The Differences Between Fighters and Martial Artists

Fighters and Martial Artists
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 10: Luke Rockhold works out for fans and media during the UFC 194 open workouts inside MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 10, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

There are many differences between fighters and martial artists. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is closely associated with cage fighting, yet it means so much more than just three to five rounds of violence. Many people consider fighters and martial artists to be the same thing. To be honest that isn’t always the case.

While there are glaring similarities, not everyone who steps into a cage or ring to fight is a martial artist. Not everyone who considers themselves a martial artist, is a fighter. Both the fighter and the martial artist may train five to seven days a week consistently, sharing many of the exact same habits. However, it is their philosophies that separate them.  Each of them has a different vision in mind about what they are doing, and where it is taking them.

The key difference between a fighter and martial artist is mentality. Martial artists don’t just go to the gym to stay in shape, or to prepare for a fight they might have scheduled in six weeks. They are in the gym training because it feels natural. You could call it an organic addiction.

The Differences Between Fighters and Martial Artists

Martial arts like jiu-jitsu, judo, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, karate & others can be seen as a process of growth. Even with certain goals for the future in mind, a martial artist lives fully in the present moment, training to simply enjoy growing. To contrast, fighters tend to train when they have to, usually in preparation for a fight, or potential opportunity. Their head is in the future, which can cause anxiety about the fight–generally leading to over training.

In many cases, fighters look at training more as work, while martial artists view it as play. To jog several miles miserably because it’s “good for you,” is different than running several miles to enjoy the the freedom of running as the scenery rushes by. A martial artist may even train less than a fighter, choosing quality over quantity. I believe many of these differences stem from the individual’s own personal motivations.

While martial artists train and compete mostly for the love of it, fighters can have alternative reasons for choosing “prize fighting” as their job title. Some of the common motives might be:

  • -looking for attention or trying to impress people
  • -attempting to express anger, to make money
  • -possible self improvement
  • -maybe they are just extreme people that like to do extreme things.

In many cases, fighters look at training more as work, while martial artists view it as play.

Regardless of one’s motives or mentality, being an MMA fighter is no easy task & deserves respect.

The mentality of a martial artist, compared to a fighter, doesn’t just hide behind the eyes. It can be seen in a person’s actions. Serving as a process of growth and development. Training in any martial art can teach a person valuable character traits. The ability to deal with pressure and fear, humility, gratitude, self-discipline, and critical thinking skills are just several of those traits.

For example, a person training jiu-jitsu might get caught in the same choke five times, only escaping once out of the five. A martial artist would focus on the one time they escaped, drill that escape over and over, and most likely not get caught in that same choke again. Martial artists concentrate on the positive, and work with what they have. Besides, you have to feel what being choked is like to understand how to escape.

A fighter might get hung up on the fact that they lost four times and chalk it up to a bad training session, missing out on opportunities to learn. Then when fight night comes, they tend to lose by the same move they ignored in training. This is a consequence of only doing the bare minimum, like someone working a job they don’t like because they need the money.

Martial artists concentrate on the positive, and work with what they have.

Fighters don’t see a future in their prize fighting career, whereas martial artists don’t see an end to their martial arts journey. A fighter generally tries to satisfy their motives as much as they can while fighting, with little intention of staying involved with martial arts when their careers are over. On the other hand, martial artists almost always plan to stay involved in MMA. Whether that means teaching, owning a gym, judging, refereeing, promoting events, or even just training occasionally.  A true martial artist will always gravitate back to the mats.

Being a martial artist does not only mean a person has fought or competed. It means that they participate in mixed martial arts in whatever way they can, simply for the love and joy of it. The majority of people who step onto the mat are only looking for the fun training, paired with a positive lifestyle. You don’t need big cauliflower ears and a crooked nose, just the right mentality with your heart and mind in line.

Being a martial artist does not only mean a person has fought or competed.

If you are involved in martial arts of any kind, then ask yourself, why do I show up at the gym to train? Realize that its not about  how cool people think you are, how much money you make, or how many championship belts you win. It’s about doing what you love and that is the ultimate victory. If you understand that, then you are a true martial artist.

Main Photo:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here