MMA V Bodybuilding

There is somewhat of an overlap between the 2 sports, but also a lot of criticism is exchanged between participants of the 2.
If you’re thinking of taking up 1 sport, or possibly both, let’s take a look at the pros and cons…

The Concept of Mastery
Apparently, we are all motivated, and get hooked on particular sports and past-times, thanks to the concept of mastery – i.e. improving as much as possible.

MMA is never ending. If you look at Thai boxing, wrestling and BJJ to start with, you can train them all for 10 years and still not have complete mastery over them. Especially BJJ.  This is a good thing however, as you never stop learning; especially as the sport keeps changing and evolving.  You also hit milestones, and should experience regular amounts of progression even if you’re not ‘top of the class’ for a long, long time.

Bodybuilding is a bit different.  There comes a point when you realise that the peptide-bonded amino boosted powder that the latest Mr Olympia is selling, isn’t going to make you a 20 stone monster.  Usually after you’ve wasted about £2,000 on Mega Mass 2000, it dawns on you that if you do want to ‘master’ bodybuilding, you have to start injecting healthy amounts of tren into your bum.  Not ideal.

Character Development
Both sports can boost confidence and self-image massively. This can either make someone a bully and general idiot, or a confident, secure and really well rounded person.  This depends largely on the individual, and the people around him or her.

MMA, like any competitive sport, is great for character development as it places people in different scenarios, that are rare in modern day life.  For example, confrontation is something many people will shy away from, but combat sports especially, force competitors to build a tolerance to it, or perform badly. There’s also the discipline of turning up to training and of course, dieting to make weight.

MMA, can, and I emphasise can help people to lose their egos. If you train with people better than you on a regular basis, you have to submit (literally) the concept of being the alpha-male of the group – something that people find extremely difficult to begin with.  “leave your ego” outside of the matts, put yourself in difficult position on purpose (instead of playing it safe all the time) and you will likely become a more humble person.  However, if you train with highly competitive people, and people who are not significantly better than you – instead of becoming humble, you can build a sense of entitlement, and this is where the bullying can come in…



I think bodybuilding can fall down in this area.  There is the self discipline of dieting and training (and taking drugs), but the sport does tend to make people completely obsessed with themselves and appearance.  In addition, rather than rid people of their male-insecurities (we all have them), it seems to enhance them.  After having a few MMA fights, you don’t really care if people mock you, or call you a wimp or a pansy.  Because, win, lose or draw, you know you have more minerals than 95% of the population who wouldn’t get in the cage.

A term, I think I may have just made up. Bodybuilding, in a sense, has arguably lost some of the mystic of yesteryear.  I hate to jump on the bandwagon of slating them, but many look tough, but can’t fight.  It’s very rare for a bodybuilder to have a high amount of athletic ability and functional strength and fitness – unless they’re a great athlete naturally (I know a couple).  The guys that do have great explosive-power and are good athletes, owe it to genetics, rather than training with bodybuilding splits and exercises.

Training with machines, and lifting weights slowly whilst lying down, doesn’t transfer well to sports, including MMA.

I think however, you can combine the 2 disciplines to a certain extent.  If you stretch, and add explosive ‘whole body’ movements like Olympic Lifts and kettlebells to a bodybuilding programme, there’s no reason why you couldn’t train for both.

It completely depends on an individual’s goals however.  If you want to look good, then bodybuilding is definitely superior.  It’s cool being able to do an armbar, but it won’t make you king of the beach!

I would personally encourage a friend or family member to take up MMA rather than bodybuilding, as long as they could find a good gym with emphasis on traditional values like respect and teamwork – i.e. training for the benefit of you and your training-partner/MMA team, not just yourself and your ego.

For either sport, I’d recommend taking them up in addition to yoga.  In theory, you’ll be surrounding yourself with ego-less people, and you’ll no doubt pick up on some of the selfless Buddhist and Ayurvedic teachings.  In addition, the flexibility and strength acquired can be a massive ‘help’ to other sports – especially in terms of longevity, recovery and injury prevention.  Some styles of yoga give a massive shoulder workout too!

For Kyle Kingsbury, MMA got him into reading about improving performance – this in turn got him into yoga, meditation, nutrition and even ayahuasca.  MMA or bodybuilding can be a great catalyst to all round personal development like this, or it can make you a bit of a narrow minded helmet, if you aren’t self aware and humble.


Disclaimer – My views are very biased and based on personal experience and opinion. Please don’t leather me to prove a point (it’s not difficult)

About Drew

MMA, Fitness & Marketing enthusiast from North Wales, UK. A Stoic Hippy with no hair. Not to boast but - 1st Class Degree in Sports Science from Loughborough, MSc in Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. 20 years experience of weight & fitness training.
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