If you’ve been training for awhile, you might be ready to try your first amateur MMA bout. The best way to gauge as to whether you are ready or not for that first step into the cage is to talk to your instructors and trainers at your MMA gym. Of course, if you don’t belong to an MMA gym at all, your true first step should be to find one immediately and start taking classes.

While MMA is all about mixing up different forms of fighting, your training should include more than just martial arts. You also need to have a strict cardio plan that helps you build the endurance you need to go several rounds against a tough opponent. This might include swimming, running and hill sprints and any other activity that builds cardiovascular strength. There is also a direct correlation between cardio strength and mental focus, so get as fit as you possibly can.

Obviously, there are many key skills to be gained by careful study of Muay Thai, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but often fighters overlook the importance of learning some basic boxing skills. Boxing improves your footwork and coordination while also teaching you how to take a hit and deliver a solid punch as well. Even if you have a black belt in BJJ, be sure that your MMA gym offers a wide variety of classes so you can be exposed to many disciplines.

Of course, while learning multiple fighting skills is smart, you still need to spend a great deal of time working on your strengths. We all have a style of fighting that works best for us, so it is important to be as strong as possible in this key area. Fighting is all about control, so work on what you actually can control and stop worrying about everything else. Another reason to focus on your key strengths is that it builds confidence in those moves, and if you can gain control in a fight, you are better able to end the fight with your strongest maneuvers.

When it comes to training, the worst thing you can do is to lose your focus. We are all busy with many other tasks, but when you are focusing on getting ready for a fight, you need to eliminate other activities. Training should take up a great deal of your time, so keep the rest of your life as simple as you possibly can.

It’s a bit of a waste to spend all this time training and then head home and eat a bag of potato chips and have a couple of beers. Your body is stronger when you feed it properly, and you also have to stay within your weight class so you need to pay attention to nutrition. Create meal plans that will maximize your health and strength and avoid unhealthy foods and drinks. This is a good plan for every day of your life and not just during training.

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