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MMA is the Most Physically Demanding Sport in the World

Ever watch a kid play baseball? If they are any position other than the pitcher or catcher there is a good chance they are eating their gloves or some grass.

How about soccer? A lot of grass eating and standing around going on in that one too.

Hockey can be intense for sixty seconds at a time, with some gliding in between, before you sit on the bench and rest for several minutes.

You name the sport and I would argue that MMA ranks first as the most physically demanding on the athlete.

It starts with the training which instead of practice being from 2:00 – 4:00 pm on a given day, “practice” in MMA is an all day event with some breaks in between. Be it cardiovascular, weights, sparring or technical, the professional MMA competitor is at “practice” seemingly the entire day.

Then take the event itself. Five minutes of all out strength, endurance and strategy for three or five rounds. Rest for a split second during the match and you will lose, it is that simple.

There isn’t a sport you can name that matches the requirements of the training leading up to the fight and then the contest itself.

A look at’s Top Ten Most Physically Demanding Sports:

1. Mixed Martial Arts

2. Ironman triathlon

It is grueling no doubt about it, but nobody is kicking you in the face while you pound the pavement for hours

3. Hockey

Football at a faster pace

4. Rugby

Football without the equipment

5. Football

Physically demanding yes, but the positional aspect of the game allows for plenty of recovery time in between plays and as well as the offence to defense changes

6. Swimming

Image of Michael Phelps, courtesy of


Michael Phelps burns 4,000 calories per workout. Enough said.

7. Basketball

Heavy cardiovascular factor, lower on the physical contact

8. Soccer

Top guys in this sport are in amazing shape

9. Motocross

Try it, you’ll be sore.

10. Checkers

Sorry golf fans – even checkers ranks ahead in this category.

Leave your comments and tell us what you think.

  • Dr.Dark says:

    Anything in life is debatable but clearly the person who wrote this catering to stroke the MMA world ego and has never rode. A little research or a public survey on a non MMA site to start would suffice. Ranking motocross 9th below swimming and basketball is hilarious and borderline retarted. MMA is really tough along with triathlons and Soccer. Motocross racers have tiatholon based training regimens. Ive personally raced moto for 15 years, completed 2 triathlons in my mid 20s and have trained MMA for the past 3 years and I take my hat off and raise glasses to anyone at the pro level but no question motocross takes the cake. Sure five 3min rounds standing with someone that wants you dead is serious stuff but imagine that same feeling along with a heart rate at 190+ for 30 mins straight with your life at stake twice in one day? How many MMA fighters, triathletes or soccer players are in a wheelchair for life? Not only is motocross more physically demanding but is far more dangerous. Its the ultimate balance between man and machine where the most mentally and physically fit freaks of nature come to prove themselves in battle. A couple of laps on even a meticulously groomed track will have every muscle worked to failure in minutes with astronomical levels of lactic acid. Motocross aside ever check out the Baja 1000 or Erzberg Enduro race? By far the two of most ridiculous sporting events that man has ever put together both run on dirt bikes. So yea you just sit on the bike and twist the throttle its that easy right? haha! Just make sure not to ride faster than your angel can fly chief.

  • Harescramble Racer says:

    EVERYONE. Attention! Motorcross is hard. So are swimming, MMA, and Ironmans. All other sports are not. I played football, hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse, but they are like making ceral compared to harescramble racing. Anyone that thinks a 3 round fight, 1000 meter swim, Ironman, or 30 minute motorcross race is harder than a 3 hour harescramble race obviously hasnt ran one.

  • 127jordan says:

    ill agree MMA is an intense sport and requires alot of edurance and strength, but not more than motocross or in my case snocross. Try actually turning(not leanin like you do a dirt bike in mos but not all the time) a 500 pound sled lap after lap and throwing that thing around, thatll get every single muscle in your body shattered i promise you! no matter what sport your in or how good of shape you are in.especail a guy that swims back in forth in a pool(with no impact on your body what so ever). I race motocross and played football, and run track in school i also wakeboard and bike, and i can tell you those dont even compare to the beating your body takes and the amount of edurance and strength you need to move a 500 pound sled around a snocross track. Motocross and snocross should be at the top of the list for sure.

  • Terry says:

    The definitive list.

    MMA would be a few steps below Boxing, due to fewer rounds…

  • Kyle says:

    You kidding me? Where’s wrestling? It should be top 5, fuck soccer, it’s a pussy sport, it’s not physical

  • Mike says:

    Whoever wrote this article obviously threw it together obviously has no knowledge of anything but MMA. Soccer is definatly more demanding than the original list implies. I think MMA is one of the most demanding sports (BTW: I wrestle, and MMA shares some similarities with wrestling). It requires strength, cardiovascular conditioning, and proper mentality to plan the next three moves in a split second. It is the combination of these three that make it so difficult. So those who say that because they do one sport, they could do any sport with “little training” are obviously ignorant and immature because you have to train for your sport. I wrestle, but I doubt I could do well in the NFL or NBA, a football player might be the best at his sport, but he wouldn’t be nearly as impressive in soccer without proper training, and a swimmer can’t simply step onto a wrestling mat (or into the Octagon) without knowing more than a little technical stuff. Respectable athletes know their strengths and weaknesses and respect other athletes, regardless of sport.

