How to Become a MMA Instructor/Coach

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Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that draws on many martial arts traditions from all over the world. MMA has seen massive growth in popularity over the last 20 years – so much so that it is now the world’s most popular combat sport, surpassing boxing.

MMA fighter hitting a punching bag

MMA instructors teach their students the varied offense and defense techniques. Instructors typically hold black belts in several martial arts disciplines. Peak physical fitness is absolutely essential, both to practice MMA and to teach the arts effectively.

By its nature, MMA is an aggressive sport and you will be training highly competitive individuals who are looking to become champions. Unlike some martial arts disciplines, where the goal is self-defense or stopping an attacker without causing harm, MMA as a competitive sport has one goal: to knock down and preferably knock out the opponent.

So you can expect to be training pumped-up, high-energy individuals with an abiding drive to win. For like-minded individuals, this can be a thrilling environment in which to teach and be taught.

Read on to learn how to prepare for a career as an MMA Instructor/Coach.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How much money you can make as a MMA instructor/coach
  • The required training and certifications
  • Professional groups to join
  • Employment opportunities for MMA instructors/coaches
  • Finding clients
  • Plus helpful tips
MMA instructor throwing a punch

How much money can you make?

The average salary for a martial arts instructor with 2 to 3 years of experience, Bachelor Degree, and 3 selected qualifications is $17.57 per hour in the United States, according to a recent survey of professionals by Indeed. That works out to about $33,734 per year. Salaries vary with instructor experience and geographic location. Some MMA instructors make closer to $30 an hour, or $57,600 a year.

Opening your own MMA school will enable you to earn much more, depending on your ability to attract and retain students. Attracting MMA athletes is the focus of a separate section in this article.

Training and Certification

MMA is an unregulated industry. No formal license is required to offer coaching or instruction in the sport. That said, training and certification will put you ahead of any coach or trainer who is not certified. And because this is a high-risk sport, with the potential for serious injury, for their own peace of mind instructors and coaches should get certified before they offer classes. Savvy students may not even bother with a MMA program that doesn’t offer certified trainers.

MMA fighter sitting in the corner of a ring with trainers

First, you’ll need to attain black belt status in at last three martial arts disciplines. Coaches and instructors cannot credibly train athletes in MMA unless they themselves have achieved mastery in several martial arts disciplines and styles within each.

MMA certification programs are widely available, and their pricing is all over the place – from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 and more. There are also MMA certification programs for sub-specialties such as conditioning and strength building.

The best thing to do is research certification programs, take your time and evaluate the merits of your top 3 choices. The operators of any quality training program should be happy to talk with you about their courses and go over your questions. Be sure you are satisfied with your answers before selecting a training program and handing over any money.

Here is a list of MMA Instructor Training programs to get you started.

Some of what you’ll learn in training:

  • How to prepare effective lesson plans that produce results
  • Demonstrate warm ups, skills training, and physical conditioning
  • Coach athletes by breaking down techniques into individual moves
  • Develop individual training programs for athletes
  • Evaluate students and give them positive feedback
  • Continue to develop and practice your own skills
  • How to teach safe training habits
  • Promoting classes and the MMA training business
MMA instructor with mask on throwing an elbow

Professional Groups to Join

Show the world you are serious about MMA coaching and your career by signing up for a membership in one or more professional organizations. These credentials make your resume pop. They are clear evidence of dedication to MMA and your professionalism. That’s not all. You can network with other members and make new friends. These are people in the right position to help you find jobs. Professional memberships are also a terrific resource for ongoing training, learning new coaching ideas and training plans, plus the unique enjoyment of being part of a group who shares your passion.

