The UFC Should Test For Cardio And Not Just Drugs


Over the years we’ve seen some great fights in the UFC and as put on by fighters who not only had a lot of heart, but also the cardio conditioning to go the required 3 or 5 hard rounds.

This past weekend for example, fans got to watch an incredible performance by Irish Phenom fighter Conor McGregor and a demonstration of not only his skill, but also his incredible cardio capabilities.

On the other end of the spectrum fans watched Alistair Overeem blow, what looked like a sure victory, because he seemed to gas or slow and after only having expended a few minutes of energy and even in that, he was giving the beating, not taking it, which is (obviously) the considerably easier thing to do in a fight. Nonetheless, “The Demotion Man” saw himself demolished by a Travis Browne front-snap-kick and his own depleted gas tank.   

However, Overeem is not the only fighter in the UFC with cardio issues or who has blown fights, because of them. Roy Nelson, for example, made a dreadful showing of himself this past June in Winnipeg (UFC 161) in his loss to Stipe Miocic. Roy was out of the fight before he was ever in it and for the most part, because of his cardio conditioning.

BJ Penn was / is another fighter that has been notorious for not being in “true” fighting shape.

Any fan who has ever seen Penn fight more than a few times knows that BJ, when in shape, is one of the baddest, nastiest and worst matches that a fighter could get in the UFC. In a word he can be a nightmare. To the point, Penn was so dangerous that it was not too long ago that he was listed amongst the top-ten best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

However and as fans also know, there is another BJ Penn and that Penn has issues with cardio. He can be the same guy and at the same weight, 155, but based on his conditioning he can be two totally different fighters; the one is incredible and the other not capable of holding his belt or crushing his opponents, as the other can.  

So, if it’s understood that cardio is as important as it is in terms of getting optimal performances out of fighters, then shouldn’t the UFC begin to regularly test its fighter’s cardio endurance and ensure that they can go 3 or 5 hard rounds?

I have no idea as to what the test should be and I’ll offer no suggestions, but I do believe the issue should be addressed. Surely, one doesn’t have to be a doctor, coach or the president of the UFC to look at a guy like Roy Nelson and know that he could be in much better shape, and surely you don’t need to be an M.B.A. to know that fans don’t want to fork out hard-earned money to watch a fighters who have “wind” issues, within the 1rst round. Not only is it boring, but it’s also embarrassing, to be honest and something should be done about it.

It would be my thought and hope, that Dana White might consider the issue of general conditioning within the UFC, set a standard and then require all fighters to demonstrate either (weeks out) prior to a fight or randomly throughout the year, that they can meet the test.

Fights should be lost, because the other fighter won and not because a fighter beat himself and having done so, by not being in the best possible cardio shape that they could be in. We have more than enough examples of great fighters like GSP, Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and Frankie Edgar who can go all day long in a bout and I think it’s time that all fighters were required to do the same, and the only way to accomplish it is by testing for it. The same way they do for drugs.

  • What a ridiculous article.

    Why don't we test their BJJ, wrestling and striking skills while we are at it? "Cardio" is another tool in a fighter's arsenal, not an artificial performance enhancer.

    Apples and oranges my friend, apples and oranges.

    • I never referred to cardio as an artificial performance enhancer. I indeed recognize it as a tool and as such, the tool can be tested and a metrics established, hence the article.

      Apples or oranges, they both have to come from an orchard.

      • The article raises a valid point.
        They are scouts and stats of other athletes in other sports, why not record the athletes in the UFC.

        • I'm taking a punt here so feel free to correct me if i am wrong, but I would imagine that these stats refer to sports where athletes compete on a much more regular basis and do not require specific 3 month training camps. i.e. NFL

          I would imagine these sports also do intense pre-season training to boost performance/explosiveness/muscle mass (relevant to each respective sport) and maintenance training + skill development training during season to minimise injury.

          I think MMA training is a little more complex in that you have 3 month training camps, taper training to peak for fight night, and undergo serious weight cutting regimes and then have a decent lay off period to restore the body.

