Top-tier scraps in the UFC aren’t won and lost solely in the trenches of training camp.
Truth be told, the best fighters take every feasible measure—including eliminating social distractions and partaking in extreme dieting rituals—to ensure their fight-night performances are maximized.
These fighters always obey their coaches and mentors—wise choices that usually pay dividends come fight night.
Along the same lines, the men and woman, on this list, avoid taking shortcuts or getting caught in unsavory social scenarios. These fighters, in others words, typically distance themselves from performance enhancing drugs and stay clean in the eyes of the law.
Here’s a look at the 10 most disciplined fighters in MMA.
- Jose Aldo
- Frankie Edgar
- Rory MacDonald
- Demetrious Johnson
- Clay Guida
- Dominick Cruz
- Renan Barao
- Michael Chandler
- Daniel Cormier
- Jon Fitch
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Akin to teammates Jon Jones, Clay Guida and Donald Cerrone, Carlos Condit capitalizes on the rigorous natural terrain in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico to properly prepare for fights.
There, on a merciless trail in Copper Canyon that head trainer Greg Jackson has dubbed "the trail of tears", Condit, Jones and Guida, among others, lay the foundations of their radical cardiovascular training regimens.
Unlike some of the fighters on this list, who rely heavily on athletic prowess, Condit thrives more off his ability to stay focused on his craft.
Despite the loss, Condit's inspiring performance in his fight against welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre serves as a testament to his pursuit of perfection.
Any fighter who’s willing to ingest urine for potential physical gains deserves a spot on this list.
One of the few fighters in the UFC who regularly trains Shotokan Karate, Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida not only adheres to a strict diet, he also trains up to six hours a day for 12-week periods during fight camps.
Machida’s deep devotion to discipline in martial arts began at age 3 when his father Yoshizo introduced him to karate. Since then, Machida’s mutated into an expert at wrestling, sumo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.
"The Dragon" is also known for his wicked counter-punching and counter-grappling dexterity, and his aptitude for remaining calm and adapting to trying environments.
Let's face it, it takes an ultra-disciplined athlete to land a leaping front-kick to the face of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, a feat Machida accomplished without breaking much of a sweat at UFC 129 in 2011.
One glance at Ronda Rousey’s sculpted figure and it’s obvious that she’s dieted properly and trained like a banshee for years.
Already known for her Olympic-style power-lifting routines, Rousey, the first UFC's first women's bantamweight champion, revealed a strict diet that both forbids the consumption of processed foods and requires "Rowdy" to eat just one meal a day on an episode of UFC Primetime.
A two-time Olympian in judo, Rousey has displayed her extraordinary brand of discipline in each of her six brief pro fights. Thus far, Rowdy has needed just a little over five minutes to secure armbars on six unfortunate victims. She also spent just over four minutes inside the cage in her four fights in Strikeforce.
Rousey recently upped the ante in her training by relocating to Big Bear Lake in southern California. With a surface elevation of 6,750 feet, Rousey will be amply prepared for Liz Carmouche at the historic UFC 157.
It takes a fighter oozing with discipline to survive a successful 17-year pro MMA career. It requires an even more meticulous and orderly athlete to be in the hunt for a UFC belt at the age of 42.
Dan Henderson, the eldest of the UFC’s 389 contracted fighters, has found the proper recipe for success at his Team Quest MMA Fitness in Murrieta, California.
Astoundingly maintaining the same level of discipline he once operated with in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics at the ages of 22 and 26, "Hendo" can parlay his meticulousness into his third UFC title shot if he can get past the No. 8 fighter on this list at UFC 157, Machida.
An almost all vegan diet and a steady dose of Ironman Triathlons are just a few of the preparation rituals that have helped Nate Diaz become one of the world’s best and most methodical lightweights.
Like his older brother, Nick Diaz, who was left off this list because of a pair of failed drug tests, among other instances, Diaz has adopted the briliant ideals of head trainer and mentor Cesar Gracie.
