Can You Train MMA Without Competing?

By Logan •  Updated: 01/21/22 •  4 min read

In the world of Mixed Martial Arts, there are several reasons why someone might not compete. For some, it is a matter of focus. They may want to compete at a later time and train now, but they may be hindered by their need for a higher level of focus on their job or school. For others, competing might pose health risks that could be exacerbated with the type of training that is necessary for competition.

If you’re new to MMA and you don’t want to go through that level of exhaustion (which mostly takes place when training with an opponent) then yes, you can train on your own without competing or any other level of interaction. 

Is it the ideal course to take? Not really. There’s so much to MMA training that is lost when there is no competitive sparring or training that takes place. However, you can learn the basics through training videos, exercises, and repetition.

Can You Train MMA Without Competing?

Can You Train MMA Without Fighting?

As the above example indicates, you can definitely train in the MMA fighting style without fighting. However, an important part of mixed martial arts is learning self-defense through sparring and realistic scenarios. 

It’s altogether different when facing a real fight—if you’ve had no formal, competitive, or sparring types of training—because it will seem alien to you. Muscle memory is important but it’s not everything. 

You’re also missing out on the exercise, endurance-building, and aerobic factors when it comes to training against a practice opponent. You can train by yourself and learn the basic moves and styles that are traditional to MMA, but nothing beats sparring with a real-life opponent.

Learning MMA Without Fighting

The best way to do this, if you’re determined to avoid simulated combat scenarios, is to create a fierce and nearly exhausting regimen. The hardest part about learning MMA is the grappling and groundwork aspects of the style.

Without the appropriate level of endurance, a grappling opponent can overpower you if you tire quickly. Here are the things that you should incorporate into your training regimens: 

The key to winning a fight in which you are engaging in self-defense techniques is to eliminate the opponent or the threat as soon as possible. In theory, it sounds great but doesn’t always work out in reality.

That’s why endurance is crucial. Aerobics is a crucial and large part of your workout regimen and should be incorporated throughout your regimen, not just at the beginning or at the end. 

You’ll need some solid equipment, including kicking pads and various types of punching bags as you learn the techniques of punching and kicking. Without a real-life opponent, it will be difficult to learn armbars, chokes, and grappling techniques. 

That will be the largest deprivation of your training, regardless of what you learn to do with everything else. In order to learn extremely close combat techniques for proper self-defense, a real-life opponent is necessary. 

Learning MMA Without Getting Hurt

You’re going to get hurt. There’s no avoiding that. No, we don’t mean hurt as in injured and on your way to the hospital. What we mean is that the most basic training will be intense and painful. 

Aerobic and anaerobic training is not done in a bubble. It will hurt you in order to improve your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system. After all, the only thing that weight lifting really is, is tearing your muscles apart at the microscopic level and rebuilding them.

The important part is that the hurt means improvement and helps you track your progress. If it no longer hurts to do 50-yard wind sprints, move on to 100-yard wind sprints. If curling 100lbs in eight reps no longer hurts, increase the weight until it does. 

Final Thoughts

You can definitely train in MMA without ever facing a real-life opponent. Unfortunately, you’ll miss out on two, crucial things. Firstly, real-life experience, and second, grappling, chokes, and other techniques that literally require an opponent.


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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