Now I know that the topic of when is a fighter too old to keep fighting has been widely covered, but this article is not about that. This article is about when a fighter might be too old to start fighting. I have been a longtime fan of MMA, and it has been a privilege to watch this sport grow and evolve.
I walked into a gym and started taking a Jiu Jitsu class for the first time at the age of 25 while deployed overseas. I had no background or experience in any of the disciplines that make up MMA, but I fell in love with the sport instantly. I allowed the sport to consume my life, which is easy while on deployment. For most people deployed life outside of work revolves around the gym. I grew up being competitive and played high school sports, and Jiu jitsu allowed me to start competing again, and I found some success in Army combatives tournaments while I was overseas. When I returned home I lived in an area that didn’t have any fight gyms to continue my training, but then I moved to Lincoln. Now I took some time off from training as I was trying to settle into my new job and life here in Lincoln. I eventually found a gym here in Lincoln and started training again, and actually climbed in the cage twice. Now both times I was unsuccessful, and being 28 I started to think about why. There are a lot of reasons why I wasn’t able to get a win in my short amateur career, but some of them have to deal with my age even though relatively I’m not that old. Some of the obstacles that I have found for fighters that are older is that we have already started lives outside the sport. We weren’t able to revolve our lives around training and the sport before we started working, having bills, and for some even families. All these other obligations make it difficult to spend the necessary time in the gym needed to be successful in the cage. Despite all these other distractions, the biggest thing holding new but older fighters back is the evolution of this sport.
Today we are seeing fighters climb into the cage for the first time just days or weeks after his or her 18th birthday. Most of them are not able to fully celebrate this milestone in their life because they are in the middle of a fight camp, or its fight week and they are cutting weight. Even though it might be their first fight inside the cage, a lot of them are walking in there with a lot of experience. Most of them have already been training for years while being active athletes in high school sports. A lot of them are going straight to the gym from football or wrestling practice and putting in a couple more hours in the gym training in MMA. Kids are getting started in wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing, and boxing at ages as early as five. The only difference is when they step into the cage for the first time they are finally able to put it all together and dominate inside the cage. With all this experience, and committing themselves to the sport, they are able to plan their lives around training before gaining a bunch of obligations that distract from training. All these things together have led to the success of the new generation of fighters. They are able to put together an amazing amateur career and able to turn pro before turning 21. Most of these kids are fighting on nationally televised promotions by the time they reach my age.
This evolution of the sport and the new generation of fighters have made it a great time to be a fan of the sport. The competition has gotten better, and it is harder to make it as a fighter today. This article is not intended to discourage anyone, but just my perspective. Just remember that to make it you have to be fully committed, and that you need to make a decision early whether this is your dream and passion or just a hobby. I may never step in the cage again, but I will always be a fan and look forward to watching this sport grow. Just remember keep grinding!