Bodybuilder Turned Fighter?

Les say we have a guy who’s 200+ strictly body building… What would happen if said guy starts training mmA and cardio would he end up translating his strength and mass into effective fighting mass? has something like that ever been done

He will be most successful after rewiring his nervous system to integrate his separately developed strength patterns into the expression of proper fighting techniques.

His raw output would allow for a potentially higher movement potential, but he will be only at a slight advantage until the refinement of these motor patterns is complete.

Would he be able to maintain the same muscle and body fat percentage though? While enduring the fighting training while supplementing with lifting … Would an up in calories be sufficient

Why not just ask some of the guys on the forums who’re big and strong and have done MMA/grappling/etc? I can name at least a few right off the top of my head.

I’m thinking someone who never did a lot of endurance training and is at their full genetic potential … Are they going to lose some mass from transferring to mmA? And if so how much mass?

Yes, you will lose mass and strength when you swap to mma if you were at a high level of muscular adaptation beforehand.

Strength will only be an asset once you learn how to use that strength to apply proper techniques.

Yea, you’d lose muscle and strength. Maybe a lot, if you were looking to fight for a living. You can’t serve two masters, and every second you’re doing skillwork, you’re not lifting weights. And when you’re fighting, skill is everything.

I can’t speak for MMA, but when I see a boxer who looks huge and ripped, it means he’s probably an easy mark.

There’s a reason fighters and bodybuilders look nothing alike.

That is an impressive amount of jargon sir. I say this as someone fluent in jargon.


Robert A

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Loftearmen and Irish pretty much handled this one. I will say that there have been MMA fighters and kick-boxers with seriously “impressive” physiques who have done quite well. By no means a complete list but: Sean Sherk, Overeem, Kevin Randleman, Jeff Monson, Jerome LaBanter, and Hector Lombard all come immediately to mind. So it isn’t as though MMA has to equal “flat” or “skinny”. On the other hand it is pretty easy to grasp that if it takes serious bodybuilders a dedicated time/program to look a certain way(and “reaching genetic limit” implies a ton of time/effort)per spending a bunch of time doing other things instead won’t net the same result.

If this is a thought exorcise/theoretical exercise:
Expect muscle mass to be diminished. In addition to limitations imposed by training drug testing and the need to function in different weight classes may become even bigger issues. Most fighters find it beneficial to be “tall” for their weight class so outside of heavyweights being leaner and having reach is more the norm. There are notable exceptions, but if the 200lb guy is noticeably thick he will likely be dealing with a reach disadvantage.

MMA training could be undertaken with a mind to minimize muscle loss and in so doing perhaps accept slower improvement in technique (if training time/intensity is minimized), poorer performance(if height/reach issues are a problem), etc.

If this is for you
All of the above still applies, but it doesn’t really matter. Just start training. If it turns out you hate it, stop. You get to go back to lifting with a full heart. If you prefer MMA, but are noticing that you can’t body build at the same time, modify the lifting. At that point you will be sold on the idea that getting run over, ragdolled, and raped is a much bigger blow to one’s ego than losing some “hard earned” muscle or symmetry.

If you don’t decide to drop a bunch of scale weight the really bad news is you might be the only one who notices the “decline” in your physique.


Robert A

A lot of wisdom here…


I always liked the Thompson vs Aleks Emelianenko(Fedor’s younger brother, who went to Russian prison as a teenager) fight for that example.

I referenced Monson(dude getting crushed in that picture) earlier as a successful muscular grappler/MMA fighter. He has however really gone round the bend professionally and maybe over all. He was always an honest to god anarchist. Now he is trying to become a Russian citizen. Which seems like it is going in the opposite direction to me.

Video of fight.


Robert A

It is important to note that bodybuilding is not really a good thing unless you are competing in bodybuilding from a sporting aspect. Strength however, is a valuable tool in many situations you will find yourself in during an mma fight. As I transition further away from powerlifting and become more and more of a jiu jitsuka I watch my lifting numbers get smaller and smaller and my muscle mass follows this trend as well. The more this happens, the better I am at grappling but I do find myself having to learn new techniques all the time because the ones that worked when I was stronger are no longer effective. Essentially, being 2x stronger than your opponent IS extremely useful but maintaining that specialized level of strength is not realistic while training enough to become an effective martial artist. Therefore, as a fighter, any weight training you take part in should be kept short, sweet, simple, and focused specifically on strength. Training for muscular hypertrophy will likely only hinder your abilities as a fighter. Programs such as 5/3/1 2 days a week template with bodyweight accessory work would be most appropriate while westside barbell and Jay Cutler’s FST7 program would be inappropriate. You can’t ride 2 horses with 1 ass.

So does this mean if i train mma and end up weighing 160 am i stuck at 160"? is it possible to end up a solid 180 or more while training mma?

I am not trying to answer for anyone else, but no, of course not. Many fighters go up and down weight classes. What is likely though is that if you are 160 and having to eat your ass off and do a dedicated bodybuilding regimen to maintain a lean 160(3-5 workouts a week, all diet and activities geared towards increasing muscle mass) than doing “Not Bodybuilding” work instead will result in less “gains” as qualified by bodybuilding standards(muscle size, fullness, symmetry, leanness, etc.)

You won’t automatically “get skinny” overnight. Depending on your age and development you may still get bigger and stronger. You just shouldn’t get AS BIG or AS STRONG(in lifts) as we should all hope you would if you were prioritizing that over learning to fight. If you woke up tomorrow and said "I want to learn to play the cello like Yo Yo Ma you would develop more as a cello player, but less so as a fighter or bodybuilder. You know, cause you would be spending all that time with a bow in your hands instead of gloved up or pumping iron.

