MMA For All

Don’t be afraid to jump in the gym part-time. Hobbyists can benefit from MMA training too.

Don’t we all get the urge to hit someone? The guy who cuts you off in traffic. The smug barista who screws up your coffee order. The managing editor who tells you that your article sucks. The amount of stress that some of us face on a daily basis can be a killer. However, I have the secret to relieving stress, getting in shape, making new friends, and having the time of your life.

Do a quick Google search for MMA programs in your area. Give them a call, set up a time to check out the facilities, and try a free class. As a gym owner and a coach, I can tell you that there usually aren’t enough pro fighters to train to pay all of the bills. A gym that is split evenly between fighters and “regular guys” is ideal. In my gym, we call these regular guys hobbyists.


MMA training is physically and mentally tough. Sometimes, injuries occur. Over the last 10 years, however, I’ve seen more middle-aged men with serious injuries from weekend warrior pursuits in basketball and softball than from MMA training.

Here are the five keys to getting the most out of your MMA training. If your gym is not adhering to these rules, talk to the coach or find a better gym.

1. Find a Proper Training Environment

Watch a class and take a couple of free classes to see if the coaching staff understands how to train hobbyists. Talk to a few of the older guys in each class to find out if the gym can cater to your needs. Most gyms have an intro program that is set up to ease you into training. Make sure the gym encourages the use of proper training gear, including mouthpieces, cups, and headgear.

2. Focus on Longevity

MMA training needs to become part of your lifestyle. You train in the gym one to two hours a day, but the remaining 22 to 23 hours are just as important. I encourage my hobbyists to pay more attention to warming up, recovering, sleeping, eating, and conditioning. The end result of this holistic approach is a body that functions like an athlete and looks like a fighter.

3. Find Others With Similar Goals

Find the other hobbyists in class and train with them. Stay away from the younger guys and the pros getting ready for fights. When you and your training partners are working toward the same goals (primarily fun), training will be much more rewarding. Sharing your sweat and pain with someone else goes a long way towards making lifelong friends.

4. More Drills / Less Sparring

The majority of practice time should be spent on drills with very specific goals and rules. The difference between fighters and hobbyists is progressive resistance. Experienced athletes may start a drill in a cooperative fashion and quickly work up to full resistance. Hobbyists may never get much beyond cooperative training. Contact is controlled and partners should focus on working with each other, not against each other.

5. Listen to Your Body

Before you begin practicing, make sure your doctor understands the strenuous nature of MMA training and clears you. Let your coaches know about any previous or current injuries. Most importantly, understand your limitations. There is no reason to go toe-to-toe with a gung-ho 21-year-old. If you are uncomfortable with a drill, situation, or training partner, let the coach know.

HardCore Hobbyist

Dave Hamilton was exhausted after his first lesson at my gym about six years ago. I figured he would never come back. He has been my student and friend ever since. Here is what a true hobbyist has to say about MMA.

“Do I want to be a freaking fighter? Hell no. I’ve got a wife, a kid, a business, and a mortgage. Why work so hard, only to never climb in the ring? The answer is simple: Every bead of sweat, bruise, and drop of blood means something. It means I can still push myself. It means I can test myself against and sometimes get the better of guys 10 years younger. It means— unlike my beer-gutted peers pushing incline presses at the Y twice a week—I’m a part of something bigger. Even if I never do anything with it, I’ve done more than most guys ever will.”

MMA Is for EVERYbody

MMA training can help people improve their lives mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you put in the hard work, MMA will pay you back. Imagine the confidence you will gain—confidence that extends far beyond the gym. If you are not against hard work, sweat, and a little muscle soreness, give MMA a chance.

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