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How To Pick an MMA Gym

Updated on February 12, 2011
Finding a legitimate mma gym is very important
Finding a legitimate mma gym is very important

Choosing the right MMA gym is very important, whether you want to step into the cage as an amateur, fight in the UFC, learn to defend yourself, or just get a fun and intense workout. The problem is, absolutely anyone can start an MMA gym and claim to be a "master." While these MMA "masters" might be able to give you a good workout, they're really just working out your wallet. Even if they have some training, it can be very dangerous to step into the cage without having properly prepared with an experienced MMA teacher. This article will help you decide if the MMA gym you're picking is a legitimate mixed martial arts school.

Carefully evaluate your MMA instructor
Carefully evaluate your MMA instructor

Finding an MMA Instructor

Finding a legitimate mixed martial arts instructor is the first step in picking an MMA gym. If they have not competed professionally, they cannot train you to fight in a professional MMA match. Even if they have had amateur fights, this is not enough. There is a huge difference between an amateur and a professional fight. To train someone for a professional MMA fight, the instructor needs to have gone through it and know what it takes.

If your goal in studying mixed martial arts is self defense, it is still important for your instructor to have professional fighting experience. There are many self defense techniques that are great in the gym with a cooperative partner, but would never hold up in a real fight. Training with an instructor that has been in real situations and knows what works and what doesn't can mean the difference between successfully defending yourself and getting beaten into the pavement.

Anyone can say they've fought professionally, so be sure to verify their experience. There are many websites that track professional records--a quick google search should suffice. A professional fighter is also likely to have lots of photos of their matches. Most fighters are very proud of these and openly display them in their MMA gym. If someone claims to have fought but has no pictures, I'd be suspicious. Ask them who their teacher was and what their qualifications were. A properly trained instructor should be happy to tell you about their pedigree.

The MMA gym you choose should teach muay thai and brazilian jujitsu
The MMA gym you choose should teach muay thai and brazilian jujitsu

What Martial Arts Should They Teach

The two most common martial arts taught at MMA gyms are muay thai and brazilian jujitsu. These two arts have proven the most effective combination for mixed martial arts competition and self defense. The MMA school you choose should teach both of these arts. In lieu of brazilian jujitsu, Greco-Roman wrestling can also be taught--it has proven just as effective in competition. Make sure the instructor has at least trained at a collegiate level.

While other arts can be taught--muay thai and brazilian jujitsu are what you want to look for. The gym should teach you a solid stand up striking art AND a reliable ground grappling art.

The MMA gym you select should be properly matted
The MMA gym you select should be properly matted

Evaluating the MMA Gym

The actual interior gym space can tell you a lot about an MMA school.  Don't be deceived by a spotless, modern looking gym.  At the same time, don't automatically reject a gritty looking gym that seems like it belongs in a Rocky movie.  

The two things you want to look for are proper equipment and cleanliness.  At a bare minimum, a mixed martial art school should have basic strength and conditioning equipment.  Things like jump ropes, pull-up bars, and kettle bells.  The gym doesn't need to have a lot of fancy fitness equipment, but if they don't have any, you will not be able to train properly.  The facility should also have heavy bags and plenty of thai pads and focus mits.  If you don't see any thai pads, go to a different gym.  The floor should be matted with special judo, jujitsu, or MMA mats.  You should not be training on bare floors or hard, inadequate mats.

Cleanliness of the gym is the most important thing to look at.  Staph infections and other "mat diseases" can run rampant in a gym that is not clean.  An MMA gym should be cleaning their mats at least once a day.  If they offer communal gear like thai pads, these should also be regularly cleaned.  No outside shoes should ever be permitted on the mats.  Even if an MMA gym is otherwise incredible, do not join a school that does not practice good hygiene.  Catching a staph infection is very real possibility and something you do NOT want.


A good mixed martial arts gym will cost you more than a traditional gym membership. The exact cost will depend on what area you live in and how many other gyms are in the area. Schools usually offer various packages, but don't expect to train for under $100 a month. At the same time, there is no reason to pay more than $300 a month.  Visit a couple gyms and get an idea of what prices are like in your area before you make a decision.  Also remember that almost all MMA gyms will negotiate prices if you ask them to come down.

Trust your gut when choosing an MMA school
Trust your gut when choosing an MMA school

Final Thoughts

When picking your MMA gym, trust your gut. If people seem to have egos, bad attitudes, or anything makes you uncomfortable, don't sign up. If the instructors talk a good game but you sense dishonesty, don't sign up. If their pricing policy is confusing or they expect you to buy a ton of gear from their store on day 1, don't sign up. Listen to your gut.

One of the best ways to evaluate a mixed martial arts gym is by looking at their students. Ask to observe a class and look at how their students do, especially the beginners. A great competitor is not always a great a teacher. While watching the class, take note of how actively involved the instructor is--do they correct students and give individual attention? Or do they stand up against the wall and just watch.

At this point you should have a very good idea of how to choose an MMA gym. Feel free to get in contact with me if you ever have any questions--I'm happy to help.


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      sss 5 years ago

      thanks very helpful