What No One Tells You About Being An MMA Fighter

This article originally appeared on Evolve Vacation.

Not only is MMA the fastest growing sport in the world, it’s also one of the most challenging. As an MMA fighter, you have to be prepared to think strategically and launch your own attacks while your opponent tries to knock you out/take you down/submit you. To the spectator, being inside the cage could seem glamorous. Seeing one’s favorite fighters battle it out for glory in 3×5 minute rounds (or more) in front of thousands of screaming fans is truly awe inspiring, as they put all their hard work to the test. But beyond the bright lights and the fans is hours of training, sweat, and tears. To fight professionally, MMA fighters must log in the training hours and subject themselves to mental and physical challenges that go beyond what any spectator could ever imagine.

It’s a tough job, but those who fight MMA for a living will tell you that nothing brings them greater satisfaction than having their hand raised in victory. And long before you can consider yourself a professional MMA fighter, you’ll realize that it’s more than just training, cutting weight, and being a superstar. Today, Evolve Vacation talks with Evolve Fight Team Head Coach and UFC veteran Brian Ebersole as he talks about what it takes to become a professional MMA fighter:

1) You’ll have to learn a large variety of techniques. 

“In a single discipline, an athlete can tailor their strategy for the particular rules and “master” their favorite techniques. But in MMA, there is always another strategy that can take away your best game plan, so you must continue to develop your techniques and learn a large variety of them. That sense of “newness” keeps training fresh as it always gives you something to improve on.”

2) You’ll always feel like you never have enough time to get good at everything. 

“Because there are so many techniques, it is sometimes a difficult process to build your skill set. Choosing techniques can be difficult, and sometimes you choose a technique because you think it will suit you only to discover you may not be able to work with this technique vs top competitors. And because people spend a lifetime to learn one sport very well, and we are trying to learn many sports very well, it feels like there is never enough time to “get good at everything”.

3) A large majority of athletes need to work other jobs to pay their bills. 

“How much money could someone earn in MMA? There’s such a huge range that it’s impossible to answer. But even in the top promotions, there in a large majority of athletes that must work another job to pay their bills. The fighting is a small bonus. And even when your fight purse rises, it then becomes hard to fight more than 3x per year. So that also can keep it from providing a full-time wage.”

4) Nothing too crazy goes on in the waiting room. 

“Well, for some it is a waiting room. For example, I used to sleep before many of my bouts. And I always felt like I was waiting. Waiting to warm up, then waiting to fight. There are others that cannot sit still. So their “waiting” is very active. They are constantly stretching, or shadow boxing. But the common aspects are the wrapping of the hands, the unique individual warmups, and on many bigger shows — the watching and commenting on the fights (because many locker rooms have a television for us to watch the entire show).”
5) It takes a lot of luck to become a UFC fighter. 

“You have to have a lot of things go right. You must win, you must find a way to submit your application, and even then it takes a lot of luck just to get your application read. It’s probably just as hard as getting a job at Google, getting into an Ivy League University, etc. Because there are only so many spots, many qualified candidates don’t even get considered.”

6) Sometimes, you need to be able to lose up to 4 kilos in only a matter of hours.

“For many of my fights at 77kg, I would weigh 80-81 kg the morning of the weigh-in day. So, normally, a short workout with heavy clothing. Then I would either take hot baths while reading — the steam and heat made me sweat well enough. But other times, I use a steam room or sauna to sweat off the final bit of weight. Depending on how much water I had to sweat out, and how much I had available in my body, the comfort of each weigh-in experience was different. Some of them, I felt light-headed sometimes. But I always worked to take a break “between rounds”. I could never sit in a sauna for 30 minutes straight, like some people. But I wouldn’t want to, so I’m happy for that. I like how the One Championship weigh-ins work. It’s much better just to get your body fat to a low place, and weigh in. No loss of water and big rehydration. It’s much safer for the athletes, and they can perform better.”

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