          Out of curiousity, is the the intent of this article to "test their cardio" two weeks before the fight? And upon failing the criteria, cancel the fight or replace them on two weeks notice?

          • Just Scrapping …

            The intent of the article was to raise the subject as an issue. Buried within the article was the fact that I offer no suggestions as to what the tests should be or (even) anything related to their administration.

            In terms of failing any set criteria, I said nothing of failures and I made no mention cancellations. The tests should be viewed from the POV of benchmarks, fighter evaluations regarding performance and contract reviews…a number of different things, but not canceling a fight.

            If a fighter wants to go out there and embarrass himself in the manner that some have & do and the UFC wants to put it on PPV and charge us (the fans) a premium price for watching it, then bless their capitalistic souls, but they won't be getting my money.

            As a point, it's interesting that Rory MacDonald was derided for putting on an "in-shape" fight against another "in-shape" fighter, by the person of Jake Ellenberger, yet, those that derided MacDonald for his performance in the fight, want to turn a blind eye to the lack-luster performances of those that can't go 5 or 7 minutes, without looking like they might fall down.

        • American football does. It's the only sport I can think of where these random stats carry tons of weight.

          So how fast can Lebron James run across a court? How fast can he chest pass vs bounce pass vs Kobe?

          Speaking of Kobe, how many players have a higher vertical leap then Kobe? why aren't they scoring more?

          Hockey is based on assists, goals and maybe hits and style of play. I haven't heard once where a stat got a player drafted just because they can skate around a rink faster then anybody else.

          I can't believe this was even published publicly. Sorry for being rude but WOW!

          • I'm sorry N.C…was there an actual point to that diatribe?

            I can't believe you wasted your time responding to an article you can't believe was even published.

          • This article is akin to a slow televised news day when they interview the cat’s owner on how his cat got stuck up the tree. Meowwww Brian, Meoww

          • I wouldn't know, I don't watch the news. I stopped doing that several years ago when I realized that it was nothing but lies; slow day or otherwise.

          • I think the fact your a writer and report who doesn't watch the news is very obvious.

            You may want to reconsider that, since you're shattering record "weaks" on this website.

          • Have to interject. In Hockey there is a skills camp. They know the players speed, power of shot, wrist and slap. Their movement side to side, agility and their awareness and positioning.
            Not going to comment on the article one way or another..but when a player is drafted to the NHL they know absolutely everything about him.

          • There are measures. I agree. But When I was in high school, my friends who were the fastest skaters, who had the hardest slap shots weren't the ones who got selected to the OHL.

            I remember when we used to just play street hockey, we had friends who had the nastiest slap shots and when we'd I'd have friends who could out skate everybody. I assumed they'd be top stars. When I talked to the kids who actually played later in life. I wondered why they weren't drafted. They told me that stuff doesn't matter. They were just average kids on the team.

        • Thank you muffin and that's exactly what I was doing, raising a valid point.

      • Oranges come from a GROVE. When is the last time you visited an orange orchard? DERRRRRRR!!!.

        • Perhaps I should have simply said that they were both round, both fruit, both edible, both emanate from trees and both come from farms.

    • Dear Just Scrapping, do you even lift? No more BJ's?

    • The point to articles like these are to create debate and to make you think outside the box. Its not easy writing though provoking ideas or opinions.

    • The article isn't ridiculous it is just plain stupid.

      • That is such a well reasoned assessment. How did you settle on stupid over ridiculous?

    • I could see it being a good idea for some fighters to volunteer to prove their cardio worth, by passing some kind of test. At least if their cardio is very questionable, and more related to the betting lines.

      For example when Renzo Gracie fought Matt Hughes after years of not fighting. Nobody really thought he could win. But if we had an idea of how long he could last, it should greatly affect the betting odds. And if you wanna bet on a long shot. Of course I guess that's up to them to prove it if they just want to.

  • I am not a fan of the article. The only way to test someone's fighting endurance is to have them fight. They are getting beat on while trying to beat on another person in addition to how the adrenaline affects fighters. There is nothing else that can test how someone's cardiovascular performance will be in a MMA competition. In which case, if you wanted to test that, the UFC would have to put them under contract to fight twice in order to compete at an event?

