T Nation

Too Late for Competitive MMA?


I know in a lot of other sports, those who succeed (for the most part) start at very young ages and play all through grade school in order to have success. I just got done watching UFC and some Pride for the first time a few weeks ago and needless to say I'm hooked on this.

I'm only 16, but the only collision sport I've ever played is football, never wrestled, but I do have some athleticism from playing football, basketball, and baseball. I've lifted weights pretty seriously since I was 14, but I typically lose all my gains inseason because the school S&C numbnut says that athletes shouldn't lift while playing.

Luckily I recently bought a bench, bar and 300 lbs. of weights alng with a speed and "heavy bag" that weighs 40 lbs. Since I can't afford boxing lessons right now, I have to train myself by doing three 5 minute rounds with one minute rest in between.

I guess my question is, can my athleticism and training make up for my lack of experience?


Well, MMA is what I train for, primarily.

you need to find a trainer for something be it wrestling (common), boxing, BJJ or some kinda k-boxing/MT.

I would avoid "winging it" on the heavy bag if you ever want to fight. Because you have no idea how to throw a punch (trust me it's more complex than you may think) you might build crappy motor patterns. This will mess up your progress when you do get a coach. You will have to kick old crappy habits before you gain new ones.

I know that some fighters never trained with a coach and still win. But you'll see that more technical fighters tend to force these self-trained guys out of the sport. The top ranks are littered with technical fighters, untechnical fighters are often the "tomato cans" of these better trained fighters.

So until you get a trainer I would suggest just getting into stupid good shape cardio and muscle endurance wise. The more chinups and jumping squats and burpees you can do the better. I find the more Burpees I can do in ten minutes, the more vicious i can be on the mat.

Bottom line: get a trainer, join a wrestling team, work like a horse.



Here is the thing - 16 is not to young to get into it. In fact its a good age to start.

I almost became a MMA fighter. I advanced in the BJJ scene at an insanely rapid pace(I started at 16 as well) In less than 6 months, I had gotten a blue belt and won the first Gracie JuJitsu tourney in California. By a year I was pretty much the best teenage BJJ guy at the time at my class, from 97-99. I was pretty close if not better than Ryron Gracies level (and we were about the same age and weight at the time, he has since grown)

Then I met a MMA fighter. He'll go nameless. Let me just say, it was NOT a life for me and the lifestyle, its just ridiculous. They make peanuts, even the top guys, and once you take out the expenses for traveling/training/food/hotel/gas-car(expect to travel alot)/airfare/medical bills out, they really make nothing. Its boderline poverty.

I would urge you to before you make the decision to dedicate your life to this, that you MUST MUST MUST make a trip out to California and live and train with some of these guys. It is not as what it seems, trust me.

After that, if you still want to do it, godspeed!


If you want to take a shot at MMA, check it out. 16 is a great age to get started, I wish I could have started at that age. If you can't get your parents to put you in MT or BJJ or something, save some money, find a friend or three who are interested in grappling, and then get some instructional tapes. That is how Evan Tanner got started, watching Gracie in Action tapes and training in his garage. Nothing compares to a good trainer, but something is better than nothing. Ditto the comment on 'winging it' on the bag, someday(if you stick with it) you might end up with a trainer, and you will be slowed down by relearning the proper motor skills.

No offense to the last guy, but don't let someone on a forum talk you out of your dreams. If you want to do it, try it out, do it for a few months/years, then decide how far you want to go with it. It does suck trying to squeeze in work, conditioning, skill training, and family life. But it is doable if you are committed.

Free tip: if you get into a good MMA school or at least someplace you can train all the parts, train for at least a year or more before you get in the ring/cage. There are tons of guys fighting these days, so if your record gets bad early, you could lose out on fight opportunities.


LOL!!! I thought this was going to be a thread by a 50 year old! 16 too old WTF!! Get off your ass, join the wrestling team, a do some mma. TOO OLD, at 16...


Joining the wrestling team is a conflict for me due to work. If it were that easy I would have done it already.


If this is the case then doing MMA is a conflict for you also. Not trying to shoot down your dreams, and by all means do what you want to do, but not being able to put aside your job at McDonald's to wrestle means you aren't going to have what it takes to be a fighter.

Quit the job and wrestle. Join a BJJ gym. Compete in as many BJJ tournaments as possible. Go to seminars. Add a little Muay Thai to your game once you get your blue belt. Add more thai as your BJJ game progresses. Get in a few amature kickboxing fights. Put it altogether and see how much heart ya got.

By the way, the MMA guys make jack shit as far as pay but they also get to train and beat people up for a living. Not a bad gig.


