Sport Specific Training for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

An article by Ryan Pratt

The whole MMA game has evolved quite a bit from the early days. It is now a distinct sport with its on style, tactics and strategies. To think and train as though it is merely a combination of several arts would, in my opinion, be a mistake.

While your regime will most certainly include training methods and tactics originally derived from various arts, they are (and should be) approached from the MMA perspective. Peering through the lens of MMA skews the original approach of the parent art and fashions it into a new and different objective. So attempting to get good at MMA by getting good at it’s various component parts is not the most efficient use of your time.

In my opnion if you want to get good at MMA in the most efficient manner possible you must begin with the end in mind and train in the style of MMA. Sport specificity is a proven methodology.

At some point during the process you may discover a strength or weakness in your overall game that will drive you to isolate a particular component (stand-up, clinch or ground). When that happens you will inevitably allocate more practice time to that component and may train in the parent sport for an extended amount of time. However, since your ultimate goal is MMA you will never look at or participate in that sport in same way as an athlete from that sport does.

As far as what makes an effective MMA style, school, or coach…well
that’s mostly a matter of opinion. Here’s what I’d look for:

Stand-up– primary delivery system is boxing. I don’t believe that Kickboxing is the best delivery system for MMA.

Clinch– primary delivery system is a combination of Greco and Muay Thai training methods. Freestyle for takedowns.

Ground– primary delivery system is BJJ

Conditioning– mostly anaerobic and muscle endurance

As far as how much emphasis is given to what component that would depend on the individual athlete but for developing a foundation I would weight the training regime as follows:

1. Conditioning
2. Clinch
3. Stand-up
4. Ground

Training in a bunch of different sports and trying to assemble a cohesive MMA game a few months before the fight is not going to be as effective as spending the entire time training MMA. That would be a little like a football team throwing the ball back and forth, running up and down the field and practicing isolated blocking/ tackling drills. While those activities develop real skills that can be applied to the game, it’s no substitute for practicing as a team and actually “playing” football.

A large number of skills that you practice during BJJ class would get you punched in the face if you tried it in a MMA setting. If you were training MMA you would never have learned those tactics because they don’t apply to that sport. You can learn to box with you feet inline with each other but you can’t do MMA that way. Don’t try to use a kickboxing stance in MMA unless you like being on your back a lot. I think you see my point.

As far as conditioning for a fight goes there are a lot of variables.
It depends on what kind of shape your in now, where your at in the cycle, how far away the fight is etc. Ideally your conditioning will address sport specific demands for both your energy management and muscular fitness.

Generally a fighters conditioning program will progress something like

1. Off-season – no fight in the foreseeable future
A. Energy management- aerobic fitness

2. Preseason – your thinking about fighting
A. Energy management- anaerobic threshold training
B. Muscular fitness- strength training

3. Early season– your going to fight
A. Energy management- anaerobic training
B. Muscular fitness- endurance training

4. Peak season– you have a fight scheduled in four months
A. Energy management- speed training
B. Muscular fitness- power training

Naturally you taper off as fight night approaches.

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