A “cage fighter” is a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter who sometimes fights in a cage (or octagon, or a boxing ring in Pride). The fighter wins by knocking out, or putting the opponent in a submission hold by which the opponent gives up, or “taps”, or by decision.
The phases of a fight usually involve punching and kicking, the clinch, sometimes stand-up grappling, then a take down and ground grappling. Here you’ll learn what it takes to become a cage fighter.
Try to play off your natural strengths. If you have solid punching power, consider focusing on striking. If you have wrestling experience from high school or college, focus on your ground game. That being said you need to know both striking and grappling as most gyms train their fighters in a balanced style.
Know your weaknesses as well. If you don’t have a solid chin, try to get the fight to the mat to eliminate the odds of getting knocked out. Likewise, if your opponent has poor striking skills but is skilled on the ground, you may want to keep the fight on your feet.
Look for a gym near you that trains specifically in mixed martial arts. They will usually advertise in the Yellow Pages with a list of the techniques they specialize in. Try to find one that has at least a couple of fighters on staff as their experience will be invaluable to you. If you cannot find a gym that specializes in mixed martial arts, consider studying Muay Thai, also known as Thai Kickboxing, boxing or other striking arts.
For grappling skills study Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, sambo and wrestling.
You can also purchase fighting technique DVDs or books to enhance your study.
Become familiar with how to defend yourself outside of your own discipline. Due to the nature of cross-training, all strikers must know some grappling and vice versa.
Practice, practice, practice. Don’t get discouraged. The more you “tap out” or get punched out, the more you learn. You have to love what you’re doing, if you don’t love it, quit and save yourself your monthly gym dues and your time.
Train to the fullest of your potential and train on strength and conditioning.
Enter as many competitions in kick boxing and grappling as you possibly can. Realize that every time you lose, you get better.
Enter a few amateur Mixed Martial Arts competitions. Make sure that the promoters don’t charge you a high “entry fee” as they are making money off you; make sure that they match you with someone of comparable skill.
MMA promoters are sometimes present to recruit you if your skills are promising, for example, The Ultimate Fighter. However, those fighters have been fighting for years and are well established. It is neither as quick nor as easy as it once was.