If you've been a longtime MMA fan and regularly watch the fights, you'll see a wide range of fighter body types. Some are slim, and others are really muscular.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that the fighters with bigger muscles are always better. In MMA, it's not that simple. The fighters' physiques are influenced by various factors.
Fighters, their teams, and their skills all play a role in deciding whether they're skinny or bulky. It's all part of their game plan, and they've researched and tested what works best for them. So, whether a fighter is slim or has huge muscles, it's all part of the strategy.
What Affects MMA Fighters Physique?
Throughout the history of MMA, various fighters have demonstrated that the amount of muscle mass you have comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Ultimately, it depends on your fighting style and overall physical abilities. The key focus in shaping a fighter's body is on muscle endurance and stamina, given the demanding pace of MMA bouts with three or five-minute rounds.
To endure this grueling pace, fighters prioritize training to build resistance to fatigue. This involves tailored workouts with high repetitions rather than heavy weight lifting, as big muscles can lead to quicker lactic acid buildup due to increased oxygen consumption.
While larger muscles can make fighters less flexible and slower, the crucial factors to consider boil down to the following reasons:
Our genes, or the stuff we inherit from our family, can have a big impact on how an MMA fighter's body looks and works. Some fighters are born with bodies that naturally have more muscles or are better at endurance.
It's like some people are naturally strong and can build muscles easily, while others might be naturally lean and speedy. Our bones, joints, and even how our bodies recover after a tough workout are also influenced by our genes.
So, in a way, our genes lay the foundation for our physical abilities in MMA. But remember, hard work, good training, and a healthy lifestyle are also super important, and they can help fighters succeed even if their genes aren't perfect for the sport.
2. Fighting Style
Every fighter develops their own distinctive way of fighting, shaped by their upbringing and experiences in the sport. Aggressive power punchers focus on knockout power, patiently waiting for the right moment to land a fight-ending blow rather than throwing a high volume of punches.
Cardio-machine fighters overwhelm opponents with relentless pressure, constantly pushing forward to tire them out and secure victory. Point fighters prioritize a safe and defensive approach, relying on precision and timing to avoid taking much damage.
The fighter's physique often reflects their chosen style, with power punchers having more muscle mass for strength, while cardio-focused fighters tend to be leaner for sustained endurance.
Yet, there are exceptions, like Yoel Romero, who defies expectations with both heavy-handed striking and enduring stamina in fast-paced fights.
3. Weight Categories
In MMA, fighters are grouped into different weight classes. The ones in the heavier classes, like heavyweight and light heavyweight, will seem bigger and more muscular,
while those in the lighter classes, such as flyweight and bantamweight, will look less bulky. This helps make the matches fair because fighters are more evenly matched in terms of size and strength within their weight category.
A fighter's natural build and genetics are pretty important too. Some fighters just naturally have more muscles, while others naturally have less. Take UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, for instance.
He's got a big and strong physique with lots of muscles. On the other hand, Colby Covington, who's in the same weight class, doesn't have as much muscle—you can see the difference even though they're in the same weight category.
4. Body Type
Your body type also affects how long you can keep going in a fight. Some folks are just naturally more durable and less likely to get hurt.
Coaches make sure to plan training that fits the kind of body a fighter has, and fighters and coaches think about strategies based on what their body is good at.
So, basically, your body type can give you some advantages that you and your coach can use to be successful in the MMA game.
Mesomorphs are folks with a naturally strong, muscular, and athletic build, making it easier for them to gain muscle. In sports like MMA, where a good balance of strength and weight is crucial, this physique is considered advantageous.
On the other hand, ectomorphs have a naturally lean and slender frame. While building muscle may be a bit more challenging for them, they excel in weight classes that value agility and speed.
Their lean bodies allow for quick movements, making them potentially more agile and faster in the ring. Even though they may have to put in extra effort to build muscle, their body type aligns well with certain weight classes that prioritize speed and nimbleness over sheer muscle mass.
5. Mixed Martial Art Base
Most MMA fighters start training early in life, and their bodies adapt based on the requirements of their primary martial art. Take kickboxers like Israel Adesanya and Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson—they're generally leaner compared to others in their weight class.
This is because kickboxing emphasizes speed, endurance, and power. While they build muscle, they don't aim to bulk up, focusing on explosive movements and maintaining agility, giving them an edge in striking due to their speed.
Wrestlers, like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Henry Cejudo, showcase massive backs. Why? Because wrestling involves a lot of pulling movements, which naturally develops the back.
So, the physique of MMA fighters often aligns with the specific demands of their martial arts background, whether it's emphasizing speed and agility for kickboxers or developing strength and power for wrestlers.
In MMA, the saying "styles make fights" holds true, proven by various competitions. Champions like Anderson Silva, Israel Adesanya, Jon Jones, Conor McGregor, and Demetrious Johnson, some with leaner physiques, have excelled in the sport.
The Diaz brothers, despite their slim appearance and less muscle, are celebrated for their endurance, outlasting bigger opponents. The advantage of skinny fighters lies in their speed, flexibility, and superior stamina, allowing them to prevail.
In contrast, bulkier bodies often tire quickly. However, success in MMA isn't solely about physique; a well-thought-out game plan and effective training also play crucial roles in winning fights. T
his article aims to clarify why some MMA fighters appear skinny, emphasizing the significance of strategy and training. Feel free to share your thoughts or additional insights!