There are several theories about what is the correct age at which to start practicing MMA.
We know that mixed martial arts can be an excellent way to stay in shape, and that they are currently in vogue. In fact, we can see that many gyms and schools offer this type of martial arts, so anyone can get started. But we must be very careful with the age at which we want to start practicing this extraordinary sport.
What is the appropriate age to start training MMA?
It is totally proven that the practice of MMA in children is not recommended. Dr. Adisak director of the Center for the Promotion of Safety and Prevention of Injuries to Minors (CISP) at Ramathibodi Hospital (Bangkok), in his numerous investigations, has demonstrated that martial arts like Muay Thai and MMA should not be practiced by children up to 14 years old, since he proved that in combat, children can receive up to 20 blows to the head, directly affecting the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the hormones that affect development.
Meanwhile, neurologist Jiraporn Laothamatas says that child boxers suffer two types of injuries: traumatic head injuries and injuries to the developing brain. If professional fighters who are already adults and trained have proven consequences for the blows they have received throughout their career, imagine what that can do to a child who is still developing.
This theory was also confirmed by Firas Zahabi, one of the most recognized coaches in MMA, for having trained great champions such as Rory McDonald, Kenny Floria, GSP among others.
Firas Zahabi indicated that he recommends that children who wish to practice MMA in the future should first begin with wrestling and jiu-jitsu, in the same way, he indicates that children should not practice with striking, since head blows are not good for children, indicating that on various occasions many fighters who began at a young age practicing this type of martial art, are not well-balanced adults.
Therefore, we advise that the start in the practice of this wonderful world of MMA is after we are sure that the child has already developed.
In the case of MMA, we have had a great variety of fighters who have started practicing this sport at different ages, we name a few. But nowadays it is more common to observe how many youngsters start with the practice of MMA from an early age.
Fighters who started early
We have the case of Vitor Belfort, who made his debut in the UFC at the age of 19, and was so successful at such an early age that he earned the nickname “The Phenomenon”. In his first fight, his opponent was Jon Hess, whom the young Brazilian defeated in 12 seconds by knockout, despite Hess having a height advantage of almost 20 centimeters and a weight advantage of more than 45 kilos over Belfort. Belfort went on to become a UFC Light Heavyweight champion at the age of 27.
Another similar case is that of Chase Hooper, the young fighter, nicknamed “The Teenage Dream” because of his boyish face, became the winner of Dana White’s Series 14 Contender at the age of 18. However, this did not secure him a direct contract with the UFC, and he had to wait until he was 20 to make his debut.
We now remember Frank Shamrock, who became the 25-year-old UFC champion, becoming the first UFC heavy middleweight champion, holding the Guinness record for the fastest win in UFC world title fights, after defeating Kevin Jackson by a 16-second run, with only Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor surpassing this record.
We have more cases where youth plays a big role in the sport, and that is the case of Jon Jones, the youngest champion in UFC history, at the age of 23 years and 8 months.
Jon Jones, before becoming an MMA fighter was a top fighter in his high school, becoming a state champion in New York, left college to start his MMA career. This outstanding fighter is the current heavyweight champion of the UFC, came to defend his title up to 8 times, defeating great opponents like Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua, Vitor Belfor among others. His only defeat against Matt Hamill by disqualification belongs to the top BS list in MMA history.
Jon Jones has been recognized by UFC President Dana White as the “probable best fighter of all time”. He is ranked number 1 in the official UFC rankings.
Fighters who started late
But if anything has been proven over the years, it’s that age is not a limitation in the practice of the sport. We have some great MMA stars who didn’t start at an early age, and they’re great examples of why it’s never too late to do what we set out to do.
Travis Browne had his first professional fight at the age of 27, the interesting thing about this case is that Browne had never practiced martial arts before, until at 26 he started practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing, just a little less than a year later, he had his first professional fight. In his career as a professional MMA, he had a total of 26 fights, of which he won 18.
Yoel Romero’s case is also very interesting, who before practicing MMA represented his country Cuba in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics, winning the silver medal in Sydney and 4th place in Athens. At the age of 32, Romero began practicing MMA in Germany, and only made his debut in the UFC at the age of 36. Currently, Romero is ranked #3 in the UFC middleweight ranking, and has a record of 13 wins and 5 losses.
When did famous fighters start training MMA?
Now we’re going to name some of the world’s most recognizable stars in the sport, and that’s Conor McGregor.
At the age of 12 McGregor began to practice boxing, at the age of 17 he started practicing MMA with fellow future fighter Tom Egan, and by the time he was 18 he made his amateur level debut. Conor has become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two major division titles at the same time. He won one of those belts in front of fighter Jose Aldo in a fight that lasted just 13 seconds, earning the fastest KO in the history of championship fights in UFC history. He is currently ranked #9 in the official pound-for-pound UFC rankings.
Jorge Masvidal is another great MMA fighter who is currently competing in the UFC welterweight category. This boy of Latin origin, since he was a child was a fan of the fights, and always wanted to be a boxer. In high school he began his wrestling practice, without much success, since he was not chosen for the team he wanted, which is why he decided to start with MMA practice. He is currently ranked #3 in the official UFC welterweight ranking.
Another MMA legend George St-Pierre, better known as the GSP was crowned twice. GSP did not have a very happy childhood as he suffered from various types of harassment from other children.
For this reason, he started practicing karate at the age of 7 to be able to defend himself better, then he learned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling, although before becoming an MMA fighter he also practiced boxing. He made his debut in the UFC at the age of 23 and at 25 he won his first UFC welterweight championship.
By 2017 GSP returned from a 4-year break and won the middleweight championship, becoming the 4th fighter in the organization’s history to be a champion in different divisions.
If we continue to talk about MMA, another name that cannot be missed is Brock Lesnar, not only became UFC World Champion in the Heavyweight weight class, but he has been 3 times WWE Champion. Brock Lesnar was trained as a high school fighter, standing out in a big way, during his stay in college he continues his facet as a fighter, being a national champion.
Before venturing into mixed martial arts, Brock was crowned as the youngest champion in WWE history. In the UFC he had a record of 5 wins and 3 losses, becoming a heavyweight champion at the age of 31.
Finally, we will talk about Khabib Nurmagomedov, who currently has the longest undefeated streak in the MMA with 28 consecutive victories and consolidated his career by defeating the notorious Conor McGregor.
Khabib was always influenced by his father, who was a practicing Russian soldier and wrestling coach, so Khabib has always been linked to wrestling, in addition to having family champions of Sambo.
A curious fact is that when he was 9 years old Khabib’s father gave him a bear the size of the child, at the time of the meeting Khabib faced the bear applying all the keys that his father had taught him.
Then, at the age of 12, he began to practice Judo and then at 17 he started to practice Sambo, which is a Russian national sport, consisting of self-defense without the use of weapons. Khabib debuted at age 23 in the UFC, currently holds a record of 28 wins and no losses, and is ranked #2 in the official UFC pound-for-pound ranking.
We can conclude that the Mixed Martial Arts, allows us to be in better physical and mental shape, no matter how old you are, you can start practicing it. The benefits that can be acquired are countless, from learning to defend yourself to keep you healthy and help you live longer and in better condition.