Are MMA athletes really well-rounded?

MMA fighters are generally said to be jacks of all trades when it comes to all areas of martial

arts, Striking, Grappling, Clinching, Takedowns when compared to fighters in more specialist

sports like boxing or BJJ. Yeah no, almost every champion in the UFC right now is a specialist

in one area, usually wrestling.


This is what peak performance looks like, deal with it (Source: WWE)

Now I'm not saying that a guy who I believe is a specialist in striking can’t submit people,

especially the average person on the street or someone new to BJJ. Let’s take Yair Rodríguez

for example, he’s 100% a striker, but he has 2 submission victories on his record at the time of

me writing this article. Does this mean that people going into fights with Yair are scared of him

taking them down and submitting them, no thats a dumb question, everyone who fights Yair with

be scared of his striking, unless he completely overhauls his entire fight game from ground zero

(which with all the time he’s taking off he might be).

To me a well rounded fighter is someone who is comfortable and even dangerous in all aspects

of the game and should be able to change their style and approach depending on the opponent

they are facing. To me one of the ultimate examples of a well rounded fighter is GSP (Yes I’m a

fanboy, shut up I’m Canadian eh) because of his ability to be effective wherever the fight went

and to be able to completely adapt to his opponents strengths and weakness’. “Oh my opponent

has really good ground and pound, I guess ill fight standing, oh this one has great striking, let's

take this to the ground” this is how I feel a truly well rounded fighter approaches a fight and

training camps, with the knowledge that they are equally capable of winning the fight using any

aspect of the game.

While I believe that being well rounded is probably the best approach to have in MMA and a

goal for most fighters and even myself (Jokes on me, I still mainly train striking for some reason)

I find that all current UFC champions except for one (Jon Jones) is a specialist in one area of

MMA, meaning that their game is mainly based around that one aspect for one reason or


For examples of specialist I’m gonna use two examples of UFC champions who are highly

specialized in one area, meaning that their entire game is focused around one area and keeping

the fight in that one area, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Israel Adesanya, yes I know he's an

interim champ but he's a great example (yes I'm a fanboy we’ve established this). The reason I

picked these two in particular (it's not because they have easy to spell names) is because they

show specialization on the two opposite extreme ends. Israel wants to strike you to death

standing ,and Khabib more or less wants to do the same thing, but also while holding you down

and making you feel like your wrestling a bear, WHICH THIS MAD LAD IS USED TO!

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that they are both fully capable with the other weapons available to

them, Style-Bender does attack submissions and Khabib can definitely crack you with his



Conor’s really feeling that drake curse (source: UFC)

But everything about their games is based around their specializations, Israel trains wrestling

and BJJ mainly to be able to prevent getting taken down and to be able to get back up if he was

taken down and Khabib works his striking to be able to close the gap and grab a hold of his


In all honesty I believe that well rounded fighters are the best overall, I mean a lot of fighters that

are in most people's P4P GOAT lists are generally well rounded GSP, Fedor, Jon Jones,

Demetrious Johnson, to name a few, but I also find that there is room for specialists who simply

outclass everyone else in that one area. As the Elk meat king himself Joe Rogan says

“Wrestling is the most important aspect of MMA” Meaning that the ability to choose whether the

fight says standing or goes to the ground is the most vital skill to have as a Mixed Martial Artist,

so if you specialize in that area and some of the complementary techniques, naturally you will

do well for yourself in MMA (writing this is not helping me with my wrestling insecurities as a

striker). I believe that since people are now starting their martial arts journey training in MMA

and not a specialized art like Wrestling or Taekwondo, we will begin to see more all-rounders,

but at the same time I feel like we may miss out on some truly beautiful displays of technical

ability in specific areas, due to people not focusing so much time on one area of the sport.