MMA 101: How to Choose the Perfect MMA Gym in 2021

With mixed martial arts being more popular than ever, MMA gyms are becoming more widespread in cities around the world. For most of us there are at least a few gyms in our local area to choose from, but if you’re new to the sport it can be challenging to find the best one for you.

That’s why in this guide we’ve broken down 5 key factors to consider when choosing an MMA gym in 2021. Read on to find out what they are.

1. Your Goals

Before you start looking to join a gym, it’s important to clarify what your goals are. For example, if you want to compete professionally you’ll have different training requirements than if you’re training purely for fitness. Likewise, if you’re more interested in striking than grappling then you’ll place more emphasis on the quality and availability of the striking classes a gym offers compared to their grappling sessions.

No matter what you’re aiming for, you’ll need to come up with a list of criteria to assess all your possible choices and make it easier to decide.

2. Coaches

Once you’ve decided on your goals and what you’re looking for in a gym, the next step is to search for coaches that are truly experienced in what they’re teaching. You may think this is only important if you want to compete at a high level, but quality coaching is a skill that’s important no matter what your training goals are. 

If you want to lose weight, get fit, or just become really good at the techniques taught in class, professional coaching is important to ensure you’re performing techniques safely, effectively, and that you’re training in a way that will help you reach your goals. 

Always take the time to interview the instructors at the gyms you’re considering to get a feel for their level of experience and expertise.

3. Accessibility

While some people would place more importance on the proximity of a gym, in the long run, it may be better to pick the one that aligns the most with your goals even if it’s a longer drive than some of the other choices.

While there may be a gym down the road from you, if the coaches are unprofessional and you don’t get along with the other members then it won’t matter how close it is if you don’t actually want to train there. 

Still, you’ll need to consider the gym’s timetable and how this fits in with your work and personal life.

What are the opening hours?

Are there classes throughout the day or only at night?

Is it a franchise with multiple locations you can train at?

These are all important questions to ask yourself when looking at your options.

4. Gym Atmosphere

The fourth and often overlooked factor of choosing an MMA gym is its atmosphere.

Do you prefer a relaxed environment or do you like to be pushed to your limits in a competitive setting?

Is there much of a social aspect to the gym?

Does it feel like everyone belongs to the same team?

While MMA is fun, it can also be a grind and having the right people to train with can make all the difference between waking up for an early morning session or rolling over back to sleep. Having the right teammates can also help you stay consistent outside of the gym, as there’ll be plenty of other people keen to join you on your daily runs or lifting sessions. 

At the end of the day, the easiest way to get a feel for a gym’s atmosphere is to try out a class, or better yet a trial if there is one, before signing up for membership. 

5. Online Training

Until recently most people wouldn’t have even considered this when choosing a gym, but with the global Covid-19 pandemic still among us it’s important to choose a gym that’s prepared for any future lockdowns or restrictions on physical contact. That’s why in 2021 it’s necessary to choose a gym that has plans in place for these scenarios, with online training being a key consideration. 

While you can definitely ask the coaches what their plans are for any future incidents, a more insightful approach would be to ask what their gym has done during previous restrictions. 

Did they have online training? 

If they did, what did this look like? 

How did they transition back to full contact? 

It’s critical to find answers to these questions, as the last thing you want is to join a gym only to be paying for a membership with no training available if there’s an outbreak in your local area.


Starting martial arts is an exciting journey in anyone’s life, but it’s essential to really take the time to find a gym that’s the best fit for you. The last thing you want is to start training and then become disheartened when your new gym isn’t what you were hoping for. 

That’s why anytime you join a new MMA gym you should first decide what you want out of training.

Then you can start looking at your available options. Visit some of the gyms and chat with the coaches.

Find out if they really know what they’re talking about.

Check out the timetable as well to ensure you can actually make it to their classes.

After that, you can look at trying out some sessions and perhaps doing a trial to get a feel for the gym’s atmosphere.

Lastly, you’ll want to find out if they have online training or other contingency plans in place in case of a future Coronavirus outbreak in the surrounding area.

By following these steps, you’ll be one step closer to finding your new MMA gym.