The best base in MMA is the one that works for you. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. But let’s get more technical here. There are many professional MMA fighters who’ve started with different backgrounds before transitioning to MMA. In reality, a fighter can start with any base and still have a chance at success. However, modern history shows that the majority of UFC Champions have began their mixed martial arts journey with a background in wrestling, with the likes of Jon Jones (National JUCO Champion), Henry Cejudo (Olympic Gold Medalist), and Khabib Nurmagomedov (child bear wrestler) to name a few. Don’t believe me?

So…is Wrestling The Best Base to Start with in MMA?

Not exactly. Most experts in the sport of MMA will tell you that Wrestlers have the ability to dictate where the fight goes. If they want to keep the fight standing they will keep it standing, if they want to take it to the ground they will go for a takedown.

So, if you can choose where the fight takes place you now have a significant advantage. But let’s take it even further…Here’s a clip of arguably one of the best coaches in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu today explaining what he looks for in a dominating fighter.

A fighter who can Dominate these 3 Things will Win 95% of The Fights he gets into.
  1. Dominate the setups
  2. Dominate the pace (keep opponent reacting to you)
  3. Dominate the direction (ground or standing)

With that said, a wrestling base alone won’t be able to cover all three aspects. There are some elite wrestlers who can dominate the direction of the fight—some, not all, i’ll explain later— and most who can dominate the pace, since wrestling is a grueling sport on its own. But what about the setups?

One fighter I have in mind, who’s been known to dominate the setups + the direction of the fight, with his incredible wrestling skills, has surprisingly never even wrestled in high school—his name is Georges St-Pierre. But how is that possible? Georges’s martial art base is karate. Yet, he is able to out grapple the best MMA fighters in the world and make it look as if he’s been wrestling all his life. Well, according to GSP’s BJJ coach, John Danaher, he reasons that, “90% of his success in his ability to take people down goes far beyond wrestling. It has to do with the precursors to the shot.”

  • He had a unique ability to use set ups off feints, distancing, and his jab.
  • He feints off the lead hand to enter into the legs.
  • But his best takedowns came when his opponent would come back at him.
  • Georges would provoke, and provoke, and provoke then whenever the guy came back, he’d disappear right underneath him.

“What wrestling teaches you to do in MMA is how to finish a shot. It gives you the body mechanics to finish the shot. But the setups are completely different from wrestling.”

– John Danaher

Explanation: The Fight Variables Change Everything

“[There are] endless examples of good wrestlers who went into MMA competition with no background in Mixed Martial Arts and couldn’t take anybody down. Simply because the variables change. The distance is different, the stance is different, the motion is different…the context is different, you’re being punched instead of grappling,” and therefore the setups are gonna be different. (Danaher says this in the video above around 1:22:36)

The secret to GSP’s success was his ability to integrate striking skills with grappling skills. Just goes to show that even a person who started wrestling at a relatively late age (18-19) was able to takedown a D1 wrestler. Because, it’s the integration of fighting technique that is more important than the isolation of the technique themselves.

So back to the original question.

What is the best base for a beginner to start with in MMA?

Simple. It’s MMA. There is no faster and more intelligent way to start MMA than with the sport of MMA itself. I’ll even say that an MMA base will be the future of UFC Champions. There are 5 main reasons:


The rules of MMA are completely different compared to all the other striking/grappling sports out there. MMA gloves are smaller, there’s no standing 10 count, fighters are able to utilize both striking and grappling techniques, the number of rounds are different, the time limit, etc. Therefore, the fastest way to accustom a beginner (who wants to eventually compete) with the feel of these rules is to start training them with MMA. Not only do the rules change the game, but they also affect a fighter’s…


I am a huge believer that your body will be conditioned to the sport you are competing in. For example, if you take one of the best MMA fighters in the world and make them box the best boxers in the world, they wouldn’t be able to keep pace. (McGregor vs. Mayweather) So, what’s the cause behind that? Firas Zahabi, who is easily one of the Top 5 MMA coaches in the world, has said that the reason being is efficiency in skill. (You can fact check me here: How to have good cardio) It’s the techniques that one uses in their respective martial art which plays the most important role to their endurance in that sport. Since Floyd is more efficient than Conor in boxing Floyd has better cardio. But, a lot of people say that Conor McGregor has no gas tank even in MMA. However, he has lots of gas; if provided in his favorite areas (Standing). And so, if you put him in a grappling exchange that’s when he gets tired. The tempo of striking, muscle demands, and overall movements are different compared to grappling. With a base in MMA you can develop a more balanced conditioning of both striking and grappling. Just like how movements will condition your body your base will condition your…