You got a lot of time on your hand


16 is still ok. Get a trainer or get to a mma gym. It would have helped to have had some background, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, judo, something. No your athleticism alone will not be enough. Grappling is not that hard to get good at. Striking is a different story though.

There are more than the UFC and Pride. Like Shooto for example. They have amateur class and a "b" class professional.


16 is definitely okay. I didn't switch over to MMA until I was 16. (I'm 17 now)

I started with high school wrestling, American Kenpo, boxing, and a martial art called Krav Maga. Those all kind of gave me a base to work from. I did these from late 13 to when I was 16.

If you're athletic, it'll definitely help. Before you look for a BJJ school or anything, see if there's an MMA gym first. People these days make the mistake of thinking that MMA is still about training in a couple styles and trying to mix them. It's far beyond that at this point. MMA is its own beast; you need to train MMA to be good at MMA.

The other thing is, don't get too caught up in cross training. There are lots of good articles on this site about training for MMA but there is NO, I repeat, NOOOOOOO substitute for technique training, drilling, and sparring. Strength helps in MMA, but when you start, you are going to be baffled that the little guys can tool on you in the gym.

To the guy who talked about MMA fighters making "peanuts:"

There is an epidemic in this country of not giving a shit about anything but money. I really blame our obsession for money and possessions to be the root of the majority of problems in this country, including our huge lack of knowledge for other cultures.

I find it sad that you did that well in BJJ and decided to call it quits. True, the local fighters don't make much at all, but they don't fight full time. They have other occupations.

Meanwhile, at the top of the chain, Pride and UFC, those guys are making plenty. They may not be overpaid, spoiled, multi-million dollar baseball players, but they definitely make enough to own a nice house. Plus, you forget about how the sport is growing. $$ is made in endorsements, my friend. Have you seen Arlovski outside of the Octagon? The amount of publicity he got, and the money he got for endorsing supplements, the guy was buying sports cars, donating to charities, having a custom medallion made, and getting EXTREMELY expensive massage therapy. If you consider that "peanuts," I really think you need to take a look at how much shit you actually need.


Also, what's your name? Belt level?

If your story is true (I believe you, though), you have to realize this was in 1999. Who the f*** knew about MMA in 1999? At that time, it was still cagefighting for chump change.

That was 7 years ago, man. Take a look around. I see people walking around with Tapout and UFC shirts on, in NEW ENGLAND. (I wouldn't be surprised in Cali, but come on, New England) UFC is on Spike TV every other day. Pride FC is on FSN. My coach, Mike Littlefield, runs an event called Untamed. We run it at a local Holiiday Inn, and it SELLS OUT every time.

MMA has grown into something much larger than what you saw 7 years ago. I don't see Andrei Arlovski, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, or Tito Ortiz having ANY financial problems down the road anytime soon.


Exactly what I thought


Yea, alot has changed since then. But not a whole lot. I didnt get out of the MMA scene completely until late 2000, early 2001 I believe....Dam its been along time.

The guys you mention are the top guys. There are people in it making money, but they are FEW and far in between. Shit, it would have been EASIER to make it 7 years ago then today, the level of competition has grown exponentially.

Im a purple belt now. Had I stuck with it, I would have probably made black in less than 5 years, but honestly I got burned out. I got a purple belt in less than 2 years training. Injuries were starting to pile up(at the ripe old age of 21, LOL) and my skin was trashed(gotta love having naturally high t-levels, grappling only made my problem skin about a billion times worse). But mostly, I was sick of not having a life. While I spent hours upon hours every day of my free time revolved on training, all my other 19 and 20 year old friends were out having fun. I wanted the same. A normal life ya know?

I still train once a week to keep it up for self defense purposes(my big mouth gets me into situations were it comes in handy, LOL) but extreme sports, weights, partying, supplemetation and everything that has anything to do with testosterone are my hobbies now.


Now that I've kind of settled down about this whole topic I came to a conclusion. Baseball is still my sport, I have a job, and I need to help pay bills, so trying to be compete may have been just an idea I had without really thinking about it. I think a better way to state what I was trying to say, is it too late to train and fight in a few fights without getting my ass beat to a pulp, and my answer seems to be a resounding yes. Right now I just don't have the time or money, which unfortunately is an issue for some.


Again, it wasn't just about the money. It was about TIME. Time is just too important for me. I wanted a normal life. College. Friends. Parties. Fun. I wanted to get into other indevors. Like snoboarding and rock climbing.

Looking back at it, nearly 6 years later, I know I made the right decision.

Im far from being some money-sucking corporate slime ball, but money is VERY important to me and it should be for you. Ive got my best interests in mind. And from what I can understand, everything I want to do for the next 5 years is going to involve money.