    The fact that they have made it to the UFC is because they are talented fighters… especially the guys that you listed. The fact that they have performed well enough in the past so that people want to see them in fight the future should be the only determinant of whether or not they are allowed to compete.

    If they show up without cardio then they are going to pay for it in the cage, and a loss remains with them for their entire careers which is punishment enough for bad cardio in my opinion.

    • I doubt seriously that the only way to test someone's cardio endurance is to have them fight.

      Talent has nothing to do with the ability to do the job and how they got in the UFC is a moot point; you're only as good as you're last fight.

      In terms of wanting to see a fighter fight and how well they've done in the past and again, this is a performance based business, then based off of Roy Nelson's last performance I wouldn't want to see him again.

      I love Roy Nelson. I think he's an exciting fighter, but I don't want to see that performance again and I blame his being out of shape, for it. He can laugh and rub his belly all he wants, when he wins it's funny, like Silva dancing in the ring, but when he looses, it's not funny. As it Silva's dancing suddenly became un-funny against Weidman.

      To the final point, I think if they show up to a fight without any cardio then I, as a fan, just got ripped off, because that's not what I'm paying to see. I came to see a good fight and not one or two clowns who are out of breath within 3 minutes.

      Again, where I could certainly understand why Browne would have been hurting given the beating he had taken, Overeem had no excuse. He was giving the beating and he gassed. Cain Velasquez would not have. Travis Browne didn't.

      I could care about losses and wins. I do care about epic fights like Henderson & Rua…Jon Fitch taking a beating for 5 rounds and GSP having the cardio to deliver it for 25 minutes. I stand in awe of fighters like Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida, that can hammer and be hammered for 15 minutes and not stop.

      It's just how I feel about it. There's nothing worse than sitting down to watch, what you believe is going to be a great fight, only to watch it fall apart, because one or both fighters were too poorly conditioned, packing too much muscle or fat and generally not in true fight shape.

      I think true MMA endurance can be tested and it shouldn't require a fight to do it.

  • The old story goes that when a football team wants to do a quick and dirty assessment of a player and whether they should look at him more closely they have him run the 40 yard run. The cardio and speed is assessed before he gets on to the team, in fact, before he even gets onto the pre-season practice roster. My wife's uncle was a scout for the Chicago Black Hawks – same thing: he never brought a name to the Hawks General Manager if the guy had no cardio.

    Brian, your idea isn't a bad one but it is one that Dana should consider before bringing a guy into the fold. It is also one that Joe Silva should consider before offering a fighter a fight. Short notice fights save cards but put the fighters at risk.

    • As I said, the test or tests, could be at the outset or middle of a camp and they could act as a head's-up to all concerned. Concordantly, they could also be done randomly. Again, I offer no solutions I'm only raising the subject.

      Also, as MMA is a sport unlike any other, whatever the test(s) would be, would have to be unique to the sport and designed solely to test heart and lung capacity. That is all.

      The ironic part about this and the exception that proves the rule, is JDS's loss to Velasquez. In that case, the issue was that he was over-trained. Perhaps that's something that could be worked on, too.

      At the end-of-the-day, I think the UFC as the promotion should have a vested interest in knowing how camps are going and even having comment on them, in terms of this singular issue. Bottom-line: is the fighter's cardio up to par?

      The funny thing is, if these were quarterly reports that were published, with each fighter taking whatever the test(s) would be, would we all sit around waiting with baited breath to read them?

      Michael, I say all of this to a guy that I "know" understands cardio and endurance. The one thing I left out of the article, and should maybe follow up with, is the mind aspect of it. How much of it is a willingness and (lemming-like) desire to push through the pain and simply not care?

    • Michael,
      Running 40 yards is hardly going to test someones cardio.

      Also, A fighter weighing around 250 pounds of muscle isn't going to have great cardio – Fact.

