UFC is the greatest MMA promotion in the world. Only the chosen ones become part of the best mixed martial arts show on the planet. Very few get a chance to compete at UFC pay-per-view events.
But you’re wrong if you think it’s easy to get into the UFC. Many fighters give up everything in their lives, sleep in vans or on other people’s couches, stay away from relationships, and dedicate everything they have to MMA without every making it to the top.
If you want to make it to the UFC, this is a good starting point. You’ll need a lot more than that – a decent level of talent, an incredible work ethic, good personality, the ability to draw a lot of fans.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is about marketing too, having more social media attention gives you an advantage.
These are 10 steps to becoming a UFC fighter:
Step 1. Work and train hard
First and foremost, only the hardest working fighters have reached the UFC. You’ve probably heard it said that you need 5% talent, 95% hard work. What does that mean?
Let’s compare the fighter who won ten bouts in a row but goes out regularly, drinks, and smokes weed with a fully dedicated young gun riding on a score of 3-2.
Octagon warrior number one will be more experienced and might fight wiser but if the bout advances into the later rounds, the dedicated fighter will gain the upper hand because of his hard-working ethics.
You must commit 100% to the training session to show 30% in a UFC fight. When you get into the UFC and the Octagon door closes, it gets even harder!
Step 2. Boost your weak areas, work with more than one coach
The majority of eastern-based fighters deal with this problem and get destroyed when they reach the UFC. Why? Because one coach cannot be an expert in all areas of fighting.
Mike Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson are a great example of a perfect coaching pair, because Winkeljohn is a stand-up specialist, while Jackson focuses on the Gaidojutsu (grappling, wrestling, ground and pound striking).
You can’t only wrestle, you’ll be destroyed by a good all-around fighter. Learn to strike or evade submissions, visit BJJ or Muay Thai classes. Work on your weak spots.
A strength and conditioning coach is required! Not having a great strength and conditioning coach is a huge mistake.
Even the most educated fighter in the world will have a hard time understanding sports periodization. He won’t know when to slow down, which could lead to poor performance in the competition.
Step 3. You must live like a spartan
UFC fighting is hard, fighters mostly train two times per day, eat special meals at a specific time of day, and never go to sleep later than midnight. You must turn yourself into a robot!
If you want to be a UFC fighter, you must be ready to follow these steps. For example, the greatest Serbian MMA prospect Marko Bojkovic quit eating chocolate and sweets due to confrontations with his sponsor and coach.
He said that he’d like to correct his errors, and nowadays Marko eats fruits and whole grains whenever his body is seeking sweets. Bojkovic always goes to bed at 11 PM, even when he’s not sleepy.
Step 4. Build your fighting style
A random fighter will never be successful. Even an all-around style is recognized for one or two tiny details.
Let me give you an example. Sean O’Malley is known for spinning back fist followed by a tornado kick, plus superb movement and unorthodox kicks.
When fans mention O’Malley’s name, the first things that fans think of are footwork, counters, and unorthodox strikes.
Another example – don’t be just a brawler, be a clinch brawler or a toe-to-toe brawler. Don’t call yourself “BJJ specialist”, say “I am submission switch expert”, it will get more traction.
Step 5. Create a brand
Having your own merchandise or getting your name onto a variety of items will help you join the UFC sooner than a top-notch unknown fighter; no matter what their record is. This parameter plays a vital role when two fighters’ skills are even or very close.
Before you reach the UFC circuit, create your website, ask people to help you, promote your sponsors and create your products. The fans must know you, it will increase your chances to become a UFC superstar.
For example, Ludovit Klein is a good fighter, but he became the first Slovakian UFC name because of his massive 80k+ followers on Instagram. His T-shirts and other products are a huge source of his income.
“Lajosko” doesn’t speak English well, but he’s the Slovakian Conor McGregor. Those accolades create some incredible branding.
Same with Modestas Bukauskas, the first-ever Lithuanian UFC name. He has a different flag, a lot of traction, so many products, and a positive personality. He lost three bouts in a row, but UFC is determined to give him another shot.
Step 6. Focus on your social media
Social media presence is very important for international (non-USA) fighters. UFC is focused on growth all around the globe, their goal is to take over the world.
So, for example, a Chinese fighter with over 100,000 followers on Instagram will have greater chances than the best English fighter with “only” 20,000 stalkers.
Give fans one good fight and social media popularity will explode, especially if your clash gets viral and thrills the community.
