long.
It’s hard to pin point the exact time in which the term “MMA or Mixed Martial Arts” was created, but the common consensus is that it started with the creation of the UFC.
Check out this video of the first ever UFC event, which is often deemed as the birth of MMA.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport, that involves hand to hand combat of two athletes. MMA essentially merges different martial disciplines, into one sport that is governed by it’s own set of rules (which we’ll go over shortly).
As such, a wide array of techniques are used, from elbow strikes, knee, strikes, flying kicks to ground based submissions.
With that in mind, this is one of the most versatile methods of combat and is probably the reason that MMA continues to grow in popularity year after year.
MMA Core Components
Striking is an integral part of MMA and incorporates a number of different elements from different disciplines. Striking is essentially an attack thrown at your opponent with a part of your body.
Punches, kicks, knee and elbow strikes are all permitted in MMA. As such, having a core understanding of striking technique is extremely important, not only so you can throw the strikes yourself, but are able to defend against them.
Grappling is where two fighters have hold of one another, attempt a take down or try to gain a better position.
While strength does help to a certain degree, knowing proper technique will allow you to grapple both offensively and defensively.
As such, suitable time must be spent gaining an understanding of how grappling works, different styles of grappling and how to use it to your advantage.
Submissions are techniques that are performed in order force your opponent to submit.
They can come in the form of joint lock and chokes, and are designed to inflict pain on your opponent so that they must admit defeat.
While this may sound some what brutal, the art of submissions is a slick, technical game heavily influenced by BJJ.
In order to better prepare their students, most MMA gyms will have No-Gi BJJ/ BJJ for MMA classes that focus on how to perform submissions and submission defence.
What Gear Do You Need to Start MMA?
The chances are your gym/ club will have some gear that you can use for your first few lessons. That being said, it isn’t particularly nice using old, worn and sweaty gear week in, week out.
Below is some of the main gear you’ll need to get started in MMA.
As MMA is a full contact, combat sport, you’re going to want to protect your pearly whites. A mouth guard is essential for this, especially if you’re planning to spar.
A mouth guard will protect your teeth, prevent your mouth from snapping shut, and could help to prevent against sustaining a concussion.
There are two types of mouth guards that you’ll come across – custom mouth guards and boil & bite mouth guards.
Custom mouth guards require a trip down to the dentist, or a set in which allows you to take a mold of your mouth. These provide the best fit, as they’re tailored towards your specific teeth.
Another alternative is opting for boil and bite mouth guards. These require boiling them so that the plastic becomes malleable, and biting down into them. These don’t fit as well as custom mouth guards, but are much cheaper and get the job done.
If you’re on the hunt for a mouth guard, I recommend checking out our guide on the best mouth guards for MMA.
While any old t-shirt will do for training, rash guards are typically deemed the best.
Due to the skin on skin contact that takes place when training, skin infections such as ring worm are easily transferrable (and common in martial arts gyms).
A rash guard will act as a barrier between you and someone’s else skin. They will often be lined with anti-microbial properties to prevent bacteria from being spread from one person to another.
Mat burns are also extremely common in martial arts, so having a layer between your skin and the mat helps to reduce this.
Also, a regular t-shirt is unlikely to be able to hold up when training in MMA, especially when it comes to the grappling aspect. The chances are they’ll stretch and tear until they’re unusable.
Rash guards specifically designed for MMA will feature reinforced stitching and be made to endure the tugs and pulls that it’ll endure.
For some great options, head over to out in-depth guide on the best rash guards for MMA and BJJ as well.
Similarly, to rash guards, shorts designed solely for MMA will be your best bet. Regular gym shorts will often lack the flexibility required to allow the wearer to throw high kicks. What’s more, the chances are they won’t have reinforced seems, meaning that they’ll be more likely to tear.
As such, getting a good quality pair for MMA short can often be a wise decision. The good new is that they’re pretty cheap and tend to last a long time.
There’s a couple of different types of MMA shorts that you’ll come across:
Vale Tudo/ Compression Shorts
These are essentially compression shorts (tight fitting) that are usually made from lycra or spandex.
