How To Become a UFC Fighter (Step by Step Guide)

So, you want to become a UFC fighter?

In this article, we’ll cover the 10-step process of how to become a UFC fighter.

How To Become a UFC Fighter (10 steps)

Here’s how you do it from the beginning to end in a step-by-step guide:

(1) Learn Fundamental Martial Arts

The first step in how to become a UFC fighter is to learn the many martial arts necessary to become an elite fighter. Starting young in combat sports and MMA is a huge advantage in getting into the UFC, but isn’t essential as there isn’t an upper age limit.

The fundamentals of MMA are striking, grappling, and submissions, meaning you’ll need to become great in kickboxing or muay thai, wrestling, and Bjj at the very minimum.

Finding your gym
To find your starting gym, you should test all local MMA, muay thai, and kickboxing gyms, to see which you prefer and which gym can help you best. This might be the gym having the best facilities, the best coaches, or the gym that’s had the most success in launching MMA careers.

The best option is likely to be the gym having the best coaches, as they have connections and can assist you greatly in learning and starting out in amateur competitions. They can also be honest with you about your potential and likelihood of making it to the UFC.

Striking fundamentals
All UFC and MMA fights start on the feet, which means striking is essential to becoming a UFC fighter. Muay Thai, or the art of eight limbs, is the best martial art to start with as this integrates shins, knees, elbows, and fists; all useful weapons in an MMA fight.

You can move on to other martial arts as you progress but starting here gives you a foundation and versatility that other fighters who start with boxing, karate, or other martial arts won’t have. It gets you using all the techniques and strikes you’ll use in every fight.

Along with this striking versatility, you should focus on movement, cardio, and range management; which muay thai will also develop. Another great option is kickboxing, as many elite UFC fighters have come from both kickboxing and muay thai backgrounds.

Grappling fundamentals
Next would be to learn how to grapple with both wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Wrestling is used for controlling your opponent and working on offensive and defensive takedowns, while Bjj will focus more on ground grappling and essential submissions used to defend yourself and finish fights.

Practice and incorporate other martial arts
Continue learning and incorporating other martial art techniques and styles. A great way to improve is through sparring with training partners, as it’ll be competitive and a chance to practice your skills in a fight-like environment, without the risk of getting badly injured.

Also, through drilling, you can learn from each other, refine techniques, and build muscle memory. Essentially, the more hours put into practice and sparring translates into progression towards becoming a UFC fighter.

(2) Start a Youtube Channel or Website

This step isn’t essential, but growing an online audience through Youtube or a website makes you more likely to get a contract with the UFC because you can bring attention and viewers to the UFC. 

It also demonstrates your journey, your commitment to the sport, and it makes you stand out amongst everyone else trying to become a UFC fighter. Not only this, but it’ll develop your confidence and your ability to sell.

You don’t have to be a professional MMA athlete to start sharing, as people will watch your videos or read your content if you showcase your journey as a beginner and as an aspiring UFC fighter because it’ll be entertaining and provide useful information.

However, it’s important this isn’t started if it stops consistent and essential training, learning, and sleeping – all the basics necessary to become a UFC fighter.

(3) Learn Fundamental Disciplines Outside of Martial Arts

On top of learning to fight and building your social presence, you’ll need to develop disciplines outside of fighting to become a UFC fighter.

These disciplines are essential and interdependent, and they are:

Avoiding injury
Injuries are the number one thing hampering progress and preventing someone from becoming a UFC fighter; so should be avoided at all costs.

Avoiding injuries starts with strength training, as this helps muscles and joints strengthen and withstand intense training and fighting.

Along with strength training, UFC fighters have a regular stretching routine to wake up the muscles and joints before all workouts and fights, to help avoid injury.

Stretching also makes you more flexible, which is very beneficial during ground exchanges and any kind of grappling.

Avoiding injury also comes down to listening to and resting your body, don’t push yourself to the point of injury.

Strength training & conditioning
Not only will strength training help you withstand injury, but to become a UFC fighter you’ll need a solid amount of muscle while keeping your body fat low, to keep your weight down so you can make the lowest possible weight class and avoid missing weight.

Strength training also translates into more powerful striking, grappling, and submissions. Strength training for UFC fighters is normally performed 2-4 times a week, often combined on the same day with MMA training.

Cardio sessions should be 4-6 times a week, as having incredible stamina is one of the keys to improving your martial arts and winning fights. Cardio is so important it should be seen as its own martial art; because without it, you won’t be making it to the UFC.

Diet & Sleep
Keeping your diet clean and your sleep consistent is the best way to make sure you’re operating at your best in regard to absolutely everything, especially in successfully avoiding injury and building your body through strength training.

A fighter’s diet is high in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and carbohydrates from whole-wheat foods, fruits, and vegetables.

Sleep should be a minimum of 8 hours a night, where a great diet and the avoidance of caffeine and all drugs play a major role in the quality of a fighter’s sleep.

Overall, fighters getting to the UFC need to combine martial arts training with these outside disciplines, which is where many fighters fail, as becoming a UFC fighter requires a complete dedication to this lifestyle.

