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Overtraining in MMA - Why MMA Fighters Struggle to Reach the Octagon

Updated: Nov 1, 2023


In the world of combat sports, stepping into the octagon is as extreme as it gets. Standing across from another person who has trained specifically to cause you bodily injury is an unsettling thought for any normal person. In order for these abnormal, yet special individuals to succeed on fight night, everything must be aligned, mind, body, and spirit.

The slightest miscalculation or attention to detail could result in a brutal night at the office. For that reason, MMA fighters invest a lot of time and money in preparing for that one night of battle. Fighters have struggled to make it to the Octagon on fight night because of injuries. Injuries are very common in MMA, but can they be avoided? In this article, we’ll find out.

How Long Is an MMA Fight Training Camp? For an MMA fighter to be in shape and ready to go at fight time, the necessary training must be done in the form of a fight training camp. A typical fight camp normally ranges between six to eight weeks. For major fights and championships, camps can extend to 16 weeks. MMA Fighters must follow a customized schedule in order to enhance their skills and develop a winning strategy. Occasionally, fights get booked on short notice. This would require an even shorter fight camp. An MMA fight training camp will often contain the following:

●Wrestling ●Kickboxing or Muay Thai ●Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ●Strength and conditioning ●Reaction drills

On a daily basis, multiple training sessions take place throughout the day to perfect these skills. To accomplish this in the most effective way, the camp is divided into cycles. At the start of MMA fight camp, a fighter may begin at their home gym with the usual coaches. It is quite common for fighters to refer to another gym or bring in people to train with if they cannot receive all the skills they need at their current gym.

How Much Is an MMA Fight Training Camp? The cost of an MMA fight camp depends on many things. An MMA fighter seeking outside help at other gyms and training with specialists can get expensive fast. Having a fight camp at their home gym with their regular coaches and training partners will be much cheaper. In a 2013 Bleacher report article, retired MMA fighter John Cholish explained how much it costs to be a UFC fighter. During his time with the UFC, Cholish trained in New York City at Renzo Gracie Academy. Cholish explained how much he spends on a fight camp by saying, "This is just gym fees, travel expenses, making sure you're eating the right stuff, and not talking day-to-day stuff like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. More like supplements, training gear, all that top to bottom. I'd say roughly between $4,000 to $6,000 a month when you look at it." Former UFC featherweight and BKFC fighter Chad Mendes detailed how much it cost him when UFC fights got canceled. He toldMMAJunkie, “I don’t know what these guys are doing to get injured or what is going on, but it’s just frustrating.” “I go through a camp, and I spend my own money. I'll go $6,000 or $7,000 or even $10,000 in, and then right before the fight it falls through. I don't get that money back, so that in itself is frustrating, let alone having to kill myself for nothing.” he continued. At UFC 280 on fight island, we saw the crowning of the new lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev. It is reported coach, mentor, and childhood friend Khabib Nurmagomedov’s team spent a staggering $1 million to ensure Makhachev was ready to take home the lightweight title against former champion Charles Oliveira. Obviously, this is on the extreme side of things, but can you imagine if that fight had a T.J. Dillashaw pre-existing shoulder moment or was canceled altogether due to injury?

Why Injuries Occur Training too hard and overtraining is the most common cause of injuries during fight camp. There was a time when nearly all the fighters out of the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) couldn’t make it to fight day due to injury. To simulate fight night, fighters grappled or sparred too hard and too much, causing back, knee, or shoulder injuries. This was a recurring theme for former champions Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier, and Cain Velasquez. Nurmagomedov faced a lot of criticism because of the fights he had to pull out of for medical reasons. For this reason, UFC veterans like Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez have stopped sparring to preserve their health. It seems like more high-profile fighters are going this route to keep their bodies and minds healthy. Injuries have slowly declined from the good old days when AKA pretty much dominated the UFC. By incorporating old recovery methods like acupuncture, cupping, and massage, fighters, and coaches are now training smarter and not harder. Fight camps are also using new methods in the form of technology. The use of cryotherapy and monitoring devices can contribute to an injury-free fight camp.

Can MMA Fighter’s Avoid Injuries Before a Fight? It’s hard to train for a fight without actually fighting. As a result, fight camp injuries are common in MMA. However, steps can be taken to reduce them. Injury reductions over the years have proven this to be true. Giving fighters ample time to rest and heal from tough training sessions is important. Pushing through muscle fatigue will increase the risk of injury. Fight camp injuries can also be reduced with the use of technology to enhance training output and speed recovery. As fighters and coaches start to focus more on health and on effective training techniques, fight cancelations will continue to be reduced. This benefits us MMA fans as we’ll get to see more fighters make it to the octagon on fight night.

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