Here are some of the top organizations for MMA coaches and instructors:

United States Mixed Martial Arts Federation is a non-profit organization recognized as the official USA delegate for the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation. Members participate at training centers and UMMAF authorized events where they can test their skills in Local, Regional and National competitions to meet all requirements for a spot on the USA National Team. An individual membership is $35 for a full year and includes these benefits:

  • Notice of Local and National UMMAF Sanctioned Amateur Competitions
  • Discounted Life and Accident Medical Insurance
  • Legal Support
  • Special training opportunities through UMMAF Member Gyms
MMA fighter getting hand and wrist taped up

Mixed Martial Arts Conditioning Association is a worldwide organization providing education, training, support and business assistance for MMA strength and conditioning professionals. Membership is $379 per year. The MMA Conditioning Association is a division of NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association), a global wellness association that holds NCCA National Accreditation for its Personal Fitness Trainer Certification.

The Martial Arts Teachers Association offers training and certification for instructors, plus deep resources for learning how to run a profitable martial arts studio, as well as access to affordable insurance plans. Membership is $37 a month or $199 for a full year paid in advance.

In addition to professional organizations, there are many informal groups of MMA coaches and instructors who congregate on social media. Facebook alone is home to dozens of these groups. Here’s a deep list of MMA Instructor Groups you can review and consider joining.


You’ll find job openings for MMA instructors at martial arts studios and facilities dedicated exclusively to the sport. Use the networks in your professional memberships to find opportunities. In time, your reputation and skill will become widely known and serious athletes will begin to seek out your services.

Before applying for jobs, make copies of your resume. You’ll need printed copies as well as a resume for online distribution. For resumes going out by email, the best way to attach documents to your email is by creating .pdf files with Adobe Acrobat. These types of files are considered safe to send and are much less likely to trigger a spam alert in the recipient’s mailbox. Always send attachments as .pdf files and you improve the odds that your online correspondence reaches a real person, not a spam folder.

Young MMA fighter in training

Also make photocopies of all your professional certifications and memberships in Judo organizations. These extra credentials set you apart from competitors for the same job, and prospective employers are more likely to put your application on the top of the pile when deciding who to interview for the position. Competition is fierce – on and off the Judo mat – so you may as well take advantage of every professional achievement you can show to an employer.

Finding Clients

Congratulations. You’re opening your own MMA studio. Before you can unlock the front door and welcome students, you’ll need to do some marketing.

Business cards and a website should be the core of your marketing toolkit as an MMA coach or instructor. The website can be as fancy as you like, so long as it is attractively designed, with photos of your MMA studio, students at practice and pictures of you in action, coaching your students. Your business location and contact information needs to be clearly visible at the top of every page on your website. The upper right-hand corner is a good location, but wherever you display the information it should be in the same place on every page. Search engines scan this information to match your website geographically with people searching for a MMA instructor.

In addition to your business website, you’ll want to create an Instagram account to showcase your MMA studio. Instagram is the top online venue for professionals to promote themselves. It’s free and it’s always working on your behalf.

Next, build out a free Facebook page for your MMA programs. This is a great way to grow followers and keep them up-to-date on what’s happening at your MMA training center. You can run promotions and create teaser links to your business website by offering articles and news about Judo.

MMA fighters in the octagon waiting for the final decision

Now set up a Google My Business page, where you can display your hours of operation, photos and an interactive map of your location. There’s also an area for people to leave reviews of your MMA training, so you can encourage students to post positive comments on your Google My Business page.

Setting up a page on each of these sites should take less than an hour.

Other strategies for attracting new business:

  • Create a referral program with discounts for returning students who bring new athletes to MMA training.
  • Ask students to review your MMA training online. According to a recent survey, 90% of people say their buying decisions are influenced by positive online reviews.

Good to know

Before you open the doors of your MMA training facility to welcome students, talk to a lawyer experienced in consumer affairs about the potential need for injury waivers. Laws are different in each state, so you’d need to consult with a licensed attorney where you live.

The reason for waivers is simple: MMA is a potentially dangerous combat sport. People get hurt. If students sign an injury waiver before beginning their training with you, it affords a measure of legal protection if someone gets seriously hurt on your property or during one of your training sessions. This is not to say anything bad is necessarily going to happen, but that you should be prepared if it does.

Most athletes who are serious about MMA training understand the risks involved and should not have a problem signing a waiver.

Keep careful records of all paperwork and store your business documents under lock and key.

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