      As a fighter it's all about making tradeoffs… where's the fight going to go and how soon can I put the guy away, wouldn't you say?

  • lmao ridiculous article imo, sorry but its just how I feel.

    Alistair overeem got knocked out in the first round with a front kick!!!! Damn, if only he had cardio??? Lol..

    • Yes, if only he had cardio. Perhaps you missed Travis Browne's post-fight comments.

  • people arent going to go into a fight purposely with **** cardio ,if anything it makes them worse of a fighter and it reflects on them. It would be easier for them to gas and fight bad and as a result effect THEIR career… its on them not the ufc lmao

  • I have another suggestion. Every MMA writer should actually train in MMA for a minimum 6 months before they are allowed to write an article.

    In one of your responses you said, "I doubt seriously that the only way to test someone's cardio endurance is to have them fight."

    Incorrect! I've coached and it's incorrect. Only people who have never sparred a day in their life would say that. There is a reason why Thai boxers and wrestlers do so well. The reason is instead of blocking air and doing the motions. They actually spar and hit pads. Or constantly grind it out on the mat. Day in and day out. Case and point. TUF Season: GSP vs Kos. Ive seen guys who can run marathons and the moment they step in the ring and take the first hit. BOOM, their gas tank starts to spiral down.

    What makes it worse is big country is the example you show? Have you watched season 10? He had some of the top 3 cardio of the whole cast. Even better then the shredded guys with 6 packs.

    What next? Test striking power? Kicking speed? Grappling strength? I mean, it's up to the commission to see if it's competitive. If it is, then its to the fighter to be an athlete.

    There is a reason fighters do everything they can help help PROMOTE cardio. Like running and doing drills. Because you can win fights by just being a good athlete. Thats a direct quote from Matt Hughes. Cardio is a tool that a fighter can develop… oh forget it.

    Google MMA gyms, just try it for a few months.

    • NC…I'm so sorry, I didn't realize that you were an MMA coach or that training MMA for a minimum of 6 months could give one either the expertise or the imprimatur, to begin espousing upon MMA. Truly, I am a fool.

      Given that your coaching skills and MMA acumen are so grand, might the LK community be able to call upon you to correct us in our subjective opinions and would you be offended if we referred to you as Sensi NC?

      In terms of things to Google Sensi NC, are there any videos of you that we could search and watch? Surely, there must be scads of them.

      PS: Thank you for the direct Matt Hughes quote from UFC 1.0.

      • The video was actually from an interview right after Matt hughes retired. He was actually talking about GSP.

        Btw, I'm not a MMA coach. I trained a bit, but I was the striking coach. Just to clarify.

        Serious question, I have a friend who has a degree is writing and is a national level wrestler. Who was saying how he wanted to write for MMA sites.

        I'm not slamming you for being a crappy writer ALL the time. Some of your articles are great and you have editorials that are thought provoking. But certain articles are covering things, you would only really know about if you trained and competed. This is the 3rd article I seen on here where I wondered if the site got hacked.

  • Brian, you've written some great articles but this one is ridiculous.

    Cardio is something that is tested inside the octagon. If a fighter's cardio is terrible then he pays for it through losses. If a fighter makes it to the top I couldn't care less if he had terrible cardio, but most likely he doesn't because he won enough to get there.

    If fans demand bang for their buck then should already know which fighters are exciting and which are not.

    What's next, should they test a fighter's willingness to fight or willingness to risk losing for an exciting fight? Obviously they didn't test for that before Silva vs Leites or Silva vs Maia.

  • Brian: I don't think the article was terrible. It obviously has drummed up some good debate.

    I also don't think there should be or ever will be testing for cardio. I think a fighter's cardio level is in the same category as their diet and their willingness to go out there and be exciting. Dana knows he is dealing with grown *** men and there are certain things (ie cardio, diet etc.) that is their responsibility to make sure is up to par. Otherwise they won't be in the UFC very long. I think he makes that very clear every time he talks to them.

  • Vic

    One does not simply measure a gastank based on heart.

