Skip to content

Is Starting MMA After 40 Years Old A Realistic Goal

An older man trains to get fir for MMA.

Table of Contents

Starting any sport when you are not in your prime years will always be testing and MMA is no different. But is starting MMA training in middle age a realistic goal?

Beginning your journey in MMA or Mixed Martial Arts in midlife will be tough. MMA is a very tough sport, both mentally and physically. But there is absolutely no reason for you not to achieve your very maximum capabilities over the age of forty.

Starting your journey in combat sports is always going to be a tough test. If you are someone who has not been physically active throughout their life, it will be additionally difficult to get up to a good enough standard and level of fitness. But do not let this stop you.

Life is all about testing yourself and knowing your place in the bigger picture. And there are some phenomenal athletes who have made the transition in the latter years of their careers into the sport of MMA.

Like the former Ultimate Fighting Championships light heavyweight champion, Randy Couture. Who made the leap from Greco-Roman wrestling to mixed martial arts. Greco-Roman is a combat sport, although without strikes. But Couture’s seamless transition at the age of 38 was something to behold.

And okay, I get it, these are professionals who simply swapped sports, so why all the big fuss? Well, the point being is that realistically, you are not going to be taking home a world title anytime soon. Let the pros do their thing, while you just focus on applying yourself and doing the best you can. You will be surprised at what you can achieve if you truly test yourself and find out your limits.

Stretching To Keep The Body Young And Supple

Stretching, but more specifically Yoga has been used by athletes, both amateur and professional to lengthen their careers. So it is no different if you want to train in mixed martial arts! When you walk into any gym, the first thing you will see before any session kicks off is people stretching out.

Whether they are stretching their hamstrings and inner groins to allow for more flexibility. Allowing them to kick at or above head height. Stretching their ankles and wrists by doing a series of rotating exercises.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive and honestly, most MMA clubs will have their own combination of warm-ups and workout plans that may change regularly. But this will give you some idea of what to expect before the real fun begins.

Exercise and ReasoningTime (mins)Rounds
Skipping to break a sweat and warm up the overall body 51
Lunges with weights for building legs muscles 13
Burpees to help build explosive power in the legs 13
Pushups to work on the upper body strength0.53
Wall sit to help build core and leg strength 51
Overhead punches for deltoids and arm conditioning23
Hitting pads to enhance muscle memory, conditioning and precision23
Hitting the heavy bag to build punching power & conditioning 51
Kicking drills to work on form & conditioning51
Sprawl drills to work on stopping takedowns 31
A list of key fitness exercises done in an MMA Gym.

Stretching to keep the body supple, helps prevent many of the injuries that occur when partaking in combat sports. And as MMA entails aspects of many disciplines, ensuring that the entire body gets a rigorous workout. It only makes sense that those muscles and ligaments be kept in tip-top condition as they age.

Overall Fitness at Any Age is Key to Competition

Having trained in multiple gyms and dojo’s in several countries. Often one of the key factors that separates fighters is their conditioning. From the amateur weekend warrior to the full-time professional, some fighters are just known for their cardio. And it is something that can often lead to an average fighter overcoming a superior fighter.

Once you are in the throws of a good sparring session or a full-on fight. If your cardio is not on point, it can the deciding factor in whether you win or lose your sparring session or bout.

How many times have you seen a professional fighter simply running out of steam mid-fight? It can happen to the very best when they come up against someone who has simply prepared more diligently than them and is prepared to go that extra mile.

Even your average Joe and Jane have to pound the pavement and go running. So if you are like me, then you cannot stand the claustrophobic and pretentious atmospheres of most mainstream weights gyms. Give me open roads and green parks any day of the week. And that is where I will typically do my workouts.

You may not have noticed but public spaces are free to use and often provide a great environment for working out. Adding to that, just getting outdoors itself does wonders for the mind. And when it comes to combat sports, a healthy mind is key to success.