It is really worth noting that Loftearmen was really in the deep end of the big, strong, accomplished power lifter pool when he “switched” his focus. He was at a level were to get better, he had to specialize his training. Look at his log and note the lifting numbers. That isn’t the same thing as someone younger and less “developed” training mma and also lifting. There are a shit ton of “built” MMA fighters by any common definition of the word. If you want to be even bigger than that (i.e. bodybuilder big) THAT is going to be an either/or thing. If you are ok with “settling” for the athlete/fighter level of “jacked and swole” than I don’t see a problem.

Following Loftearmen’s advice about picking a more minimalist lifting program is a very good idea, but remember that you are picking up a hell of a lot of “extra” muscular work training in MMA. So the lifting volume gets cut because of all the pushing, pulling, shooting, sprawling, punching, kicking, other shit would be doing as well. Really, just give it a shot if you think you want to try MMA or other martial arts training.


Robert A

Okay, so to ammend my last statement, I didn’t know you were a buck 60. I made those statements assuming that you were much more developed as a bodybuilder. You know what they say about assumptions…

Unless you are really short, you probably aren’t yet at a tremendous level of muscular adaptation; that is, almost no one’s genetic potential as a natty bb’r ends at 160. You still have a lot of potential muscle and strength growth before you hit a big wall. This changes things a bit from what I said previously.

I would still recommend an intense, yet minimal lifting program but you will not likely see fast losses in muscle mass and strength if you swap to mma because you are not in a position in which you are carrying excessive levels of lean mass or strength (levels that exceed the needs of mma).

At 160lbs, you could likely continue to add mass and strength, at least for a while, while training for mma pending an appropriate training and nutrition protocol. Your gains would definitely be slower but this does not negate them entirely.

It is worth mentioning that the bigger the lifter, the more tissue which must be repaired after training and the greater the systemic stimulus of the training (due to the larger weights they are capable of lifting). This means that smaller people are capable of lifting heavy weights (respectively) and being recovered in time to take part in their mma training.

Of course, there are many variables to be considered but at your current size losing mass shouldn’t be a big worry.

Sorry I rambled on. I am drunk.

Edit: After re-reading Robert’s post I realized that I just repeated everything that he said in different words. This is proof that great minds think alike :wink:

I saw a video one time where a youngish lady disproved that. They all spoke German in the video. “Riding” was a euphemism right?

Why was I watching? Um, research.

For God’s sake man don’t click on any German horse videos then. I mean, I’ve heard that is bad to do.


Robert A

I know what you mean haha. My Dad lives in Mexico. Whenever I go visit him I see some shit…

Edit: Not like that. Get your fucking mind out of the gutter.

I lift one day and do light cardio the next (technical boxing skills) for an hour I’ve got probably 3-4 months of respectable training on my belt(in total) and of course ive done cheapo workouts my whold life but in all seriousness ive only put in a diligent 3-4 months worth… I start training every single day 30 days ago and im making progress i can tell… heres my typical workouts

I’ve been going hard the last 30 days I haven’t missed one day in the gym

I do chest and triceps day 1
Bench press 6x12
DB Incline press 3x10
DB Flye 3x8
dips 4x10
Tricep pushdown 4x10

Hour boxing

Back and biceps day 3
4x6 bodyweight overhand pull ups
4x6 cable seated low row
4x6 deadlift
4x12 preacher curls at
3x10 hammer curls
3x10 incline bench curls

day 4 boxing

Day 5 Shoulders
4x10Db shoulder press
3x20 db bench
3x10 db front raise
3x10 db lateral raise
speed bag between sets
50 shrugs

day 6 boxing

day 7 Legs
Leg extension 3x10
Legs curl 3x10
Squat 4x6
Split squat 4x6
Leg press 4x6
Deadlift 4x6
Half hour walk to gym
Half hour back.

repeat repeat

I do plan on doing mre intense boxing like sparring evey second day instead of my shadow boxing, speed bag and heavybag training… but i want to be powerful and heavy


Where are you training boxing? Is it a gym with a stable of pro and amateur fighters? A class at a MMA gym? "Cardio"boxing? I am just wondering what that training looks like as well. Also the answer may be to start running down a different boxing gym depending on what you are trying to get done.

You wrote “light cardio” and “technical boxing skills” to describe the boxing training? Is this shadow boxing? A “skills” class? Can you give us a rundown of what the instruction and time spent is like?

Power is going to come a lot from technique. Basically moving the ass you have in the direction of the trauma you are inflicting. Less so from eating your way to power. “Power” in the boxing sense also gets grouped with effectiveness a lot so timing and accuracy matter a hell of a lot. I would rather take a straight right to the shoulder than a jab to the chin.

Most coaches don’t drop people into sparring all that quickly. So if you have been boxing for 3-4 months changing the work may or may not be in the immediate future. Personally I wouldn’t qualify bag work as “light”. It could be me just being a broken down, creaky pile of scar tissue but I can totally beat the hell out of myself just beating on an inanimate object.

That workout looks very, very bodybuilding centric. That isn’t bad, and if you aren’t noticing that you are dragging ass training boxing or running yourself down I am not going to make an absolute statement about what you “should” do.

I am going to say that boxers throw a bunch of punches (nothing profound there right?). That is a hell of a lot of work for the shoulders, chest, triceps, basically any kind of push or press is taxing the same thing. The above lifting plan looks like you could run yourself into the ground pretty quickly combined with mitt work, bag work, drilling, sparring, etc. The lower back and “core” muscles get a tun of work from all the dipping, bobbing, and torquing into punches as well.


Robert A

Yeah, I thought about making a Tijuana joke somewhere. It is a truth that you can see something, but you cannot "un"see something.


Robert A