Can You Fight In MMA With Asthma?

By Logan •  Updated: 12/03/21 •  4 min read

If you have asthma, you may be wondering whether you can compete in MMA. The answer isn’t as clear as you may think. While you may be able to enter low-level competitions if you suffer from asthma, any sanctioned competitions will generally require the approval of the state’s sanctioning body.

There have been competitors in the UFC that have used inhalers to compete professionally. Heath Herring is probably the biggest name here. However, all of these competitors would have had to receive permission to use the inhaler. It is also likely that their inhalers are not steroid-based too.

Can You Fight In MMA With Asthma?

Do Martial Arts Help With Asthma?

For a while, some asthma sufferers have claimed that their symptoms improved when they exercised. This exercise included martial arts. 

A study carried out in 2011, and featured in the European Respiratory Journal, suggests that martial arts may help to improve the symptoms of asthma.

The study found that asthmatics that exercised regularly had a noticeable decrease in breathlessness. It is believed that this was down to exercise improving lung function.

The effect of exercise was particularly pronounced in those exercising for short bursts of time (i.e. under 30-minutes), which is perfect for those competing in MMA.

Another important factor when it comes to practicing martial arts is the mindfulness that it entails. The mindfulness and meditation that comes with learning martial arts helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Both of which have a harmful effect on asthmatics.

Psychological stress is known to increase inflammation which can worsen asthma, with meditation and mindful techniques this type of stress is reduced drastically. Therefore helping with asthma.

Can You Use An Inhaler In MMA?

The problem with using most inhalers in MMA is that they are steroid-based.

Obviously, any sport is going to be heavily against the use of any steroids. After all, they do not want one person to have an advantage over others due to steroids.

Now, obviously, using an inhaler shouldn’t really give a person an advantage, even if the inhaler is steroid-based. It is really helping the asthma sufferer to compete on a far more level playing field.

The thing is that many of the steroids that can be found in inhalers can be found in other steroid products. This means that steroid-based inhalers are banned in MMA, at least if you are not competing at a low level.

That being said, not all inhalers will be banned. You can obtain inhalers that are non-steroid-based. However, do bear in mind that they are often used to treat mild asthma. These non-steroid-based inhalers are likely not going to be all that effective if you are in the midst of an asthma attack either. It tends to be steroid-based inhalers that can deal with attacks. Non-steroid inhalers are better as a preventative measure. This is why you will often find professional MMA fighters using them just before a fight.

You will need to talk to your doctor to see if you are able to use a non-steroid asthma inhaler.

Remember, you can’t just turn up to an MMA fight with an inhaler. Even if you are allowed to use it, you still need to ask permission. The people running the fight may want to check that the asthma inhaler that you are using during the fight is non-steroid-based. 

Remember, every MMA competition that you enter may have different rules. Therefore, it is always important that you ask for permission every time. If you are competing at a slightly higher level, then you may need to undergo regular tests. If you use a steroid-based inhaler away from competition, there is a good chance that the steroids will show up on any test. This means that you may end up being excluded from the competition.

Final Thoughts

You absolutely can fight in MMA with asthma. In some people, it may even improve their symptoms.

If you do need to use an inhaler, then this will vary on a fight-by-fight basis. You will need to ask for permission to use the inhaler during the fight. In high-level competition, you will need to ask for permission from those that sanction events. It is rare that you will be allowed to use steroid-based inhalers. 


Hi, I've been an avid MMA fan all my life. I've been training in martial arts for the last 5 years and wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to help to aspiring martial artists get started.

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