What is Achievable For Older Athletes Who Stay In Great Shape

Mixed martial arts training when you are 40 years old and over is going to test you, there is no doubt that. But it is completely achievable to reach a reasonable level of both fitness and skill if you apply yourself I not he right was.

Body Health Graph Showing Gradual Decline By Age

Age is a convenient barrier to hide behind. This is built on a lie. A limiting belief that our health steadily declines once it peaks in our 20s and 30s.

Jonathan Cawte – Sports Scientist & founder of Executive Athlete

I mentioned previously how some athletes had made the transition to MMA. But in my time I have seen all manner of ages and physiques compete. In fact, one of the most anticipated fights between some local MMA gyms in Ireland was between two of their slightly older fighters. What I have to add, were very large stomachs. But the fight was a cracker.

Chart showing the decline in health as people age.
Graph showing the decline in fitness over age.

It takes all shapes and sizes to make up this world and competing in MMA or any other combat sport is no different. But you have to be aware of what you are getting yourself into and prepared for the tough task ahead.

Knowing A Good MMA Gym When You See One

I can honestly say, I have never once go angry in the MMA club. I mean I have gotten angry, but I have never lashed out or used what I learned and taken it out on someone else while training. The truth is accidents can happen and some people can get a little over-excited or overly aggressive.

Much of this comes from the gym itself and who runs it. The owner of the gym or head coach will often enforce his own particular style of training which often stems from how they are as a person.

And I hate to say it, but some of these head coaches can be not very nice or even bullies. Using what they know to prove how tough they are inside the club.

It’s something that can rub off on the less clued-in, more aggressive students, who will often look up to and try to emulate their coach.

A pair of black MMA gloves lying on the gym mat.
Some 7oz MMA training gloves on the mats.

It is important that the person who leads you does so in a professional and nurturing manner. But as is often the case, some of these coaches are without doubt fighters. But really should not be coaching anyone except nightclub bouncers.

As their mantra is generally to hit first and ask questions later. And I can honestly tell you after being around so many. That they are usually amongst the most unsuccessful MMA coaches in terms of their stable of fighters. Whereas the coach who is a thinker and strategist will usually rise to the top like cream.

And in this case, a quote from former US President Theodore Roosevelt sums this approach up beautifully;

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

These are the MMA coaches that will bring you to the next level. Usually very unassuming, and modest, they think first then act and not the other way around. Get these types of people in your life and your skill set will improve exponentially.

Knowing Your Older Body’s Limits When Training

After all, is said and done, you are now over 40 and training in mixed martial arts. It can be one of the most truly testing, yet satisfying experiences you will encounter on life’s journey. But be realistic and know your limits. Train hard, as hard as your body will let you, but train smart.

Don’t try to do the things the 18-year-old fighter who has been training since he was 14 can do, trust me I know. The number of times I have been choked out by that skinny kid, I lost count. Just do your best, and be dedicated and the rest will fall into place.

Don’t skimp, don’t avoid the hard graft, watch what you put into your body and most importantly enjoy it. You only have a short time on this planet, in this life. So instead of watching, do. Get in there, get a sweat on a discover what you have buried inside.

When you are a few years down the line in your 50s. You will be proud of the fact that you took a chance and decided to just do it. The older you will be very grateful, trust me.

As of this time of writing, I am now 43 and still have a six-pack. Come back to me in my 70s when all is said and done and I may no longer be training MMA or any other Martial art. The only six-pack I will have then will be cooling in the fridge.

Best of luck …

If you are wondering what gear I need for training in MMA or do I need anything specialised? Of course, there are some basics that you will need in order to fully enjoy and make the most of the training sessions.

I wrote down a list of what you will need to train MMA properly and this is critical. All too often I have personally seen people enter the gym completely unprepared. Wearing full tracksuits or even worse non-gym clothing.

Not too soon afterwards these very same people were sitting off the mats unable to continue due to either heat exhaustion or simply not having the necessary mobility. So the moral of the story is to arrive prepared in order to make the most of your time on the mats and in the cage.