In terms of the numbers, more is usually better regarding all of the above, but not to the point of performances decreasing due to exhaustion; sleep and rest are essential. The numbers are also an individual thing, which you and your coaches will best understand and apply accordingly.

(4) Compete in Amateur Competitions

Once you’ve established the fundamentals and you’re continuing to grow, you’ll have to compete and win amateur fights and competitions.

When fighting in amateur competitions make sure to fight in sanctioned events where possible, because unsanctioned MMA events are not the safest and have caused many preventable fatalities.

The best way to do this is to research online about any local competitions or promotions. When researching you want to know the level of competition to make sure you’re ready, and the coaches teaching you martial arts should tell you this. 

Also, you want to be able to pick and choose opponents if possible, because avoiding losses as an amateur is important if you’re going to make it to the UFC; as fighters with the best amateur records will be on top of the pile when MMA promotions are scouting.

This is because it’s unlikely they’ll know and research all the amateurs you’ve beaten, especially when concerning fighters from different countries; and they’re more influenced by the best records as it looks better for them as a promotion.

Not only does it look good but most promotions may earn a fee when bigger MMA promotions like the UFC take fighters from them, as they may have to take fighters out of contracts or pay a finders fee or something similar.

If there aren’t any local promotions or competitions, then you’ll have to make the sacrifice and travel the required distance. It’s worth traveling further to have fights you’re more likely to win.

Winning in some of these competitions might even mean you’re not paid, but it gives you the necessary experience and acts as a stepping stone to another competition.

The aim here is to build a good amount of fight experience, build your skills, and reputation, and stack wins until you have a great amateur record. If your record isn’t great, it’s unlikely you’ll move on to the next steps.

(5) Join a Reputable Gym

Now that you’ve won some amateur competitions, you’ll get accepted and be ready to join a reputable gym. The amount of wins you have isn’t hugely important, as long as you’re always improving and you make your UFC goals known to the gym.

Joining a reputable gym will improve your skills further, as the coaching is brilliant and you’re training with fierce competition – fighters gunning to get into the UFC.

Not only this, but reputable gyms have UFC fighters training there and many professionals across the MMA industry, meaning you’ll be able to get connections and progress faster.

On top of all this, coaches at these MMA gyms will know if you’re likely to get into the UFC and can help you with your weaknesses until you’re a well-rounded fighter, which is what the UFC requires.

Not only this, but the gyms have many connections and are able to inform you on which regional events to participate in and which ones to avoid; as well as get you positions in these events.

Also, reputable gyms have scouts attending from the UFC and other top MMA promotions looking to sign upcoming stars, so you may be able to get into the UFC this way or be on your way by joining another big MMA promotion.

Joining a reputable gym won’t be cheap, but it’s definitely affordable considering what we’re trying to achieve here.

For example, American Top Team is one of the most recognized and elite MMA gyms with 40 branches worldwide, and prices for unlimited access to their gym and group classes cost $190 a month for adults (17+), while access to private classes is just under $300 a session. For kids, it’s $170 a month, and the private classes are the same price.

You’ll only be taking private sessions at a top reputable gym if you’ve won many amateur competitions and have a couple of years of experience; unless you’ve got plenty of funds and want to shorten your amateur learning curve.

(6) Find an Agent or Manager

Around the same time you join a reputable gym, you’ll want to find an agent or management team; which the gym can likely advise you on. 

This isn’t essential and will cost you, but it’ll speed up the process of being signed by a big MMA promotion because of the connections they have and their ability to promote you.

You could join a professional MMA promotion before you hire an agent, if you’re good and happen to get scouted by winning amateur competitions; but this is rare as the UFC mostly hire from other professional MMA promotions.

You could also become a professional by directly reaching out to professional MMA promotions if you’ve done impressive things in the amateur circuit. You’ll have more chance of success here if you have an online presence as discussed earlier.

However, here’s a list of the possible benefits an agent or management team can give you:

  • Contract negotiations with all MMA promotions
  • Pre-professional development by connecting you with necessary coaches
  • Marketing and brand development
  • Media training, campaign management, and effective public speaking
  • Legal and accounting services
  • Matchmaking and finding the best fights for you

Overall, an agent has connections and is able to get you into a professional MMA promotion, or at least help you promote and improve your skill and credentials until you’re ready to move up the ladder. 

They’ll even be able to help with the management and growth of your Youtube channel or website, either actively or as a consultant.

Some of the most recognized MMA management organizations are as follows:

  1. Dominance Management – 15 years of experience and based in Las Vegas, Dominance manages names like Frankie Edgar, Gilbert Burns, and Khabib.
  2. Ruby Sports and Entertainment – Manages many contemporary UFC fighters like Joanne Calderwood, Michael Chiesa, Rafael Fiziev, and Petr Yan.
  3. Dodge Sports – 15 years experience and manages names like Aaron Phillips who made it to The Ultimate Fighter, and Jesse Taylor who’s a former TUF winner.
  4. First Round Management – They have a huge team and have managed many of the best UFC fighters ever, with a total of 150 clients across the globe and 12 UFC champions; which include the likes of Jon Jones and Demetrious Johnson.
  5. Zinkin Sport Management – Zinkin offers many services, one being pre-professional development, and has guided fighters Daniel Cormier and Cain Valesquez this way.

