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7 MMA Fighters Who Began Their Careers Later in Life

MMA Fighters Who Started Late

When you see MMA fighters battle especially on the big platforms like the UFC, you think of their toil and hardship to reach that point.


Some of these fighters begin at such a tender age with coaching mentors and Khabib Nurmagomedov for instance was coached under his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who was a very respected coach and sportsman.


Where as other fighters have followed a unique path, starting their careers later than most and entering the martial arts world much later.


Despite this, they have risen to fame and made remarkable names for themselves. So, who are the MMA fighters who started late? Let's jump right in.

Notable Late-Starting MMA Fighters

Lots of fighters have reached incredible heights in MMA even though they started later than most. Their journeys highlight not just the physical grind but also the mental and emotional toughness required to excel in such a tough sport.

Randy Couture

- Former UFC light heavyweight division


Couture was born in Washington, USA, on June 22, 1963. He embraced Greco-Roman wrestling, a sport reflecting Roman and Greek traditions.


Randy Couture became known as "The Natural," and began his MMA career at the age of 33.


Couture spent some time serving in the U.S. Army, an experience that helped play an immense part in his disciplined approach to taking on the sport. 


Winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship three times, with significant wins against Vitor Belfort and Kevin Randleman. Couture also captured the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship twice, defeating Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.


His remarkable achievements and ability to reclaim titles in different weight classes cemented his legacy in mixed martial arts.

A prime example of an age-defying fighter

Randy Couture MMA Fighter

Photo Credits: Gage Skidmore

Yoel Romero

- UFC middleweight division


Yoel Romero's entry into MMA at 32 came after a successful career in wrestling, where he won a silver medal in the Olympics.


Despite starting later than many of his peers, Romero's physical prowess and age-defying performances have made him a fan favourite.


Like all MMA athletes, reaching this level required immense dedication, which he demonstrated. His commitment to maintaining peak physical condition has enabled him to compete at the highest level well into his 40s.

Brock Lesnar

- Former UFC Heavyweight division


Brock Lesnar began his MMA career in 2007, at the age of 30.


Before stepping into the octagon, he had a storied upbringing in South Dakota, excelling in wrestling during his high school and college years.  He attended the University of Minnesota, where he became the NCAA Division 1 heavyweight wrestling champion in 2000. 


In addition to this prestigious title, he was also a two-time NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) heavyweight champion while attending Bismarck State College before transferring to the University of Minnesota.


Transitioning to MMA, Lesnar and his team developed effective game plans tailored to his opponents. His strategy often involved using his wrestling skills to control the fight, taking his opponents to the ground where he could utilise his ground-and-pound tactics.


Lesnar secured notable victories over fighters like Randy Couture and Frank Mir, showcasing his impressive skills and earning respect in the MMA community. His journey from a small-town wrestler to a dominant force in the UFC is truly inspiring.

Daniel Cormier

- Former UFC Heavyweight division


Daniel Cormier, an accomplished mixed martial artist and former UFC champion, hails from Lafayette, Louisiana. 


And another celebrated name, beginning his MMA journey at 30 after a distinguished wrestling career and went on to become a two-division UFC champion.


He began his MMA career in 2009 after a successful stint in amateur wrestling, where he represented the United States in the Olympics.


Cormier earned a UFC contract in 2013, quickly making a name for himself with his wrestling prowess and versatility in the octagon.


With wins against legends such as Stipe Miocic, whom he defeated to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion, and Anthony Johnson, securing the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

Glover Teixeira

- Former UFC Light Heavyweight division


Glover's is a tale of persistence and if we were to speak of MMA fighters who started late compared to the average and then after that enjoyed a long successful career, he would be a tremendous standout.


After moving to the United States from Brazil, he began his MMA career in his late 20s.


Teixeira's relentless drive and experience eventually led him to capture the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at the age of 42.

Glover Teixeira with Michael Jai White

Photo Credits: Saltywaves

Alex Pereira

– UFC middleweight division


Alex Pereira is a Brazilian mixed martial artist born on July 7, 1987, in São Bernardo do Campo, São Paulo, Brazil.


He had a challenging upbringing, growing up in a poor neighborhood and working various jobs to support himself.


Pereira stepped into to MMA after a successful career in kickboxing, where he was a two-time Glory Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion. Many of the MMA athletes on this list bring with them a rich background in other martial arts.


At 28, on October 24, 2015, he made his MMA debut and has since become known for his powerful striking which lead to his victories against top UFC fighters, including a memorable win over Israel Adesanya.

Stipe Miocic

- UFC Heavyweight division


He hails from Euclid, Ohio, with a proud Croatian ancestry that is strong in its cultural traditions.


Starting off his UFC career at the age of 27, Miocic ended up taking the MMA before him and soon scorched the limelight with his athletics and never-say-die attitude.


His UFC earnings are fetching Miocic a good buck, with fights fetching him upwards of several hundreds of thousands of dollars, along with performance bonuses that write home about his outrageous natural flair.


For the fans, it was thrilling to hear Dana White confirm that Jon Jones will face Stipe Miocic for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Meanwhile, interim champion Tom Aspinall awaits the winner.



Lessons from Late-Blooming Fighters

The stories of these age-defying fighters offer several key lessons:

1. It's Never Too Late: Age should not be a barrier to pursuing your passion or making a career change.


2. Leverage Life Experience: The skills and knowledge gained from previous careers can provide a significant advantage in a new field.


3. Stay Committed: Success requires consistent effort and dedication, regardless of when you start.


4. Prioritise Health: Recovery and self-care are crucial for maintaining longevity in any physically demanding career.


5. Learn different Martial arts: Examine the various martial arts disciplines, noting their unique characteristics and how they integrate to form mixed martial arts (MMA).

Conclusion

The paths of these late-starting MMA fighters demonstrate that success can be attained at any age. While some have backgrounds in other martial arts, there are also competitors now performing at a high level who began their MMA careers later in life.


Their stories inspire not only aspiring fighters but anyone considering a major career shift. Their legacies continue to inspire and motivate new generations of fighters to pursue their dreams, regardless of when they begin.


For those inspired to start their MMA journey, quality gear and equipment are essential. Check out the selection at MMA Collections to get started on the right foot.

FAQ: Including Additional Fighters

Can I start MMA at 25?

Absolutely! Many fighters have started their MMA careers in their mid-20s and have gone on to achieve great success. Age is less important than your dedication and commitment to training.

What age did Israel Adesanya start fighting?

Israel Adesanya began his professional MMA career at the age of 21 after a successful kickboxing career. His diverse skill set and dedication have made him one of the top fighters in the sport.

What age did Francis Ngannou start MMA?

Francis Ngannou started his MMA career at 26. Despite starting later than many of his peers, his incredible physical strength and work ethic have made him a dominant force in the heavyweight division.

How old was Kimbo Slice when he started fighting?

Kimbo Slice began his MMA career at the age of 31. Known for his street fighting background, Kimbo quickly became a popular figure in the sport, demonstrating that it's never too late to start.