T Nation

Combat Fitness


It is always interesting to me when I am watching mixed martial arts and I see these physical specimens (most of them anyway) who are shredded and muscular and then they gas out so badly that they are staggering, stumbling, swinging wildly and it seems that all training goes out the window. This phenomenon is really obvious in the lower scale shows but you also can see it in the highest levels of the sport, such as the UFC and Pride in Japan.

Now, I understand that one cannot simulate a true adrenaline dump and the resulting physiological changes. So I was wondering what our pro trainers and you folks would recommend to prepare for success in mixed martial arts.

Any ideas?



Train harder than your opponents.


True but that is not enough. Add "train smarter than your opponent" to that too. There is no simple answer on "training smarter" other than educate yourself on this subject.

T-Nation is a great resource in this regard. Try the search feature.


I believe a contributor to the T-Nation, Wiggy, wrote a couple articles directed towards MMA conditioning. You might want to run a search. Either under Wiggy or Matt Wiggins.


I dont know how many of you guys saw that episode of Jackass where one of them brawls with the UFC guy, but he was pretty intense. Is he a higher up among the UFC? He wasn't that big, but he was lean and incredibly strong in his punches. Was this just that he was a born puncher? The fucker hit hard for a little guy.


A big part of the problem is the type of fight they tend to employ. Most grappplers tend to do alright, it's the stand up fighters that end up bonking. This is mostly due to the fact that they fight so "tight". Everything they throw is the "knockout shot". Nothing ever changes speeds, nothing ever changes tempo. Watch the difference between a professional boxer and a MMA stand up fighter. Look at their shoulders and the way they move their feet. The MMA guys aren't very relaxed and this lead to early fatigue. All of the stamina training in the world (endurance, VO2max, interval etc...) won't help if every shot you throw is your hardest shot.


The easiest way to get better is to do it. Sounds simple I know but a lot of people dont really understand. When ever you get into a fight your adrenaline explodes and you start building nervous tension. Am I going to get hit in the face and get ktfo, will he shoot for my legs, where am I in correlation to the wall/ring/cage, etc. That is what gets you all tired. People dont know how to relax in a fight and thats natural.

Believe me when I say I think you could take a world class marathon runner and put him in any form of match and if he survived 2 rounds he would be completely gassed. You have to train in fighting until it become natural. You need to do it, so you get used to it, so you don?t get as nervous, so you don?t get tired, so you don?t get punched in the face. And hey, aint not getting punched in the face what it is really all about?


Hey honulea, Charles Staley has a book called "The Secrets of Combat fitness" Please pm me your email address and I will send you an e book copy-Julianne


Thanks for your very generous offer. But I already own the book and receive his awesome emails! I was hoping to get some other pro viewpoints on this subject.

Thanks again,


Those are my thoughts as well but I was wondering if any of our pro trainers had any techniques to create a training condition similar to performance anxiety. I vaguely remember reading somewhere where athletes were injected with adrenaline prior to training to simulate combat conditions but cannot recall the results or parameters.



I know of nothing so extreme but the appropriate way to prepare seems to me to:

  1. simulate competitive conditions as closely as possible in the gym when preparing for competition by sparring for timed rounds with good quality opposition

  2. undertake physical training which taxes both your strength and cardio preferably simultaneously

  3. engage in low level competitions to gradually habituate yourself to the
    physical and psychological stress of performing under pressure. Repeat frequently and move up as you progress


Please work with me and my spelling
and no im not punch drunk:)

i have been involved in many types of so called combat sports. i have been boxing since day one i also wrestled for many years, and was a red belt in martail arts. i spent most of my time fighting as a boxer i have competed at the national and international level as an amuter. never went pro wasn't for me. a lot of the input that has been given to you is correct from my stand point although i have never done any kind of UFC type fighting.

maybe this well help you.
i was training for a 4-2min rounds. when i sparded it was 12-14 rounds and with five differet sparing parnters they would rotate ever round or two. i ran everyday 8-10 miles (most of it inerval training) and spent 6 days a week in the gym doing all of the extra exercises to build strangth and indurance in my shoulders, arm, legs, and back. i have never been out boxed in a fight but i have ran out of gas plent of times and that really start's to hurt after a while.