Some of the top compression shorts have a cup compartment, in which you can place your groin protector.
These tend to be the most preferred option, as they allow for unhindered leg flexibility and are deemed the most comfortable.
Board Style Shorts
These look pretty similar to the swimming shorts you see surfers wear and are made from pretty much the same materials.
The only difference is MMA shorts will have a flexible gusset (groin area) and split seems down either leg. This is done in order to allow the wearer maximum leg dexterity and flexibility, which is essential in MMA.
If you're on the hunt for a good pair of shorts, check out our list of the best shorts for MMA.
This one only really applies if you’re a man, as well, a cup will protect your misters. There are some absolute horror stories about groin injuries, so it’s best to play it safe in that department.
A cup will protect the groin area when you’re training and/or competing. Due to the nature of MMA, and most other martial arts, there’s a good chance a stray limb is going hit your groin at some time or another.
Wearing a cup will protect that area from some pretty nasty injuries, such as a ruptured testicle… ouch.
As always, we’ve got a complete list of the best MMA cups for you to check out if you so wish.
Shin guards are worn to protect both the wearer and their training partner. Sparring without shin pads is just asking for trouble.
Don’t worry though, these aren’t the type of shin pads you see on the football/ soccer field.
These are much softer and also cover more of the shin, as well as the top of your foot.
Wearing shin pads will make sparring much safer, and the chances are you won’t be allowed to spar without a pair.
Unfortunately, these can cost a bit more than some of the other required gear, but it’s a necessary evil in order to train as safe as possible. Be sure to read out guide on how to choose the best MMA shin guards for more information.
The last item you’re going to need are gloves. There are a number of different types of gloves that can be needed when training in MMA.
MMA gloves themselves are only 4-7oz, which isn’t particularly ideal for sparring, pad work or bag work. As such, traditional boxing gloves are often used when training, as these provide much more padding to the wearers hand.
Plus, if you’re to spar wearing these gloves, you’re going to be making some enemies down the gym pretty quickly.
If you’re looking for some budget friendly gloves to train in, I recommend giving our guide on the best boxing gloves under $100 a read. Similarly, if it’s MMA gloves you're after, we've got list of the top gloves for you to check out.
How to Find a MMA Gym
So, you’ve got the gear, you know you want to start, how do you find a gym to join?
There’s a couple of ways you can go about this.
First, is by a simple Google search. Due to the wonderful magic that is the Google wizards, the results should display some gyms located around your area.
Don’t worry, there’s some other resources you can use. For example, there’s websites out there dedicated to finding MMA gyms in your area. I’ll list a some below:
If you’ve exhausted all other methods, try searching on Facebook, which can display some clubs near you that may not have been picked up by Google.
How Much Do MMA Classes Cost?
This is pretty hard to nail down to a specific number, but expect to pay anywhere between $50-$200 a month.
The price of a MMA gym will be determined by the overall quality of the gym, it’s facilities and the quality of staffing team.
What are the Rules of MMA?
MMA is often regarded as a brutish sport where anything goes.
But, let me tell you...
If you head into a gym, start head-butting, eye-gouging and head stomping, you’re going to have some problems.
MMA rules tend to vary from place to place and the promotion in which is holding the event. That said, I’ll list the typical rules in which MMA follows below:
Fouling in MMA can result in a point being deducted, or with a disqualification if the foul is deemed dangerous enough.
The fouls listed below were taken from the Unified Rules of MMA Conduct, which is the rule set that the UFC abides by.
- Head-butting the opponent
- Placing your finger in your opponent’s eye
- Biting or spitting on the opponent
- Pulling the opponent’s hair
- Grab the opponent by the mouth
- Attacking the opponent’s genital region
- Intentionally placing a finger in any of the opponent’s orifices
- Striking with the elbow from top to bottom
- Grabbing small joints
- Strike the spine or back of the opponent’s head (to the top of the ear and the crown apex).
