A professional athlete’s body does not necessarily begin to deteriorate at the age of 35. MMA fighters, however, usually question their futures in the sport around this time of their lives because of the enormous toll their incredibly strenuous careers have had on their bodies. It’s safe to say that most of the more well-known MMA fighters who are currently in their mid to late-thirties or early forties have fought either in the PRIDE organization, reputable overseas events, underground/local promotions or just the first years of the UFC. Those who competed in these promotions at this stage of the game fought much more often when they were young than the average fighter does today. They had to put on as many dominant performances as possible because two or three stunning knockouts weren’t enough to gain immense public recognition back then.
This is why it’s common for anyone who went through this quest for fame to consider retiring from MMA around the age of 35.
How legendary competitors who fought so much at a young age such as the great Dan Henderson are still dominant forces in their division at over forty years of age is nothing short of miraculous.
But 35 is not old. It is obviously feasible to maintain peak physical condition at this age. We all know that fighters like Shogun Rua or Wanderlei Silva, who both began slowing down in their early thirties, did so because of the ridiculous amount of damage they absorbed while fighting in PRIDE. Virtually every well-known fighter has been forced to call it quits in his mid to late thirties because their bodies have simply had enough. Those early years of fighting so many times with such a little amount of rest in between eventually catch up to them.
Fighters trying to make it these days, on the other hand, don’t have to fight as often as say Rich Franklin had to when he was an emerging mixed martial artist. An up and coming fighter no longer needs to rack up fifteen to twenty impressive victories in other promotions to get that big break into the UFC.
The majority of the new breed of MMA superstars did not have to put their bodies through the same hell that was formally required to be a famous mixed martial artist. These fighters enter the UFC with a minimal amount of lingering damage from the first stage of their careers.
So by the time these young athletes reach their early thirties, their bodies shouldn’t be as worn out as the current veterans who had to fight four times in a month or even three times in one night during MMA’s introduction to the outside world.
Statistically, these fighters should still be able to perform quite well in their late thirties and possibly early forties as well.
This makes the idea of more fighters competing at older ages in the UFC in the not-so-distant future a distinct possibility.
Jon Jones had just six pro fights before he joined the UFC. Chris Weidman only had four! Excluding the likelihood of injury, it doesn’t seem like these two will no longer be able to win fights by the time they’re pushing forty.
Sooner or later, it might not be such a phenomenon to see a thirty-eight-year old remaining to be a consistent threat in his or her division. The UFC is welcoming more and more young, talented fighters with very little experience who have the privilege of having to fight at the healthy rate of three to four times a year. Their bodies won’t start dwindling at 35 because they didn’t have to abuse themselves in their early years like the average MMA fighter in this age range today.
The average fighter who joins the UFC within the next few years will most likely be almost completely void of any truly harmful physical debilitation and therefore will have a strong chance of staying in the UFC until his or her late thirties. These athletes will enter the UFC in fresh condition, prepared to spend just about their entire MMA careers in the UFC and going on to fight fifteen or so times before retirement at the least.