  • This is a perfect example of why some of the staff here make Lowkick an unpleasant place to comment. As soon as any constructive criticism or opinion is offered by the members here, it is severely frowned up by the staff. How are you going to write an article and then argue with everyone who didnt have something to say positive about it?

    I used to write for here and I was banned because of giving my opinion of the way things operated. The chief editor didn't like or agree with my views so they took away my ability to comment. I still frequent this site because it DOES have some great things about it, but after reading how this article has been moderated, it's ridiculous and can't hold my tounge anymore.

    To all the current members here, take my experience as a warning before you get banned too for voicing your opinion. If they don't straighten out, this site isnt ever going to get to where it should be. We'll see how long this comment stays up before it's deleted. Freedom of speech is selective around here…..

    • Reign, no one is stopping you from voicing your opinion and I see nothing wrong with how the article has been moderated. I've not trashed anyone nor have I deleted any remarks.

      In terms of criticism, little of which is constructive, I could really care less. I'm under no illusions that people will agree with everything I write, nor do I worry about it. I'm more than comfortable in being the only right man in a room full of wrong ones.

      As far as freedom of speech goes I support it. The same way that I support the freedom to hear.

      So, if you wish to trash myself or the site, which is basically what you're doing, then that's fine. Trash away. It only serves to disprove your contentions about the LK.

    • You sir, did not offer constructive ideas to improve the site. Ideas and suggestions are welcomed. You tried to be our dad, and it was weird.

      You simply called us out on the public wall for not doing exactly what you wanted the site to do.

      Good job on the new account. But you are banned.

      • Mike…..this is exactly what I am talking about. You are going to ban me over me expressing my opinion on the site? Power hungry much? I never cursed or disrespected anyone and only offered advice on trying to make the site better. Every time I spoke up, you rushed over in the waaambulance just like now….I'm glad your true colors are being displayed to all here.

  • No

  • I liked this article a lot and thought it was an interesting take on the subject.

    I think it would be great if fighters had to do a VO2 max test to see where their conditioning is at. I bet guys like GSP and Cain's scores would be off the charts.

    I suppose the UFC could put some "minimum standards" in place to make sure fighters can "bring it" on fight night, but then again, how to implement these standards? If someone's cardio was about to get them cut, they perhaps could give them a VO2 max ultimatum, right? I don't think any of this will ever happen but it makes for an interesting topic.

    • Cheers Green for being a voice reason. I think tests could be established and a standard set, and I think it would be good for the sport.

      • For the sake of argument and it was mentioned above its about trade offs if guys wanted better cardio, they would have to reduce their mass, and power, which would make them less likely to have a knockout

  • I think that fights are all that's needed to test someones cardio. Even if someone takes a pre-test for cardio it does'nt mean that results are going to matter on fight night. Other factors come into play such as heart, sleep deprivation, having an injury, or being sick leading into a fight. Any of these could potentially void the test. Aside from that Reem, Nelson, and B.J. are like the only three I can think of that have consistent problems. Almost all fighters in the ufc have superb conditioning, so I think it's unnecessary. Plus when those 3 are'nt gassing they usually demolish people. Which brings up my next point. Technique is just as much if not more important than cardio. Hypothetically the most technical fighter in the world could destroy the best conditioned fighters within two minutes every fight, even if the technical fighter tested for poor conditioning. Good cardio is important but not a current issue i.m.o.

    • much more concern should be focused on drugs n p.e.d.s

  • Zip

    Jeeze, unless I overlooked something, it was just an article with an interesting point. Why beat Brian up so badly?

  • Well said.

  • I don't even really understand what Cox is trying to say, that fighters should go through some sort of elimination process before getting signed to the UFC? Well aren't they? I am also confused as to why you would single cardio out, you could just as easily argue that they should tests chin strength, sub defense, footwork, takedown defense etc. That is actually a much better comparison then the completely unrelated issue of cheating.

    Sorry to say but the reason people are going so hard on Cox is because we can all tell that this came about from Cox sitting and trying to come up with something controversial to write about rather then actually having something controversial to say.