With Gracie and Nick Diaz monitoring his every move, Diaz will only continue to evolve in terms of discipline, a theory that doesn’t bode well for his future opponents.
Utilizing his uncanny discipline has helped propel Benson Henderson from NAIA All-American wrestler to UFC lightweight champion in around seven years.
Although he doesn’t have many world-ranked training partners at his disposal at the MMA Lab in Arizona, Henderson makes it work with teammates like Jamie Varner and Efrain Escudero. "Bendo" modestly credits his meteoric rise in the sport to his teammates, his coaches and his deep roots in Christianity.
Call it what you will, but strong religious beliefs have helped to make Henderson one of the most humble and calculated fighters in the game.
The setback was incredibly difficult to swallow, but after Cain Velasquez lost his strap to Junior dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1, the former NCAA All-American wrestler humbly returned to the drawing board to tweak his game.
Just a little over a year later, a reinvented Velasquez handed "Cigano" the worst beating of his career to reclaim his belt and his pride.
Since joining the UFC in 2008, teammates, coaches and experts have all raved about Velasquez's work ethic, one he claims that spawned in his childhood from watching the hard work of his parents, Efrain and Isabel Velasquez.
Regardless of where he got it, Velasquez sure knows how to parlay his meticulousness in training into success in the Octagon.
Granted, Jon Jones crashed his Bentley Continental GT into a pole in Binghamton, New York and got charged with DWI last year. But “Bones” not only handled the incident properly, he also made sure that it didn’t affect his MMA career.
Roughly four months later, Jones, who puts his body through hell in the dry and unforgiving canyons of Albuquerque, New Mexico, illustrated his extreme discipline by squirming out of a deep Vitor Belfort armbar at UFC 152.
Arguably the most dominant current UFC champ, Jones showed similar control in his encounter with Lyoto Machida at UFC 140. Machida outstruck Jones and staggered him in the first round, only to get choked unconscious a round later by Jones, who calmly regrouped in between the first and second stanzas.
With two brothers playing in the NFL and a reach of 84.5 inches, Jones is undoubtedly a sensational athlete who was born with all the tools to thrive in the Octagon. However, Jones wouldn't even have a Bentley to crash if it wasn't for his extraordinary discipline.
An injured Anderson Silva showed perhaps the most impressive display of discipline inside the Octagon when he submitted Chael Sonnen with a Hail Mary triangle armbar with less than two minutes left at UFC 117 in 2010.
Silva spent the majority of the fight on his back attempting to punish Sonnen with elbows from the guard. But with the clock running out on his remarkable run in the middleweight division, Silva picked the ideal instant to isolate one of Sonnen's arms and hook up a fight-ending triangle armbar.
Nearly two years later, at UFC 148, Silva once made the proper modifications in the midst of a title fight with Sonnen. This time, Silva regrouped after a sluggish first round and put a thunderous second-round beating on Sonnen to solidify his status as the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter.
Silva slipped up twice in his career and paid for it dearly by suffering submission losses to Daiju Takase and Ryo Chonan. Those losses, however, forever altered Silva's psyche and transformed him into the obsessively disciplined champion that the world knows today.
Georges St-Pierre will try anything from gymnastics to Olympic-style power lifting to attempt to tune his body to the exact specifications demanded by Tristar Gym head trainer Firas Zahabi.
St-Pierre also abides to a strict diet while steering clear of alcohol and the many temptations that accompany the social lives of star mixed martial artists.
Perhaps that’s why “GSP” is unbeaten since linking up with the diabolical Zahabi. St-Pierre, who last tasted defeat against Matt Serra at UFC 69 in 2007, has parlayed his tremendous organizational skills and dedication into 10-straight wins, including seven consecutive welterweight belt defenses.
And to gain an understanding of just how much St-Pierre has evolved in this category, compare how he reacted in the face of adversity in his last loss to Matt Serra to how he remained composed in a similar scenario against Condit in his last fight.
Even though his peers perceive him as a freak athlete, "GSP" is really an extremely disciplined student of the game who never stops learning and applying new knowledge to his repertoire.