How Strong Are MMA Fighters?

By Logan •  Updated: 12/28/21 •  4 min read

Pound-for-pound, MMA fighters are very strong. Due to the huge range of weight classes, it’s impossible to compare fighters’ strength, but MMA fighters are certainly stronger than the average person. 

MMA fighters range in shape and size, but pursuing martial arts requires a baseline level of strength needed to compete in a fight and to withstand the brutal training fighters go through. 

How Strong Are MMA Fighters?

Are MMA Fighters Skinny?

Picture an ideal fighting physique and you’ll probably conjure up images of Arnold Schwartzenegger-type bodies with huge arms and gigantic shoulders. 

In reality, this type of body is rarely seen in the MMA world as fighters don’t train to have the largest possible muscles and don’t eat bodybuilding diets.

In fact, training for hypertrophy isn’t that common in MMA programs. The sport can be considered more of a marathon than a race, so bodies built for endurance and stamina take precedent in the octagon. 

This, however, doesn’t mean fighters are weak – they’re just strong in different ways. For example, being able to bench press 600lbs isn’t important or necessary to a fighter as he won’t be fighting an opponent of that weight due to the weight divisions. 

However, if the fighter wishes to improve their pushing strength, then they’ll work with a trainer to help with the movement in a way that’s focused on a fighting environment. For example, the fighter may push a weighted sled around or throw medicine balls against a wall. 

Big Muscles Fatigue Quicker

Muscles require oxygen to work during exercise and that takes a lot of energy. Having huge arms may look great, but you’ll tire quicker if they’re not conditioned properly and they’ll be rendered useless in a fight after several rounds. 

Large physiques can also be more prone to injury, especially considering how hard MMA training is. This is one of the principal reasons why you’ll rarely see a bodybuilder-type physique in the world of MMA.

Raw Strength Is Hard To Measure

In a sport that values endurance, it’s borderline impossible to gauge how strong most MMA fighters are. Very rarely will they brag about how much they can deadlift or how many pullups they can do as these skills are secondary to their striking ability and conditioning. 

Much like other sports such as baseball and soccer, having a strong body is important yet not vital. Of course, every athlete will benefit from strength training, but considering that MMA is a sport of endurance and tactics, raw strength is hard to measure in fighters. 

Strongest MMA Fighters

Whilst most MMA fighters appear to be skinny, there have been plenty of strong fighters over the years. Brock Lesnar (former UFC champion) weighs around 280lbs and can squat 650lbs. His huge physique, combined with his nimble ability and world-class endurance, made him a force to be reckoned with during his time with UFC. 

Francis Ngannou is another huge physical specimen. His enormous physique and great technique helped him achieve huge success in UFC and he stands as an excellent counterpoint when somebody states that all MMA fighters are skinny waifs. 

Alistair Overeem was a fighter with an abundance of strength. He knocked out powerhouses like Brock Lesnar and developed a reputation for being one of the biggest and most feared fighters ever to step foot in the UFC. 

Final Thoughts

MMA fighters are definitely stronger than the average man, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be competing in powerlifting shows anytime soon. 

We can only measure pound-for-pound strength in MMA and it’s pointless to compare a 165lb fighter with a 280lb machine-like Brock Lesnar. However, the slim bodies you’ll see in MMA does not mean fighters are weak – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. 


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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