How Often Do UFC Fighters Fight? (Fully Explained)

How Often Do UFC Fighters Fight

Due to the nature of the sport, you can’t see your favorite UFC fighters fight every weekend. In fact, it can often take a year or two before you see them again inside the octagon. To be more specific, how often do UFC fighters fight on average?

UFC fighters compete between 2 and 3 times per year on average. The newcomers and unranked fighters tend to compete more often to prove their worth to the company and climb the lathers fasters and can often fight up to 4 or 5 times per year.

Top fighters and champions take fewer risks and fight 1 or maybe 2 times per year.

This is just a brief explanation so be sure to read this article to learn more about why UFC fighters compete so rarely, who are the busiest fighters, and how much they train on average.

How Many Times UFC Fighters Fight Per Year

How Many Times UFC Fighters Fight Per Year?

Champions and contenders compete twice per year on average while the ones on the low and mid-tier fight more often, between 3 and 5 times.

Once they reach the highest levels, a single loss can put fighters on the sidelines for years and destroy their title aspirations. Thus, top-level fighters prefer to take a calculated approach in order to avoid big risks.

They rarely take fights on short notice and without a training camp as the risks are too high. Instead, they prefer to take as much time as possible to heal their bodies and get in shape, go through a full training camp, and overall, do anything in their ability to prepare the best they can.

However, they have to be careful because being inactive might cost them a place in the rankings, or the UFC might strip them of their title.

Here is how many times the most famous UFC champions fought in 2020 and 2021:

  • Israel Adesanya — fought twice in 2020 and twice in 2021
  • Kamaru Usman — fought three times in 2021 and once in 2020
  • Alexander Volkanovski — fought once in 2020, and once in 2021
  • Amanda Nunes — fought once in 2020 and two times in 2021

Unranked fighters tend to compete more often, between 3 and 5 times per year. They must stay busy to prove their worth and loyalty to the company, and climb up the rankings.

They are always in shape and training, and often accept bouts on short notice. This comes at a certain risk, but on the other side, the reward is also high. If they do not jump on this opportunity, there is always a fighter from their weight class who will say yes, and maybe capitalize on this chance.

Last but not least, they are also paid much less than ranked fighters so they need to compete more often to earn money to keep their careers running.

Why Do UFC Fighters Compete So Rare?

UFC fighters compete rarely due to reasons such as injuries, suspensions, contract disputes, and many others. Here is a detailed look.

Medical suspensions

After each bout, all UFC fighters must go through a detailed medical check. After a detailed examination, fighters who didn’t receive any damage would go home, while the others might get a medical suspension.

The length of a suspension depends on the nature and severity of an injury.

  • Choked unconscious — 30 days
  • Technical Knockout (TKO) — 30 days
  • Knock out (KO) — 45 – 90 days
  • Facial Cut — 60 days
  • Limb or joint injury – 30 – 180 days
  • Broken bone – 180 days

There are two types of suspensions – no competition and no contact. As you would assume, no competition means fighters are not allowed to compete until the suspension expires. No contact means they must refrain from any physical contact such as grappling or sparring. In case of breaking this rule, the length of the suspension could be extended.

Why Do UFC Fighters Compete So Rare

Injuries

According to studies, MMA has the highest rate of injuries out of all combat sports, both minor and severe ones. The study has recorded 28.6 injuries per 100 fight participations, with the most common being head/neck/face injuries (38.2%), followed by lower and upper extremities.

MMA as a concept is very complex and physically demanding. Each athlete must train at least 6 times a week, often two times a day, in order to improve their game and prepare for a match. Just in training, they have to go through hundreds of rounds of hard sparring, which significantly increases the risk of injuries.

This intense and aggressive approach to training puts a lot of stress on their bodies, making minor and severe injuries inevitable.

Work outside the UFC

Winning the UFC title or becoming a popular fighter means more business opportunities outside the fighting game. To increase their incomes, fighters would often accept movie roles, launch their own clothing brands, do a lot of commercials, and many other things.

Though this enables them to cash out a lot of money, it also puts their UFC career on hold for quite some time. For example, Michael Bisping used to delay his title defense because he accept small roles in multiple movies. Not to mention Conor McGregor and his “Proper 12” whiskey business.

