Age is definitely a factor in contact sports such as MMA, and martial arts. As you get older the body doesn’t recover as quickly, and physical output is diminished. But, how old is too old to start MMA?
Overall, 36 years of age is too old to start MMA. It takes about 5 years to be skilled enough to make it into the UFC. The vast majority of professional MMA fighters retire by the age of 40. But, there are exceptions, and it is possible to be a professional MMA fighter if you start after that.
Today, I will go over the data showing how old most professional MMA athletes are, how old the oldest MMA fighters are, and what age is best to start MMA.
How Old Most MMA Fighters Are [& How Long To Be Professional]
A good way to gauge how old is too old for MMA is to look at how old most professional MMA fighters are. Here’s a table that shows the age ranges of MMA fighters:
|Percent of MMA fighters
|25 to 30 years of age
|31 to 45 years of age
|35 to 40 years of age
|Over 40 years of age
The number of MMA fighters included in the data is 3058.
From the table, you can see that most professional MMA fighters are between the age of 25 to 40. This accounts for 89% of all MMA fighters. It’s far less common for an MMA fighter to be professional under the age of 25. Or above the age of 40.
Another way to compare this data is to look at the average age. Here’s a table that shows the average age of professional MMA fighters based. It’s broken down by weight class.
|265 lb (120 kg) – Heavyweight
|205 lb (92 kg) – Light heavyweight
|185 lb (83 kg) – Middleweight
|170 lb (77 kg) – Welterweight
|155 lb (70 kg) – Lightweight
|145 lb (65 kg) – Featherweight
|135 lb (61 kg) – Bantamweight
|125 lb (56 kg) – Flyweight
It can be seen that the lighter weight classes have a higher average age. Therefore, if you’re a shorter/lighter individual you can be a bit older. In my opinion, this is because heavier weight classes also hit a lot harder.
Ways to get into professional MMA fighting [UFC/Bellator]
To fight in your first amateur MMA fight it can take as little as 5 months to be fight-ready. There are programs such as the Wimp to Warrior (now called Alta). This is an intense training program that takes someone with no experience and trains them for 5 months. After that, they fight in their first MMA fight.
Most MMA fighters have a record of around 5 to 10 fights in amateur/semi-professional MMA, before being scouted to fight in the UFC. As you may know, the president of the UFC is Dana White. He regularly travels a lot to scout for fighters to join the UFC. He documents some of his trips in a show called ‘Looking for a Fight’. Here’s one of the episodes:
The is also a show called The Ultimate Fighter. Which now has over 30 seasons. Amateur MMA fighters are selected and trained by a professional UFC fighter, then they compete in a tournament-like format. The winner wins a UFC contract. Famous UFC fighter Nate Diaz began fighting in the UFC after being on The Ultimate Fighter.
Testosterone declines after age 30
Testosterone is a natural hormone produced in the body of males. It is responsible for muscle growth, energy levels, and natural competitiveness. All of which are very helpful to an MMA fighter. It’s known by medical professionals that testosterone levels begin to decline by 1% per year after the age of 30.
Is There an Age Limit for UFC?
In certain activities and sports, there are different age brackets. The UFC is the most well-known and popular MMA organization. Here’s a summary of whether there is an upper age limit for fighters to compete in the UFC.
Generally, there is no age limit for the UFC. The age limits are governed by the Athletic Commission in each state. In some jurisdictions, the Athletic Commissions have a soft limit of 40. If a fighter is older than that they need to undergo a more thorough medical examination.
The main role of the Athletic Commissions are to safeguard fighters. There is an Athletic Commission for each State in the USA. They oversee sporting events in that State. For example, there is one set of rules for UFC events held in Las Vegas, Nevada. And a different set of rules for sporting events held in Texas.
However, as a general rule, there is no upper limit for fighters to compete in the UFC.
Is 40 Too Old To Start MMA?
Once, people get past about age 30, physicality and recovery rates begin to decline slowly each year. As a person ages, they have less athletic performance than a teenager or someone in their 20s. So, is 40 too old to start MMA?
Overall, 40 is too old to start MMA. But, that is only to become a professional. If you want to do MMA for other reasons such as a hobby, then it’s perfectly fine to do MMA after 40 years of age. It typically takes a minimum of 5 years to have enough skill to compete in MMA professionally.
If you begin training MMA after 40 it’s very unlikely you will be a professional and compete in the UFC. The reason is that most UFC fighters are under 40. There are many cases of MMA fighters who are still competing at the highest levels after 40. I explained who they are in this article that explains who the oldest active MMA fighters are.
Interestingly, Glover Texeira recently became the oldest fighter to win their first UFC title.