  • JD says:

    Hey Guys, MMA is very intense, but here’s the real answer. No shocker.. it’s Motocross. Here’s the latest studies:

    It’s hard to draw a parallel between motorsports
    athletes and traditional stick and ball sports ath-letes. Most traditional sports post statistics on their athletes to represent their skills. For instance,baseball has ERAs, batting averages or on-base percentage. Football even has the combine that systematically evaluates and breaks down the make-up of each athlete. The NFL combine has tests that include the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap and other measurements that dissect the players inch-by-inch.
    In supercross, analysts don’t comment about
    how high series champion Chad Reed can jump
    or how quick he navigates a left-hand turn. At
    first glance, the perception of supercross racers is daredevil-esque and the most energy being exerted would be simply the twisting of the throttle. Does the bike do all of the work?
    Today, in the Google-everything era, the sport of supercross/motocross is the first result
    yielded when searching: “What is the world’s most physically demanding sport?” The contents of the story go on to say how supercross/motocross is the world’s second-most physically demanding sport behind soccer, however many involved with the sport of supercross would dispute this claim, believing it is the most physically demanding sport in the world. While there may not be as many detailed sta-tistics about a racer’s strengths and weaknesses, the misconception that these guys are not fit needs to be erased. Deciding who are the most-fit or toughest athletes in the world or what sport is the most physically demanding are arguments that could be debated for years. Bo Jackson played baseball with a metal hip, Michael Jordan has more rings than fingers, Michael Phelps has won more
    medals, etc. There really is no right answer.
    Dr. Steve Augustine, of Jacksonville Ortho pedic Institute and the Action Sports Medicine
    Foundation in Jacksonville, Fla., and his colleagues undertook a research study where they placed heart-rate monitors on the riders and monitored them throughout the races to see where super-cross athletes compared to other athletes in terms of fitness. The results showed that the bottom line is that these supercross athletes are in incredible shape.
    Heart rate is a measurement of the exercises
    intensity of an activity. The higher the heart rate, the higher the intensity and when he looked at the supercross racers, they were running their hearts at an average of 179-180 beats per minute. During a supercross race, the riders’ heart-rate level is at 92% of their maximum heart rate. As soon as the race starts, their heart rate runs up to that 92% from start to finish, which is approximately 20 minutes duration. This is put into perspective when compared to other sports. Most other sports gauge their competitors’ heart rates at an average of 80% during an event. Supercross
    racers are actually running at higher heart rates than most sports, and the most impressive differ-ence is that they are doing it at 20-minute intervals. Hockey teams may be on the ice for a minute, football players exert themselves in short bursts that last only a few seconds.
    “I wanted to give everyone the sound medical
    data to support that argument in our favor,” said Augustine. “Anyone that is involved with the sport or who has ever raced knows how physically demanding it is, yet the average sports fan still believes that the motorcycle does all the work. This wide spread misconception is definitely not the case, as the results speak for themselves. This type of research validates our sport on a scientific
    level. It gives our sport the respect it deserves in terms of exercise intensity and the fitness demands required to compete in this sport.

  • johnny says:

    It’s quit simple… your all retarded

  • ethan says:

    what about compared to wrestling. Ask any mma fighter what wears them out the fastest and they will say wrestling with their openent. Yes mma requires to be in more shape in other aspects but so does wrestling. In my opinion they are both great sports.

  • Billy says:

    Motocross is without doubt the most physically an mentally draing and demanding sport in the world. The training at top level is all day aswel, an the race is 40mins twice in a day an is also every other weekend where in mma there can b months between fights! Motocross is No1

  • NickoMoto says:

    Kyle Wilson have you ever done motocross before i bet you havent you reckon you can smash anyone at motocross with a tiny bit of training?? you sound like a wannabe. Motocross is very phisically demanding have you ever tried to turn a 200lb bike into a corner than pull out at hell fast speeds id like to see you do it. I think your full of shit.

    I rate

  • None says:

    Kyle, you make a great point. Swimming is very physically demanding, especially at your level; it’s pure athleticism. (See also cycling, rowing) Motocross gang, I have no doubt that your 30 minute races are RIDICULOUSLY hard, and I am not even pretending I could just go out and do that, but a LOT of that has to do with the high level of skill you have developed. Ironmans are unquestionably the most physically demanding events (does that count as a single sport, though?). To continuously push your body for 8 hours during competition (no breaks, halftimes, time-outs, etc for you team sport enthusiasts), and keep a training regimen that even Kyle, yes you superman, will struggle with is on another level. I’d take you up on your little challenge; see if after we swim you want to get on the bike for 4-5 hours at lactate threshold, then run a marathon. I think you’d need more than “little training” to compete with a tri-“athlete”.
    Bottom line, though: there is no right answer. It all depends on how you look at it. Most physically demanding per minute? (MMA) Per training day? (Any ultra-endurance sport) Per competition? (Triathletes) Per level of physical skill? (Motocross) Per whatever? Just about any sport can win that battle if they qualify their argument correctly. Except checkers… that’s just stupid.