You should contact as many management teams as possible, to find the best for you in terms of price, chemistry, and how they can help you to become a UFC fighter.

(7) Join a Professional MMA Promotion

99.99% of UFC fighters made their way there through fighting for smaller professional MMA promotions. The only time the UFC signed an MMA amateur was when they gave a contract to CM Punk in 2014.

He’d had no amateur or professional MMA fights, and was a WWE wrestling superstar. CM Punk was beaten badly in his first two fights and was cut from the UFC with a loss and a no-contest on his record – it was evident to the UFC that bringing in an amateur was a mistake.

Even marvels and hot prospects have to join smaller MMA promotions. For example, Chase Hooper joined the UFC in 2019 at the age of 19, which made him only the second teenager to join the UFC, after Sage Northcutt.

Despite this, Chase had fought in professional MMA promotions like Titan FC and CFFC since 2017, before he was noticed by the UFC. On average it takes the best combat sports and MMA fighters at least 2 years in professional MMA promotions before the UFC considers them.

Overall, it doesn’t matter which MMA promotion you join, you’ll join the best promotion possible at the time and continue to gain experience and wins under your belt. Promotions such as Bellator are home to many great fighters who end up in the UFC.

Your management team will see you through the process to make sure you’re continuously moving forward.

(8) Apply To Become a UFC Fighter

If you’re winning many fights and are one the best fighters in your MMA promotion, and believe you’re ready to join the UFC, the next step will be to directly apply to become a UFC fighter.

Through the link, you can create an account with the UFC’s partner, ‘talentbid’, which is a recruitment platform where you share everything about your MMA career, giving you direct exposure to the UFC.

Creating an account means you’ll have a chance at fighting on Dana White’s Contender Series, Dana White Lookin’ For a Fight, and The Ultimate Fighter; all shows aiming to find the next UFC stars. Winning on these shows doesn’t guarantee a UFC contract, but it’s one of the best ways to do it.

The Ultimate Fighter is for fighters not having perfect records, but are showing potential, while Dana White’s Contender Series is a one-off fight between many high-level MMA fighters, where the winner has a chance at being offered a contract – there have even been times a loser has received a contract.

Although highly unlikely, without competing in one of the above shows, if your MMA resume is impressive enough you’ll potentially be offered a direct UFC contract once the UFC learns more about your credentials through ‘talentbid’.

(9) Stay Professional and Be Ready

Once you’re fighting for professional MMA promotions and you keep winning, there’s a chance you can get into the UFC as a short-notice replacement, in order to save a fight.

The UFC has a policy where if a fighter steps in on short notice and wins, they’ll get a 3-fight contract. Even if you lose as a short-notice replacement, you’ll get one more fight.

Therefore, if you remain disciplined, within touching distance of your weight class, and are willing to fight on short notice, you may be able to enter the UFC this way.

If a fighter pulls out, have your management team send an email or make a phone call to the UFC, in order to get in. The most vigilant fighter will get the fight if they are aware of current events and one of the first in offering a solution to the UFC’s problem.

Although it’s harder to become a UFC fighter this way as their roster is now so big, you’ll at least be putting your name in the mix and getting noticed as a fighter who’s available.

Apart from this, you’ll need to keep winning and become the best in your promotion and grow your online presence – until your management team gets you the meeting or the UFC approach you to become a UFC fighter.

(10) Study the UFC Greats

Last but not least, to become a UFC fighter you should study the UFC greats. Understand what made them so good, how they became so popular, and anything else they did that you can apply to increase your skills or get yourself noticed by the UFC.

Here are some of the things UFC greats do or have done that others can learn from:

  • Meditation is used by many UFC fighters to improve focus, reduce nerves, and be a more calm fighter.
  • Outwork all of the competition. Fighters like Alexander Volkanovski and Khamzat Chimaev attribute their success to the insane amount of hours they spend at the gym, and their relentless approach to improving.
  • Always seek better training partners to spar with and learn from. Training with UFC fighters will be the fastest way to develop.
  • Try different diets. One diet that works for one UFC champion won’t be the same diet working for another.
  • Always question whether the current weight class division is your most suited and whether you may be more successful in another.
  • Create a heel persona much like how Colby Covington, Chael Sonnen, and Jorge Masvidal (BMF) have done so to become some of the most known and well-paid UFC fighters.

You get the point. Always seek to learn from the best and take action, and becoming a UFC fighter is entirely possible.

The Bottom Line

This has been a 10-step guide on how to become a UFC fighter, and it’s one that can be applied at any age. There isn’t a shortcut to success, but using this guide, being the best you can be, and having an online audience will help in getting to the UFC.

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