Why Wrestling is a Must for MMA

Table of Contents

Watch any MMA event and you will notice that many of the top champions and competitors have a strong wrestling base. Wrestling has been a driving force in MMA and it cannot be argued as many UFC champions come from a strong wrestling background.

Henry Cejudo Wrestling
Henry Cejudo Wrestling

Wrestling is an extremely dynamic and grueling Olympic sport that produces next level athletes, there are many types of wrestling with the 2 main international styles being Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling and within the USA the main style being Folkstyle wrestling.

Regardless of the style of wrestling, one thing is for sure, Wrestlers are dominating in mixed martial arts competition and here is why wrestling is a must for MMA.

Wrestling Controls MMA Fights

One of the best attributes of wrestling for MMA is the fact that wrestling helps a fighter control where the fight ends up. This can mean that a fighter can take an opponent down or a fighter can use wrestling to prevent the opponent from taking them down.

This enables a fighter to mitigate the strengths of his opponent, should they be fighting a striker then the game plan is to take the person down, should they be fighting a world class BJJ specialist then the game plan is to keep the fight standing and defend all takedown attempts.

Controlling the fight in this way can truly frustrate an opponent and help open holes in their game to capitalize on.

Wrestling Pressure for MMA

Wrestlers understand pressure, both mentally and physically. In terms of mental pressure, wrestlers are very used to long tournaments where your opponent much of the time is unknown except for one thing, that the match will be a tough one. Take years of this mental pressure and it builds true grit and mental toughness.

The other type of wrestling pressure is physical pressure, which means that a wrestler will relentlessly attack for position, eliminate space, use force and speed to incapacitate the opponent and physically dominate them with their technique, strategy and athletic attributes.

Now add this developed wrestling pressure into the MMA world and you have the recipe for an amazing competitor.

Wrestling Conditioning in MMA

Wrestlers are the best conditioned MMA athletes, there is no argument on that and it is for good reason. High level wrestling practices are physically gruelling and can last 3 hours. It is not uncommon for wrestlers to train 3 times a day all while dieting. Wrestling practices are heavily based on calisthenics, plyometrics, sprints, running stairs, acrobatics and a lot of rounds of wrestling itself.

On top of gruelling wrestling practices there is also the extra curricular conditioning in the weight room where wrestlers work on their power and strength with many Olympic lifts all of which are no-nonsense and effective.

Place this well conditioned athlete into an MMA ring and you will notice their conditioning trumps many other fighting styles.

The Ability to Scramble for MMA

Scrambling for dominant positions in MMA is one of the most underrated aspects of the MMA game. Having good scrambling ability translates into that you can simply fight for positions better than your opponent thus being more dominant in the fight. This is excellent for fighters as showing dominance can favor the judges to award more points as well as attaining a better position can allow for much better ground and pound striking and submissions.

Wrestlers Stay off Their Back and Get Up to Their Feet

Holding a wrestler down on their back is no easy task and trying to keep them from getting back to their feet is incredibly difficult. This poses a real issue for MMA submission specialists as they have less opportunities to capitalize on. Champion MMA wrestlers understand that on the ground it is paramount not to give their back to a well seasoned BJJ fighter, so add the fact they are hard to hold down, they become very hard to submit – especially in later rounds when both fighters are slippery from sweat.

Wrestlers are Excellent at Keeping People Down

Mark Coleman vs Fedor
Mark Coleman vs Fedor

Due to the fact that wrestling awards athletes who pin the opponent, MMA fighters from a wrestling background have an extremely developed ability to hold down opponents, thus making it easier to ground and pound them and if opportunity presents itself then submit them. Holding an opponent on the ground while smashing them with strikes is a great way to tire the opponent and looks excellent in the eyes of the judges should the fight go to a judge’s decision.

The Benefit of a Wrestling Mentality in MMA

Mixed martial arts is an absolutely thrilling yet very dangerous sport. Being physically prepared will only get a fighter so far and one of the real differences between successful fighters and non-successful fighters is having a proper fighter’s mentality.

No sport can develop a fighter’s mentality like wrestling, wrestlers know how to go for it 100%, they understand how to dig deep, they understand to never quit, they understand that fights are about grinding and they understand how to go for the kill. Wrestlers simply have a winning attitude and when bridged over to MMA it leads to fighters drastically increasing their chances of winning in the MMA cage.

In Conclusion

If you are a MMA fighter or even a fan of Mixed martial arts, you have definitely noticed that wrestling is a must for MMA. Better and better wrestlers are entering the MMA cage each year and more and more non-wrestlers are taking up the sport of wrestling in order to have a better chance of dominating the competition in the cage. Simply said, wrestling is the number one tool for MMA fighters and if they do not have wrestling in their skill set, the odds are stacked against them.


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