  • fas says:

    This list is retarded. If were talking about PHYSICALLY DEMANDING, it comes down to 3.


  • Kyle Wilson says:

    i’d also like to add that i swim 7 days a week. and average 7,500 meters per practice. When i’m in peak season i average about 10,000meters. I’d like to see you do that without a time limit MMA’ers.

  • Kyle Wilson says:

    Ok so first off I wanna agree that MMA is one of those sports that requires a ton of physical strain, but i would argue that swimming is way way way harder than all of these combined. The training us swimmers are required to do simply cannot be matched by any other sport. I personally train 2-3 times a day. each time swimming 2 hours. If you took an “athlete” from any other sport and gave him one of my practices, he/she would never be able to do it. But if you took a well rounded swimmer and stuck him/her in any other sport they would be able to compete with the best of them provided they have some technical things down first. Anyone care to challenge my opinion? I’m 17 years old and i can guarantee as a swimmer I can do whatever it is you other “athletes” complain about doing with little training.

  • curtis says:

    It is motocross! where did you got your list? It is not even close. Hockey is more demanding then football. Did you just make this up? I am sorry but a MMA could not hang onto a dirt bike for 2 min with out have to pull over and cry to there mom!

  • Riley says:

    I agree with croyw212. I also race motocross. I do believe that Mixed Martial Arts get’s your heart rate up faster, but Motocross is also 30 minutes plus 2 laps of throwing around a 230 pound machine over rough terrain. I train in MMA aswell, but I do believe that motocross is tougher than all of those sports. I have done all of these sports except Hockey and Ironman Triathlon, but I do free running which is close. My opinion would be Motocross at the top and them MMA and all the rest in that order.

  • coryw212 says:

    i think they are all tough sports and i race motocross and i think it sould be first becouse the way i look at it is a motocross race would have a better chance at winning a mma fight than a mma fighter would at winning a pro motocross race you try hitting a 100 foot jump on a 200 pound bike or try going 60 miles an hour and putting a 200 hundred pound dirtbike into a rut and around a turn.. its alot harder than it looks.. not saying mma would be easy or that i dont like the other sports thats just my opinion..

  • alex says:

    What about Wrestling. that shits hard

  • steve says:

    it should be MMA, triathlon, motocross, swimming, soccer than everything elts

  • septhon says:

    “Football: Physically demanding yes, but the positional aspect of the game allows for plenty of recovery time in between plays and as well as the offence to defense changes”

    Let’s look at this…..How often do MMA fighters have between their fights?? 8 Months? Months at least anyways. Football players have a week before another “fight” if you will. Put an NFL Runningback against a Light-Heavy, Middle Weight MMA fighter in an overall fitness test….And I’d bet your winner would come from the former.

  • Mycroft says:

    This is the worst list I think I have ever read. Seriously, this list makes Rolling Stones top songs lists look objective. I’m pretty sure I could whip up a more comprehensive list than this in 5 minutes.

    And putting checkers on this list does not make you edgy or funny, it just makes you look ignorant.

  • garciahunter says:

    I think that is has to be MMA. IO have played almost all sports in High School or recreationally and have just began Judo. Its not MMA but an aspect of it and i have been more physically drained than i ever have before playing any other sport. I would also have to put wrestling in there too. There is nothing like rolling with another person trying not to get pinned or submitted.

  • JHUT says:


  • Vincent says:

    Yeah even though I am a mma enthusiast, I would still say ballet ranks higher in physically demanding.

    You talk about how mma athletes train all day but so do dancers, 7 days a week as well.

    I mean yes they don’t have to worry about being hit, but being hit has nothing to do with the term physically demanding.

    Try standing on your toes not tippy toes and see how long it takes for your nails to cut into your skin and your feet to be bloody.

  • Ron says:

    I would go with hockey.

    Really fast and they use weapons for crying out loud.

  • tuuu says:

    too bad class B athletes fight in this sport.guys not good enough for football to short for basketball and not good enough for olympics..i wish they could pay higher so we can see the best athletes fight in the most demanding sport

  • tet says:

    where the hell did you get this data…we should ask sports scientist instead.with concrete data to back it is hard training wise thats why majority of its athletes are using steroids..

  • Walter says:

    Great article. (too short though.)
    I AGREE with your article big time. I personally do MMA and my body complains for days all the time…I think because I am past my prime. (40 yrs old)
    MMA is second to none whenit comes to a all around work out/ athelesism. Some ppl (boxing fans) may contest that, but I do boxing and trust me. try jabbing 20 times, rest for 10 mins. and try to do the same adding the clicks and sprawls and then you will reconsider your stand about it…
    Walter (Torrance, CA)
    Alosio Silva BJJ Academy student.

  • Chris Kimmerly says:

    How is it that Checkers is more physically demanding than golf.


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