Last but not least, a lot of unranked UFC fighters are actually working full-time jobs, which stops them from being in the gym all the time.

USADA suspensions

Since 2015, the UFC has been closely cooperating with the USADA anti-doping agency. In 2021 alone, USADA tested 744 MMA fighters, with some of them being tested dozens of times in a year. For instance, UFC heavyweight Michas Cirkunov had to provide samples 27 times and Ottman Azaitar 26 times.

Both UFC and USADA are putting a lot of resources into keeping the sport safe and fair, and once a fighter gets caught, they usually receive long suspensions. Here is a short list of UFC fighters who got caught using prohibited substances, and the suspensions they received:

  • Jon Jones – 4 years, later reduced to 15 months (Turinabol)
  • Frank Mir – 2 years (turinabol metabolites)
  • TJ Dillashaw – 2 years (EPO)

Contract disputes

UFC fighters and their managers are always looking to get the best deals and as much money as possible. But in some cases, the two sides might not be on the same page which leads to contract disputes and fighters being inactive.

Fighters in the lower tier do not have the negotiating power as they are yet to prove their worth, so they usually accept every offer. If they don’t, the UFC would release them in most cases and give a shot to another fighter.

Champions and most popular fighters are actually the ones who go into contract disputes as they want to make the most out of their status and entertainment value. For instance, Francis Ngannou was out of competition for almost 2 years due to his contract dispute with the UFC.

Weight cutting

Weight cutting is a process all UFC fighters need to go through to compete in the weight class below their natural one. In a week leading up to the fight, they would lose up to 20–30 pounds in weight, or up to 15% of their total body mass.

Losing this much weight in such a short time span is fraught with danger, and puts your body in a state of shock. In fact, many fighters say that weight cutting is actually much harder than fighting itself.

After each weight cut, they must take some time off to fully recover. They can’t just jump from one weight cut to the other. That is physically and mentally exhausting, and very dangerous.

Private issues outside the fighting

Though fighters always give their best to portray themselves and their lifestyle in a positive way all the time, UFC fighters have to deal with the same issues as all other people. They go through divorces, financial storms, losses of loved ones, depression, and many other personal problems.

Sometimes, these problems are too big and might impact their careers and force them to take a long layoff to fix all the issues.

How Long Do UFC Fighters Have to Wait Between the Fights?

How long UFC fighters need to wait to compete again depends on how their recent match played out. The two main factors are — injuries and weight cuts.

If they didn’t receive any damage or suffer any injuries, the commission would give them a green light to compete after no less than 7 days after their last bout. But if they got knocked out cold or choked unconscious, they would have to go through the recovery protocol.

The other reason is the weight cut. Fighters can’t go through this grueling process of losing up to 30 pounds in less than a week, compete, and then repeat the process again next week. No, trying something like that is considered suicidal. They need a couple of weeks at least to fully recover their bodies.

Who holds a record for the shortest turnaround between fights?

Khamzat Chimaev made his UFC debut with a second-round finish over John Philips at UFC on ESPN 13. Just 10 days later, he would break the record for the fastest turnaround between fights by stopping Rhys McKee in the first round at UFC on ESPN 14.

One of the main reasons why Chimaev was able to pull this off was the fact that he fought close to his natural weight against Phillips, and didn’t have to go through the weight-cutting process.

UFC Fighters with Most Fights and Wins in a Year?

The UFC record for most fights in a single year is 5, and it is owned by nine different fighters:

  • Chris Level (2006) — 3 wins and 2 losses
  • Roger Huerta (2007) — 5 wins
  • Donald Cerrone (2011) — 4 wins and 1 loss
  • Darron Cruickshank (2014) — 3 wins, 1 loss, 1 no contest
  • Neil Magny (2014) — 5 wins
  • Neil Magny (2015) — 4 wins and 1 loss
  • Uriah Hall (2015) — 3 wins and 2 losses
  • Ross Pearson (2016) — 1 win and 4 losses
  • Thiago Santos (2018) — 4 wins and 1 loss
  • Greg Hardy (2019) — 2 wins, 2 losses, and 1 no contest

Who has the most UFC wins in a year?

