How to Work Out Like a UFC Fighter

Training to be a UFC fighter is hard work. A high-level UFC fighter needs to be proficient in every area, from striking to wrestling to their ground game. Their skills are not the only things they must work on, as they also need to train their bodies. Here’s how you can work out like a UFC fighter.


Cardio is extremely important for a UFC fighter, as Conor McGregor found out when he faced Nate Diaz for the first time. The simplest way to improve stamina and cardio is to do basic endurance exercises like running, biking, and swimming. However, that’s not how every UFC fighter trains.

At the UFC’s Performance Institute, they also do workouts based on HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. These workouts are usually short but extremely intense. They’ll not only improve your cardio, but they’ll also improve your strength and burn plenty of calories.

Some of these HIIT-based workouts include pushing heavy sleds, flipping tires, and slamming sandbags. Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, in particular, uses dumbbells combined with squats and lunges for his HIIT routine.


Although HIIT workouts cover many bases, most UFC fighters still do a relatively traditional strength-training program. However, it’s important for many UFC fighters to not build too much muscle. This has to do with cutting weight. The more muscle they add, the more they’ll weigh and the harder it will be for them to make weight for their weight class.

However, if you don’t plan on fighting for a living, then this doesn’t matter. To build muscle like a UFC fighter, you’ll want to do workouts that exercise the muscles that help you punch and kick. Former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar does exercises like bench presses and hammer curls to improve his upper-body strength. Squats and deadlifts will cover every lower-body muscle necessary for stronger kicks.


UFC fighters, especially when on the ground, need a lot of flexibility to handle all of the positions they get themselves in. Most fighters do plenty of stretches before workouts, but some, like McGregor, have a unique mobility-based routine that improves flexibility. 

This routine, called Movement Culture, involves a lot of crawling, somersaults, and other unorthodox workouts to build one’s flexibility. While the science on this routine isn’t conclusive, if McGregor claims Movement Culture helps with flexibility, then it may very well be true. 

Putting it all together 

Almost every UFC fighter will spar when training. This will provide your body with a total workout. You’ll need to get a sparring partner. If you’re at an MMA gym or a similar facility, then this will be easier to find. Sparring is one of the best ways to work out like a UFC fighter.

You’ll throw punches and kicks, and your opponent will too. Neither person is trying to knock the other one out. Because of that, you’ll exercise your entire body without the risk of getting injured or hurt. You’ll also train your hand-eye coordination and ability to think when adrenaline is pumping. 

However, to spar, you’ll need to have some fight training first. So make sure you know how to box or how to wrestle before you find yourself a partner for a sparring session.