Fan Questions | Martial Arts History

How Long Do UFC Fighters Train For A Fight?

As you probably know, fighters tend to have a set period of time that is reserved for serious preparation before an upcoming fight, typically known as their “training camp”. This camp usually starts when the fight contract is signed, as the fighter then knows who their opponent will be.

But how long does a UFC fighter’s training camp usually last? How long do UFC fighters train before a fight?

UFC fighters typically train seriously for about 8 to 12 weeks before a scheduled fight, as this is usually when the fight agreement is signed. However, a fighter’s camp can be longer based on certain circumstances, such as canceled fights or knowing who their opponent will be well in advance. Fights are considered to be taken on “short-notice” when the bout agreement is signed less than three weeks before the fight.

So as this short answer explains, the camp is usually 8-12 weeks long. In the rest of this post, I’ll address some questions relating to a fighter’s training camp, such as situations in which a fighter can have a really long or short camp. Let’s get started.

When Does A Fighter Actually Start Their Training Camp?

So as mentioned previously, a fighter’s camp typically begins as soon as their fight agreement is signed. It just so happens that most bout agreements are signed about 8-12 weeks before the date of the fight.

A UFC fighter typically needs at least 8 weeks to get ready for a fight.
A UFC fighter typically needs at least 8 weeks to get ready for a fight, much of which includes strength and conditioning.

This is time period is not just an arbitrary number of weeks for fighters to wait before the fight. It is more likely the consensus among fighters on how long it takes them to get ready for a certain opponent.

There are two main reasons a UFC fighter has a training camp. The first is preparation for the fight in terms of fitness. This means optimizing their body for the best performance possible on the scheduled fight date. This also includes any changes needed to make weight, which typically means shedding body fat.

Some fighters also tend to get out of shape and take time off in between fights. These fighters use their training camp as a means to get into fighting shape, as well as getting their weight down to where it needs to be.

When Jorge Masvidal took a fight against Kamaru Usman on six-days notice, his main concern was making the 170 lbs weight limit.
When Jorge Masvidal took a fight against Kamaru Usman on six-days notice, his main concern was making the 170 lbs weight limit.

The second reason for a training camp is to prepare for the opponent. Each fighter’s style can vary widely in MMA, and so a fighter often needs tailored preparation for a particular opponent. For example, in preparation for an opponent with a wrestling-heavy style, a fighter will spend more time training with world-class wrestlers.

Taking these reasons for which fighters need a training camp, it is easy to see why a fighter might refuse to sign a fight contract with less than 8 weeks of preparation. If a fighter cannot make the weight, or is unable to properly prepare for their opponent, then it doesn’t make sense to take the fight.

This is why on average, a UFC fighter’s training camp will last 8-12 weeks.

What Is Considered A Short Camp For A UFC Fighter?

So in MMA, fighters will often emphasize when their fight is taken on “short notice”. This is because taking a fight without the opportunity of a full training camp can be a big hindrance in a fight. So similarly to disclosing injuries or any other issues they may have going into a fight, a fighter will talk about stepping up on short notice.

Chad Mendes (left) stepped up on two weeks notice to fight Conor McGregor for the UFC Interim Featherweight Championship.
Chad Mendes (left) stepped up on two weeks notice to fight Conor McGregor for the UFC Interim Featherweight Championship.

So what is considered a short camp for a UFC fighter? I’d say generally anything under 3 weeks is considered short notice. Really anything under the 8 week mark is a short camp, but it is only really noteworthy if it is less than three weeks.

An example of this was when Chad Mendes stepped in to replace Jose Aldo to fight Conor McGregor at UFC 189 for the interim featherweight championship. As early as June 26, 2015, Chad was preparing in the event that Jose Aldo pulled out from the competition, having previously been on vacation.

Chad would eventually fight McGregor on July 11th, just 15 days later. This would be considered a short notice fight for both fighters, but a short notice that would mostly be against Chad’s favor.

A big part of a training camp is getting the conditioning in order to fight effectively for the fight’s duration. Taking a fight on short notice can severely hinder a fighter’s stamina, as their main priority is making weight for the fight.

Chad's lack of a training camp resulted in having less stamina, which McGregor took advantage of in the fight,
Chad’s lack of a training camp resulted in having less stamina, which McGregor took advantage of in the fight,

Although Chad did successfully make championship weight, his stamina did seem compromised during the fight, seen by deep breaths during the second round. McGregor took advantage of this, kicking Chad to the body and eventually beating him at the end of round 2 by TKO.

However, this fight could also be considered a short notice fight for McGregor. Even though he had a full training camp, McGregor had been preparing for months to fight one person: Jose Aldo. Aldo is also more of a Muay Thai style of MMA fighter, meaning McGregor likely trained less in wrestling, as Jose Aldo doesn’t wrestle in his fights that often.

Many people covering the fight felt the same way. For example, one of McGregor’s former opponents, Dustin Poirier, thought that a short-notice Chad Mendes was still a harder fight for McGregor than Jose Aldo was. In McGregor’s case, we can consider his training for Chad, in particular, was also short, as it was about 2 weeks.

Cases Where A Fighter Can Have A Long Training Camp

There are also cases in which a fighter can have a really extended training camp. Such cases usually occur when a fighter knows who there opponent will be well in advance, and can also occur when a fight is delayed.

As opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, Whittaker and Gastelum knew they were going to fight each other since July 2018.
As opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, Whittaker and Gastelum knew they were going to fight each other since July 2018.

A perfect example of this occurred to Kelvin Gastelum when Robert Whittaker pulled out of their bout due to an injury. Kelvin was scheduled to fight Whittaker on February 9th, a fight that was announced in early November. However, even before this, Gastelum coached opposite Whittaker for The Ultimate Fighter 28, meaning he had known he was going to fight Whittaker since as early as July 2018.

But on the day of February 9th, Whittaker was rushed to the hospital with an abdominal hernia, and so the fight was canceled. Less than two weeks later, Gastelum had a new fight scheduled against Israel Adesanya for April 13th, 2019.

Kelvin Gastelum would end up facing Israel Adesanya for the interim Middleweight Championship, after a 20-week camp.
Kelvin Gastelum would end up facing Israel Adesanya for the interim Middleweight Championship, after a 20-week camp.

If we assume Kelvin started his camp when his bout with Whittaker was signed, and that he remained in camp up until his fight with Adesanya, then that means Gastelum’s camp was 20 weeks long! That’s an insane length of time for a fighter to be in camp.

A long camp can be a detrimental factor in a fighter’s performance. Fighters have often talked about the stress of being in camp, and how camps are built for the fighter to be in peak performance on one particular date.

It is very possible that Gastelum’s preparation for Robert Whittaker was much longer than 20 weeks, as he probably spent most of his time on The Ultimate Fighter preparing for Whittaker.

Conclusion

I hope this post gave you some insight into the length of a UFC fighter’s training camp. Here’s a quick summary:

A UFC fighter’s training camp is usually 8-12 weeks long, and typically starts when their fight contract is signed. However, a fighters camp can be longer in the case of delayed or canceled fights, or sometimes less than 3 weeks if they are taking a fight on short notice.

That’s pretty much all there is to say about a UFC fighter’s training camp length. If you enjoyed the post, consider checking out similar posts on the Fan Questions page. Thanks for reading!

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