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Exactly How Long Do UFC Fighters Train For A Fight

How long exactly do UFC fighters train before a fight.

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Training for MMA fighters can vary widely across the different gyms. As with different coaches and their fighters, they may have their own ethos on what is a good style of training for them. So people have asked how long do UFC fighters generally train for their fights?

Professional MMA fighters usually train for 8 – 12 weeks and anywhere from 3 – 6 hours per day. Up to 6 days per week in the build-up to their fight. This will vary depending on the individual fighter and the pre-fight notice they receive.

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Training for mixed martial arts is quite different from any other martial art with which you might be familiar. It requires a combination of its four main disciplines which generally speaking are boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling.

While there are gyms that may tweak this somewhat, adding in perhaps Karate for standup or Sambo for ground fighting. The above four are the dominant disciplines you will find in most MMA gyms around the world.

So you can understand why it takes many years before they can truly master all the elements of the sport. Where training in one martial art a fighter gets to focus on that sole discipline, in MMA there are far more moving parts to consider.

MMA Training Techniques

And along with alternate disciplines, you will also find alternate training techniques. Some of these have created coaches who in terms of notoriety are on par with some of the most famous fighters in the world.

Take for instance Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn at Jackson Wink, a gym that has become synonymous with success. Housing some of the biggest names and greatest champions the sport has known.

MMA coach Greg Jackson at Jacksonwink MMA gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Coach Greg Jackson at his gym in Albuquerque.

Including former undisputed UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, as well as women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Former heavyweight champion Andre Arlovski, light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans and MMA great Alistair Overeem.

“You have to be skilled in so many areas, and you have to have incredible physical conditioning on top of that.”

Coach Greg Jackson on training for an MMA fight

Not to mention fighters such as Michelle Waterson, Keith Jardine, Georges St-Pierre, BJ Penn, Carlos Condit, Donald Cerrone and more have all passed through its doors. So not all gyms are created equal and that can most certainly be seen in the results of their particular style of preparation.

Bad Training Regimes

On the flip side of that, you will have some coaches who don’t move with the times. Still stuck in their mindset from the past and unwilling to try new and innovative improvements. Over time, these gyms and their teams tend to slowly die off.

Take Ultimate fighter 3 coach Ken Shamrock for instance. The former UFC champion was highly criticised during the show for his approach to his training techniques. Focusing very much on running and building muscle. Shamrock’s team would eventually go on to lose the competition.

While his opposition in Tito Ortiz who was much more focused on the development of his fighters went on to dominate the show. A fact that didn’t fly under the radar when the coaches themselves would eventually meet with Ortiz exiting the bout the convincing winner.

UFC Fighters And Coaches Discuss Training

As I mentioned before not all gyms and not all fighters are created equal. What doesn’t make sense to one group will be the bread and butter of the other. As everyone will have their favourite training techniques and schedules to achieve the desired results.

UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon has previously mentioned that he trains 3 hours per day. With a 1.5-hour session in the morning and another 1.5 hours in the afternoon, while training five days per week.

Brazils Anderson Silva trains for his next fight at his gym.
MMA legend Anderson Silva trains in his gym.

Some others will swear that a minimum of 4 hours per day is required. And others will have regimes that consist of 2 – 3 training sessions per day, 6 days per week.

And following the extensive fight camp, the fighters will usually spend three days before the event going through the dehydration process. First overload their bodies with water, before removing it completely, forcing their body to shed the pounds.

With many fighters saying that the fight camp itself is very often more difficult than the fight itself. Between the weeks of sparring, dieting and the eventual weight cut. Many often cannot wait to get in the cage and fight.

Morning Training Sessions

For most gyms, the morning training sessions are usually focused on improving cardio and conditioning. With sessions that will include running and circuit training that will normally last from 1.5 – 2 hours.

Strength workouts can include performing power cleans which teach the fighter’s body to be explosive even when fatigued. Also in the mix will be some treadmill running or in the case of those gyms that have a good environment, a run in the hills.

Evening Sessions

The evening sessions which last from 1.5 – 2 hours are usually very different. And it’s where the fighters will learn to focus on the actual fighting techniques they will need inside the cage.

These will include BJJ, MMA sparring and drilling any number of ground and standup techniques. These sessions are about learning, but also about building knowledge along with mental as well as physical conditioning in the process. And of course, grinding it out until you sometimes puke.

Different Approaches to Training

Different coaches and different fighters, located at different places around the world offer up all manner of alternative training. What works with one fighter may not work with another. And if the gym is located in the city and not the foothills, then hill sprints won’t even be an option.

So for the most part, it is all about making use of their local environment. Whether that be outdoors or stuck inside the gym somewhere in Sweden during the freezing winter months.

Each to their own and whatever works best, then the gyms need to stick with that. But never be unwilling or unable to look outside the box and see what others are doing. Follow those who are successful and learn from how they do it.

Two Time UFC Champion BJ Penn

BJ Penn is one of those true fighters. Not born into a life of poverty, nonetheless, Penn would be in constant trouble as a kid. As he sought to take on the local kids and find out who was the toughest in the neighbourhood.

UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn trains in his home state of Hawaii.
BJ Penn trains in his Hawaii home.

This no doubt paid dividends in his later life when Penn first took up the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and soon after mixed martial arts. But his unorthodox pre-fight training regimes are those of legend.

Using his local environment, BJ would copy some of the big wave surfer routines to help build his cardio. Including carrying rocks underwater over long distances, helping to improve his lung capacity.

“Birds fly, fish swim and I do this.”

BJ Penn on being an MMA fighter

And these quite unusual training regimes obviously paid dividends. As Penn went on to be a two-division champion in the UFC. Maintaining his position in the sport as one of its top fighters for almost a decade.

Double Champ Conor McGregor

And I don’t think many will ever forget the unorthodox training regime of UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor. Prior to his meeting with Jose Aldo Junior at UFC 194.

McGregor enlisted the help of movement specialist Ido Portal to help add something new or build upon his existing training schedule. When we consider other MMA regimes, it consisted of some pretty odd-looking drills.

But nonetheless, McGregor continued on his quest and utilised the newfound skills given to him by Portal. Something to this day that we are not sure paid dividends in his 13-second KO victory over the long-reigning featherweight king.

Conor McGregor here training with Ido Portal.

Let’s Wrap It Up

So as you can see, there are some glaring similarities between how most fighters will train for a fight. Of course, there will be outliers, those people who use what many believe to be unusual or in their mind impractical training regimes, but to each their own.

Inside the cage, the result is really all that matter when it comes to producing the goods. While you might have the most up-to-date, scientific preparation on the cutting edge of what is currently possible. Does it produce the wins?

And many specify that the fight is won or lost in the pre-fight camp. It’s obviously critical that the fighters prepare in the best way possible in the weeks leading up to the fight. And in the end, it’s not about who trains longest, but who trained the smartest.