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How to Fight in the UFC, PRIDE, or K-1

By Cliff Montgomery,
Since this is a site which discusses aspects of MMA, it's about time we cover the most basic question of all: it's time we tell you how you can become a fighter in the UFC, K-1, and PRIDE.

Nowadays people from all walks of life feel at least the need to give it a decent try. Justin Eilers, ending his senior year as starting linebacker for Iowa State University Football and looking forward to a lucrative career in the NFL, decided to take his shot in the UFC during down-time due to shoulder surgery. How did Eilers get accepted as a fighter in the UFC?

"I had always stayed in contact with my friend Jens (former UFC champion Pulver), so I called him up and said I want to fight while I wait for the NFL combines to come back around the following year. Well, once I got training, I just sort of lost interest in football. This, you train with a team, but it's individual and that's what I like about it."

Eilers fought on June 4th at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, going up against interim heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in the main event of UFC 53: Heavy Hitters.

"Fine," you might be saying to yourself, "but what if I'm not an NFL dude with connections?" Then getting in may depend on your choice of sport. The UFC is pretty receptive of new talent. Buried in UFC's official website ( is this gem:

Fighting in the UFC requires years of training and fighting experience. If you think you've got what it takes, send a VIDEO TAPE of your fights, and a short bio to:

UFC Fighter Info
Attn: Sean Shelby
PO Box 26959
Las Vegas, NV 89126

A word here: while MMA was of course set up to provide a real fight setting and environment, UFC, K-1, and PRIDE are all slowly becoming spectator sports, rather than just a small trio of contests for dedicated bands of martial arts enthusiasts. So those with the best shot of getting accepted aren't just great fighters anymore, but people who are also quick and visually exciting. They must be good, and put on a show.

On your video show a style, or showcase aspects of your style, that displays to UFC execs your professionalism and your ability to put asses in the seats. You'll possess the best chance of success in 'standing out' from the thousands of tapes--and people--execs see every year.

Then there is PRIDE. Perhaps the best way to break into PRIDE is by participating in its BUSHIDO events. What exactly is that, you ask? According to PRIDE CEO/President Nobuyuki Sakakibara:

We can't always be very experimental as far as bringing in unknown fighters or trying something new. That's why we started BUSHIDO"[which] gives some of the very talented lighter weight fighters a chance to compete and also gives us a chance to look or new talent, especially among the Japanese fighters. We are always looking for the next Sakuraba or Fujita. PRIDE BUSHIDO looks like PRIDE FC at a glance, but, in any ways, it is totally different from PRIDE FC. We hope fans enjoy it!

How do you sign up for BUSHIDO, or perhaps even make an attempt to go straight into PRIDE FC itself? This is from an FAQ on PRIDE's very informative website, '':

What does it take to be a PRIDE FC fighter?

Potential fighters must be well balanced (both on the ground and standing). Showmanship helps too! Candidates can send a video or photos (non returnable) to:

Dream Stage Entertainment
c/o Fighter Candidates
PO Box 36095
Los Angeles California 90036

For K-1, there is a different avenue. K-1 debuted 12 years ago in Japan. It features eight-man, single-elimination tournaments as well as superfights at their events. In recent years Las Vegas has become the center of the K-1 universe in America.

In 2004 K-1 USA CEO Scott Coker came up with the idea of holding a two-day August tryout, as a means of bolstering the ranks of the growing martial arts sport right before last year's Battle at The Bellagio III. The response was overwhelming, with more than 100 fighters putting in their applications.

Prospective fighters showed off their fighting skills through a range of striking drills with pads. Participants also sparred against one another.

"I was very happy with the response. I think it's a statement about the popularity of our sport," said Sven Bean, K-1 USA's Director of Fighter Development. "It's definitely a step in the right direction for us."

There is only one catch: such tryouts are not open to the public. You will have to contact K-1 USA via its website ( about future tryouts, and submit the necessary information to apply for a position in upcoming auditions.

But perhaps the best way to break into these fighting sports is to find one of the increasing number of gyms which train hungry new MMA fighters. They have the know-how of these sports to help identify any weaknesses you have in your technique, and they have something you don't--connections. They will be able to help you contact the right people to get your career moving.

Some states, like Florida, are clearly stronger in MMA gyms than others; but that doesn't keep you from using the Net to find a facility which has at least some access to MMA trainers, hopefully somewhere around your area. If it's too far away for a commute, you may have no choice but to plan a move to the area with MMA training clubs.

One such organization is 'American Top Team', with eight MMA gyms in Florida. Open to the public, you simply call for an appointment, or stop by one of the gyms. Someone will be happy to assist you in becoming a member.

All skill levels are welcome. If you're visiting from out of town you simply pay a daily mat fee, by the week, or month--whichever is convenient for you. Their doors are open to everyone, regardless of your current affiliation.

How connected is this organization? Check this from its website:

The American Top Team ["ATT"] is one of the largest and most active Mixed Martial Arts ("MMA") teams in the world. The team has over 200 members, more than twenty of whom compete professionally in MMA, boxing, grappling, and Muay Thai events all over the world, such as The Ultimate Fighting Championship and PRIDE.

ATT features expert instruction in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, Judo, and Tae Kwon Do to produce well rounded competitors competent in all disciplines of Mixed Martial Arts.

The team currently has eight training centers throughout Florida with plans for expansion. [Our headquarters] facility is our new state-of-the-art twenty thousand (20,000) square feet training facility conveniently located between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in Coconut Creek. The facility itself hosts a wide array of amenities to help ensure you are training in a safe, clean, fun environment in addition to our World Class instruction.

So there you have it. If you're itching for a career as a professional fighter in one of these fighting sports, these avenues may be the best ones for you.

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