Step 7. Sign a contract with a good manager and chase sponsorships
Unfortunately, this is a very important step up. We know tons of fighters who signed with Ali Abdelaziz – Khamzat Chimaev, Gilbert Burns, or Justin Gaethje.
They were the best in their states and circuits but nobody wanted them in the UFC because they didn’t have somebody to connect them with UFC staff.
But Ali did his job, and any other good manager will. Iridium Sports Agency is another good choice but there are tons of great managers all around the globe.
Sponsors are critical because somebody needs to pay for your training sessions, recovery, food, meals, and general accommodations.
Everybody will want to be associated with your name when you make it to primetime, but you’ll have to survive the storm in the early stages of your career.
Start from local businesses, the majority of them are looking for a rising star to attach their brand to.
Step 8. Be ready to bleed
The fans want bloody and battered wars, not feinting or tricky and boring technical fights.
You’ll have to go for the finish by any means necessary in the first two or three fights until you make a name, then you can change your fighting style if needed.
Backing down is not an option, give UFC an entertaining fight or don’t even try, nobody wants to see a boring fighter.
Step 9. Try to secure a spot at Dana White’s Contender Series
This is the easiest way to become a UFC fighter. This show takes place on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the UFC president Dana White is watching every single bout.
First of all, you must score good results and win some local MMA promotion to get noticed, you’ll need a lot of assistance to get there.
When you fight, you must impress the president himself, finish your opponent or take part in a bloody and battered war, fight toe-to-toe, and don’t back down.
You’ll be under huge pressure because sometimes decision wins won’t lead to a UFC contract, but you must gamble, go for all or nothing!
Step 10. Try to stay original and work on your trash-talking skills
This is not ONE FC, this is the UFC. Fans want a story between the fighters. You’ll say that we’re going too far, but look at pressers, media conferences, and stare downs.
UFC is way more than just a fight, it’s a non-stop growing industry; fun and entertainment are a vital part of it.
A foreign fighter should learn English well because a translator can’t get into the spirit of things. It’s just “a job” for him, but UFC is life for many fighters.
Realize how important the last sentence is, you can’t let your livelihood depend on someone who sees it as just a job.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How can I become a female UFC fighter?
Please, do not make the difference between genders. You’ll have to do absolutely the same. It is easier when you’re a female because there are fewer competitors.
You have one big advantage – it is easier to get more social media followers when you’re a female but you must be a good fighter too.
Check out our article on the best and hottest female UFC fighters for additional tips and motivation.
Q: How long does it take to become a UFC fighter?
It depends. Realistically, from four to fifteen years of hard work. When you train in a great team with the best of the best (Jackson-Wink or XFactory for example), you’ll progress faster because you’re surrounded by super-skillful competitors. More dedication leads to faster progress.
Q: How much training do you need to become a UFC fighter?
We can’t answer this question. Focus on specific training sessions, work on your weak spots.
Repeating the same training routine over and over is a 100% failure, try to become an all-around fighter.
At least two training sessions per day are required.
Q: What are the requirements for the new UFC fighters?
In most cases, an undefeated streak and good social media exposure.
If you’re a pressure fighter who holds a belt in your local promotion, it increases your chances of getting a contract.
Q: How do I become a UFC fighter with no experience?
We don’t recommend this track. You can be a good friend of a UFC star, like Martin Sano (Nick Diaz’s teammate), who got destroyed by Matthew Semelsberger in 15 seconds.
Of course, you can always step in on short notice when an event takes place in your city (again, not a good idea). It is better to advance slowly but gradually.
Dana might get angry and part ways with you after a poor performance at your debut.
Q: Does social media presence play a vital role?
Of course, especially for non-USA-based fighters. UFC seeks popularity and new fans, more social media exposure gets the job done faster.
Q: Do I have to work on my trash-talking skills?
This has become an industry standard, so yes, you’ll have to. The fans want to laugh and enjoy.
You’ll get better opponents as time goes by because you will be able to bring more pay-per-views.
Check out our article on the greatest UFC trash talkers and learn a thing or two from them.
Q: Does strength and conditioning coach matter?
Absolutely yes, especially when the fight advances into championship rounds.
Plus, he helps you work on some hard-to-see areas of your game. It plays a vital role as you advance on the division ladder.
You can’t become a UFC fighter overnight. You will have to change many habits, focus on one goal, try as hard as possible, the path to the biggest MMA promotion is stacked with difficult obstacles.
Try hard, work hard, the reward will come. After rain comes the sun, your time will come sooner or later.
Do you plan to become a UFC fighter? That means from now on there’s only one thing in your life – MMA all day!