Fighting Stance

Fighting stance can be detrimental to a fighter if done wrong. A pure boxing stance is too long and bladed and is susceptible to low kicks. A traditional Muay Thai stance is too square and narrow which can be vulnerable to takedowns. A solid grappling stance is too low and leaves the fighter open to multiple strikes to the face. Those are just some of the disadvantages of having a specialized stance. An MMA fighter needs to adapt a more generalized fighting stance. One that can be used to defend kicks, punches, and takedowns. For the most part, we’ll call this stance the “MMA stance”. Offensively, an MMA stance should allow the fighter to transition from strikes, to the clinch, to takedowns in the most effective & efficient manner. One benefit in adopting an MMA stance early on is that it eliminates any bad habits you’d have to unlearn. There are certain motor patterns that a specialist might do from reverting back to their comfort zone. Profound Thinker & Movement Teacher, Ido Portal, once wrote, “YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO MOST OFTEN. But… you are as well what you DON’T do often.” And most often then not, MMA, at it’s core, is a

Generalist Sport

This sport was made by specialists, but surpassed by generalists.

I believe that all Mixed Martial Artists are generalists. You have no choice; you’d have to be. If you don’t know wrestling you’re gonna get taken down. If you don’t know muay thai you’re gonna get knee’d in a clinch. If you don’t know jiu-jitsu you’re gonna get submitted, etc. A well rounded fighter is a fighter who can solve the most problems in a fight. However, in the highest levels of this sport, you also need to be a specialist at at least one thingConor McGregor has his left cross. Khabib has his ground n pound game. GSP used his integration of striking and takedowns. They are all Champions. They are all good at everything. And they are all the best at at least one thing. This is what I’d like to call the Specialized Generalist: The Jack of all trades; Master of One (or some)

When starting out as a generalist you’ll learn what your strengths and weaknesses are right away. Then you can choose which areas you want to specialize in, while still maintaining and gradually improving in the weaker areas. Eventually, you’ll learn how to do all things WELL and a few things GREAT; becoming a specialized generalist. Although, you CAN get away with starting off as a Specialist and then transition into a specialized generalist. However, the biggest advantage from starting off as a Generalist is that it will save you lots of…

Training Time

An MMA fighter does it all, from learning jiu-jitsu to wrestling; boxing to muay thai, etc. etc. and it takes time to do it. Some say even a lifetime ain’t enough… So why spend too much of that time specializing in one martial art when you’re entering a sport that includes a shit load of em? Now, I am not saying that you should only focus on the integration of techniques. Refining technique is still a valuable thing and not something you can ignore.

But, once you get to a sufficient level in all of those disciplines then it becomes more of a quest of integration.

*Remember: The integration of fighting technique is more important than the isolation of the technique themselves.

If you just keep focusing on one martial art you tend to get diminishing returns upon your training time. I’ll let Coach Danaher explain this one. In an interview with London Real he says:

“Think about it…look at a double leg take down. If you get to a certain level, let’s say on a score of 0 is the worst double leg in the world, and 100 is the most perfect double leg in the world. You could invest a lifetime and try to get to a skill level to 100 but if your opponent only requires a skill level of 40 to be taken down what’s the point of getting a double leg all the way to 60 or 70? You’re not really getting a return on investment at that point. You’d be better off at learning how to integrate that double leg with another technique and switching the focus of your training to something else. And then focusing on integration rather than just continuing on working away to getting a better and better double leg when it’s at a point where it’s already good enough to get the job done and it’s not gonna make any difference. At that point you’re wasting training time. You could be investing more wisely somewhere else.”

#FACTS: (1:02:19)

Basically, it’d be a waste of time to specialize on one thing if you’re already sufficient enough to beat an opponent at that one thing. In MMA, it is wiser to spend that time on learning and integrating multiple martial arts all together as one. Hence the name, Mixed Martial Arts.

Still In Doubt? Use this KEY Principle: Dogma -> Methods -> Goals

This is Very Important concept that I’ve learned from Ido Portal. You can apply this to any dogma. I’ll show you how to apply it to MMA.

He writes, “So often confused… Your main life dogmas must dictate your goals, then the methods to achieve them are harnessed.
Many confuse the methods and dogmas. The fact that you employ a certain methodology does not mean it is necessarily serving your main dogmas and leading ideals/forces/ideas.”

Dogma – Wrestling
Goal – to be an MMA fighter
Method – Wrestle

Result: failure in achieving your goal. Success in pursuing your dogma.
Fix no 1: change your goal to “I want to be a wrestler”. Now you are honest and aligned, success will shortly follow.
Fix no 2: change your dogma to “MMA” and then change the supporting method to MMA Training.

“Getting the order right and cleaning up one’s act [can] have a profound life effect. Try but get ready for some scary moments of self realization,” says Ido.

In Conclusion

As two famous twins once told me, “At the end of the day…You can dowhateverthe FfffffUCK!!! You Wanna Do.” (best advice)

BUT, if you’re convinced up till now and agree that having an MMA base is the best way to start MMA then the next thing you might be wondering is…what the hell are the specific skill areas of MMA that I need to focus on? AKA, What are The Basic Elements of MMA?

Well there are 4 of em, which will be discussed in my next post.

And no, it is NOT Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai…

Categories: Fighting Basics


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published.