So you wanna be a fighter? A how to guide.

I have had a few emails recently that have led me to understand that the path to becoming a competitive mma fighter, competing out of the Griphouse, is not as clear as it should be. One of the more common questions I get is “I want to be an MMA fighter, what classes do I do?”. We have a large timetable, a lot of different coaches, multiple classes going on at the same time and it can be confusing for those trying to decide how to proceed.

With this blog post I hope to cover the path for the athlete looking to compete in MMA representing the Dinky Ninja Fight Team.

The Prerequisites

  • The time to develop

Learning the fundamentals of numerous complicated combat sports takes a while. The bottom line is that if you are not able to commit 10-12hours a week to developing your MMA game. It is unlikely that you will compete representing the DNFT.

That figure is a minimum, our top athletes and those guys who got good really, really fast usually do a lot more.

  • Work Ethic

The volume of training outlined above is tough on the body. There will be times when you want to miss a session, duck the tough spars or loss concentration during a technique class. It becomes easy to make these single occurrences a habit. Not every training session will blow your mind and by around Friday all of our fighters hate anything that involves them moving.

Becoming a fighter must become a part of your identity. You are making a commitment to the future, scarier, more dangerous version of yourself not to slack off.

  • A genuine love of the Sport.

You will only ever persist in improving in an activity that is difficult if you have a genuine passion for it. Novelty and excitement can get you through the first few weeks and months but you really need to enjoy what you are doing in order to keep going when it gets really tough. Joanne Calderwood was the lightest member of the pro team and  once mentioned how much she loves fighting as it means she “gets to win a round of sparring”. It takes a lot of determination to keep going when you are constantly competing against team mates who are larger, more skilled or more experienced. When you start out you tend to be the nail and ball your sparring partners are hammers.

  • An absence of Ego and a desire to improve.

As mentioned in the paragraph above. When you start out it can seem as if everyone else is moving in fast forward. The stuff you are trying to learn your opponent does instinctively. Your team mates have more experience and it will be a long time before you are taking rounds from them. One way to stay sane and avoid falling into a pit of self pity is to concentrate on winning the small battles. You may not win the round but you can stop that single leg takedown a couple of times or land the cross counter on a decent opponent. Each one of these is an indication that you are improving and reinforces solid technical abilities.

The path of the MMA Athlete at the Griphouse

So if you can handle the above prerequisites here’s how you go about becoming a fighter

  • The Foundation

The back bone of your training should be the two MMA fundamentals classes Tuesday 6pm and Sat 1pm. These classes, coached by Dean Reilly and I (Paul Mcveigh), will introduce you to concepts unique to MMA. These are also the guys who will be putting you forward for bouts so let them know you are interested in competing and they will let you know when you are ready.

As well as these two classes, when you become comfortable sparring, the Friday 7pm MMA sparring class is added to the foundation and is now the single most important class in the week. This is the class where you will develop your own style and adapt techniques to work against resisting training partners in a chaotic environment.

Another hour of Muay Thai sparring will be a useful addition when you are experienced enough Mon 7pm or Thurs 11am.

  • Building on the Foundation

If you are a complete beginner it will be a little while before you are fully sparring so you have another 6-8hrs minimum of training to account for. Those with more experience can guide their training towards weaker areas but in general an equal distribution of wrestling, Muay Thai and Jiu jitsu works well. Our full timetable is available here the fundamental classes are geared to those new to the sports so feel free to round out your training week depending on your schedule.

Training week example (no sparring experience)

Monday

8pm Muay Thai fundamentals

Tuesday

6pm MMA Fundamentals

7pm Wrestling

8pm Muay Thai fundamentals

Wednesday

6pm Jiu jitsu fundamentals

Thursday

6pm Wrestling

8pm Muay Thai fundamentals

Saturday

11am Wrestling

12pm Jiu jitsu fundamentals

1pm Mma fundamentals

Training week example (sparring experience)

Monday

6pm Jiu Jitsu fundamentals

7pm Muay Thai sparring

8pm Jiu jitsu sparring

Tuesday

6pm MMA fundamentals

7pm Wrestling

Wednesday

6pm Muay Thai fundamentals

7pm Jiu jitsu sparring

Thursday

6pm Wrestling

7pm  No gi Jiu Jitsu intermediate

Friday

7pm mma sparring

Saturday

11am wrestling

12pm Jiu Jitsu fundamentals

1pm mma fundamentals

Total 13hours per week.

Before your first bout.

Prior to taking your first amateur mma bout we have a number of recommendations. We strongly believe that competition breeds excellent. Nothing can refine your training like competing in front of crowd. Mistakes are highlighted and strengths are noted. By competing in various formats out with the main sport of mma you can experience the stresses of competition but as it is not your main goal you can concentrate on the performance a little more objectively.

  • Compete in grappling tournaments

Grappling tournaments are great for destroying the ego. If there are 8 guys in your division 7 guys are going to lose at some point that day. Learning how to deal with a lose in a positive manner is a vital component to becoming a successful mixed martial artist. A defeat should drive you to be better and plug the holes in your game. Upon making the transition to mma one of our Muay Thai coaches Sean Wright entered many Jiujitsu comps to refine the grappling aspect of his game.

  • Compete in a novice striking bout

Over the course of an MMA career you will be hit a lot. Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations is vital for the mixed martial artist. By competing in a striking discipline you are helping refine offensive and defensive skills that will serve you well in MMA competition.

  • Get 5-10 inter club bouts

Inter clubs offer burgeoning fighters cage experience but in a relatively controlled environment. Opponents are often team mates and there is a crowd of people watching. However contact is controlled, shin guards are worn, submissions do not end the bout and technical proficiency is emphasised.

This is one step removed from competing and is a valuable tool to ensure the fighter is comfortable competing in the unique mma environment.

  • Be an asset for your team mates.

Probably the most important prerequisite. By the time you are ready to compete you will be an asset to the entire team. You will be able to hold pads and spar with the pro team guys. It may just be you in the fight but you have had an entire team of guys who have got you ready for this experience. You can call upon their knowledge and past experience at every turn.

The vast majority of those getting involved in MMA would be better off financially if they put the same hours into a minimum wage job. Many fighters, even successful ones, can come to the end of their careers with a catalogue of debilitating injuries and very little financial security.

If you are interested in MMA as a means to become rich and famous, things probably won’t go your way. Instead if you have a true passion for the sport and that passion is supported by a strong work ethic and the constant focus on gradual improvement you have got everything you need to be a successful competitor.

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