this sounds bad and you don't want it to happen, but you what to like getting hit or kicked or what ever it is your doing. get to the point that it doesn't so much hurt, but feels like presher this helps you coup with the pain.

if i can recommend only one thing thats to run even if you don't know much about what your doing you have a better chance of not getting the shit kicked out of you and you might even come out on top
(IF you get a chance watch the movie coach carter you will see what im talking about)

hope this helps
good luck and god speed


the one thing i firmly believe in is doing what makes you tired.you'll never see a marathon runner going to a boxing gym to get better at running marathons.when i trained for a fight i trained my punches and kicks,in every way possible.i do muscular endurance one day,anaerobic endurance another.explosive on yet another day.doing things with active rest between rounds,doing intervals with in a round using active rest.

if you tire from throwing punches then throw punches in training.and train like you fight.if you throw bombs,work on your anaerobic endurance.

sparring will help you deal with nervous energy.



I agree with you about training for your weakness.

Many times when you talk to fighters you will hear them talk about training for 6hrs a day. 6 HOURS all for a 10-15 minute fight...what are they thinking??? At the end of the day what you find out is they are training the wrong energy systems, they are so wrapped up in "Training" that they forget what they are training for.

Down in Brazil and at the top gyms fighters will train hard all out for 5-10 minutes, rest and go back at it again to simulate a real fight. Wrestlers call them Grind matches, every 2 minutes you bring in a fresh training partner to push you until you have completed 6 minutes, rest and start all over for the hour of practice. This is also be done of course with fighters on a higher level

Back to the first post yes most of these guys are ripped but that?s from all the cal's that are getting burned from training and not a true indication of how their conditioning will hold up.

One last thing and its overlooked allot is proper nutrition. In Dr. Berardi's new book The Grapplers Guide to Sports Nutrition he talks about the effect poor nutrition has on combat athletes and how it destroys your training almost over night.


Hmmm thats actually really interesting. Is there anything special that the body burns more of when fighting/wrestling that would need special attention?


Man oh man, I remember those awesome days when little tiny 170lb Royce Gracie came on the scene and choked the shit out of his opponents. He is a great example of how strength training may be a tad over rated when it comes to MMA. Of course the Gracie family are technical fighters and very elite. I just wanted to throw this out there.


Gracie's also didn't allow many other technical submission fighters into the early UFC's....

Guys who they had trained with / visited / hosted the Gracies previous to UFC who fought Sambo, Kun Tao, Mixed System Grapplers, etc.

Royce was a great fighter.... but they chose the battles he fought in...

Half of those guys in the early UFC's wouldn't have been even decent fighters at our gym... let alone in the world... what a crock...

That being said, when the Gracie's came to our gym (prior to UFC 1), they were all great technical fighters... they felt like a ton of bricks when in a cross body, etc...

But, they didn't dominate due to physiques... not overpowering... plus, we master different control points than they wer used to.... it isn't all mount and half guard... and if you know grappling very well, the UFC / Pride are impossible to watch due to the fact that all of the fighters have been trained in the same exact way... submission opportunities abound... but are unknown... everyone has the same bag of 20 tricks...

Royce was amazing.... but he wasn't fighting the best out there.... not even close...


Not to get into too much of an argument here, or too off topic, but Royce wasn't the best Gracie. The fights these days fall under rules that are a little detrimental to their fighting style as Royce used to facilitate his entire ground game with the front kick to his opponent's knee which is not allowed in most MMA formats today.


contact Tony Blauer...www.tonyblauer.com and check out some of his training techniques...it focuses alot on military, cops, and street brawls but many of his concepts have been used for MMA competitive fighters!
Good Luck!


True and true.

But without UFC, Gracie wouldn't be a household name. Maybe if it would have been Rickson in all of those UFC's we wouldn't have seen a bunch of patsies....

but it wasn't, and the Gracie's chose the cowards way out... they knew fully well that they didn't even round up decent talent for UFC 1....

Somewhere this fact ties in with the form of honor they espouse... I am just not familiar with this interpretation of the word... so you'd have to ask them...

Hell, that toolbox kenpo (I think) guy who came out in a gi during UFC 1 wouldn't even be allowed to open spar in our gym..... with the guys at least.

The thread is about conditioning for MMA, and Martin Rooney has a great book on the very topic... making a DVD now for it, I believe. Guy knows his stuff.