- Striking his kidneys with his heels
- Any blow to the throat
- Grasping, pinching, twisting the skin or flesh
- Grabbing the collarbone
- Soccer kicking the head of a fallen opponent
- Applying knees to the head of a fallen opponent
- Stepping on a fallen opponent
- Use abusive language in the ring or octagon
- Use unsportsmanlike conduct that can hurt the opponent
- Attack an opponent in the interval
- Attacking an opponent when he is in the care of the umpire
- Shyness (avoid contact, intentionally drop the mouth guard or simulate contusion)
- Interference from a cornerman
- Throwing an opponent out of the fighting area
- Disrespecting the instructions given by the umpire
- Intentionally throwing the opponent against the tarp on his head or spine (piledriver)
Aside from that massive list, anything goes!
How do You Win a MMA Fight?
There are 4 ways in which you can win a MMA Fight:
KO/TKO: KO stands for Knock Out, which is where a fighter is knocked unconscious. TKO stands for Technical Knock Out, which is where the referee deems a fighter unable to continue fighting, and steps in to end the fight.
Submission: A submission is where one fighter forces another to tap by implementing techniques such as chokes or joint locks.
Judges Decision: If a fight ends, and neither fighter has won, the result will be determined by a panel of judges that score the fight on a round by round basis.
Disqualification (DQ): If a fighter performs a foul from this list mentioned above, they can be disqualified. Disqualification rarely happens, with a fighter only being DQ’d if their foul is deemed to be dangerous or intentional.
What are the Weight Classes in MMA?
Below is the list of the different weight divisions that you’ll find in the UFC.
- Strawweight up to 115 pounds
- Flyweight over 115 pounds to 125
- Bantamweight over 125 to 135 pounds
- Women’s Bantamweight over 125 to 135 pounds
- Featherweight over 135 to 145 pounds
- Lightweight over 145 to 155 pounds
- Welterweight over 155 to 170 pounds
- Middleweight over 170 to 185 pounds
- Light Heavyweight over 185 to 205 pounds
- Heavyweight over 205 to 265 pounds
Typically, fights are even 3 or 5 rounds of 5-minutes (for professionals). Amateur fights tend to have short, 3 minute rounds.
Even professionally, fights usually consist of 3, 5 minutes rounds. More often than not, you’ll only see a 5 round fight if it’s the main event, or if it’s a Championship fight.
Frequently Asked MMA Questions
Below are some common questions that are asked by people looking to learn how to get into MMA.
Do I Need to Know Another Martial Art First?
While you technically don’t have to know another martial art, it definitely helps.
This is due to the fact that MMA is so versatile, incorporating elements from a wide array of different martial arts.
Going into MMA with a good understanding of either striking or grappling, is going to greatly improve your learning curve.
That being said, you can definitely take up MMA as your first martial art, especially if you’re dedicated and put the time in to learn the different aspects.
Is MMA Safe?
MMA, much like any other martial art or contact sport is going to come with a certain amount of risk.
Even when training in a safe environment, accidents can happen. Very few people have died competing in MMA, but unfortunately, it has been known to happen.
When deciding whether or not MMA is right for you, the risks definitely need to be weighed up against your desire to learn mixed martial arts.
If you’re looking to learn a hobby and aren’t interesting in competing, then the chances are you won’t get badly hurt.
Most of the time, serious injuries take place in a competitive environment, largely due to the lack of safety equipment such as headgear and shin guards.
Is MMA Good for Girls?
MMA is great for both men and women. Some of the biggest stars to come out of MMA have been women, for example Ronda Rousey.
Plus, women’s MMA continues to rise in popularity and the talent pool continues to increase in size. Take for example, Admanda Nunes, who just became the first woman to be UFC Champion of multiple weight classes at the same time.
To summarise, MMA is definitely a sport in which both sex’s can train and compete.
Is MMA Good for Losing Weight?
MMA training is exceptionally good for losing weight. Martial arts in general are very cardio-intense, so a lot of focus is put on fitness levels during training.
As such, you’re bound to lose weight, providing you’re following a balanced, healthy diet and train on a regular basis.
Tips for Beginners
Check out the video below for some great MMA tips for beginners:
How to Get into MMA: Final Thoughts
There we have it...
Hopefully by now you've got a better idea of how to get into MMA.
If you've got any questions, feel free to drop a comment in the section below and I'll get back to you as possible.