The record for most UFC wins in a single year belongs to Roger Huerta and Neil Magny who both won 5 fights.

Can a UFC Fighter Refuse to Fight?

UFC fighters have the right to refuse the offer to fight without any legal consequences. Despite being under the contract, no one can force a fighter to enter the octagon if he/she doesn’t want to.

They do not have to jump on every opportunity and can decline the fight. But on the other side, this might have a negative impact on their personal relationship with the company, and their careers in the long run.

The thing is, fighters may refuse the offer for various legitimate reasons. In this scenario, the UFC will accept their decision, and reach back to them with another offer when they recover or solve all the issues. They will not suffer any consequences from the UFC if they refuse the fight offer because:

  • They are going through a divorce, loss of a loved one, or other personal issues
  • Are out of shape and don’t have enough time to prepare to put on a good fight
  • Have to focus on treating injuries and maybe undergo a surgery

The UFC is taking a different negotiation approach if a fighter gives them an illegitimate reason for refusing the offer. From then on, the matchmakers will consider these fighters as unprofessional, unreliable, and hard to work with.

The next time a good opportunity comes around, the UFC will return the favor and call a fighter who they think is loyal to the company.

Some of the illegitimate reasons are:

  • If a fighter wants more money than the UFC thinks they are worth
  • Refuses to fight because they don’t like the opponent or their chances of winning

How Often Do UFC Fighters Train?

UFC fighters train for around 1.5–2 hours five times a week when they are out of competition, and up to two times a day, six days a week when they are inside the training camp.

In order to improve their skill set and get the most out of every UFC opportunity, most fighters prefer to stay in shape. This means that, even when they are not preparing for a fight, they will maintain a healthy weight, cardio, and conditioning.

On average, they hit the gym 5 times a week, and spend around 1.5 to 2 hours doing different workouts. While outside of competition, they usually do a lot of strength and cardio exercises, and pad workouts to maintain their hand speed and reaction time. On top of that, they work on new techniques with their coaches in order to improve their game.

They enter the “beast” mode as soon as they accept the fight offer. They will enter a training camp that lasts from 10 to 15 weeks on average. During this time, they train two times a day, six days a week, and push their bodies to the absolute limits. The number of sparring rounds and the overall intensity of training increases, and they also must follow a strict diet plan all the way until they pass the weigh-ins.

How Many UFC Events per Year

The UFC hosts around 43 events every year (2021), or over 700 fights in total. Fight Night events are hosted around 2–3 times per month, while pay-per-view or “numbered” events are hosted once a month.

The UFC “Fight Night” events are low/mid-level events where unranked fighters prove their worth. Pay-per-view events are the biggest ones and are booked for champions to defend their titles and ranked contenders.

Though this may sound like a lot of events and fights, it’s actually not enough which is one of the key reasons why fighters compete rarely. This is notably true if we focus on champions and top-level contenders.

In the UFC, there is one champion per weight class, and 12 champions in total, both men and women. Since there are only 12 PPV events every year, you get why most UFC champions, mathematically, have only one chance to defend their belt.

The UFC is trying to solve this problem by adding multiple title fights per event. But they still can’t offer all of their champions an opportunity to defend their belts two times a year.

Most Common MMA Injuries

MMA is a dangerous sport that, according to studies, has the highest rate of injuries which stands at 28.8 injuries per 100 matches. This includes both minor injuries such as muscle sprains and strains, and severe ones such as concussions, deep cuts, and fractures.

One important thing to note is that most MMA fighters get hurt in training, not in competition. According to studies, 77.9% of injuries are suffered in training, while “only” 22.1% are in competition.

Studies indicate that the most common body region injured was:

  • Head, neck, and face (38.2%) — concussion, broken nose, deep cuts
  • Lower extremities (30.4%) — Knee injuries (ACL and PCL tears), Foot fractures, ankle dislocation
  • Upper extremities (22.7%) — broken fingers, shoulder dislocation, broken arm.
  • Torso (8.2%) — fractured rib

When it comes to the type of injuries, the most common MMA injuries are:

  • Laceration
  • Concussion
  • Contusion
  • Fracture
  • Strain
  • Sprain
  • Dislocation

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Images by Jamison Hiner from flickr
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