20 Amazing Bodies of Female MMA Fighters
MMA fighters aren't just performers; they train incredibly hard for their work, and follow strict diets to stay strong and ready for a fight. "To be successful in MMA you have to absolutely love it," says Paige VanZant. "And know that if fighting is in your heart that means it's already a part of you. It runs through your veins. Being a female and a male-dominated sport can be very hard. The biggest lessons that I have learned throughout my years in fighting is, know your worth, listen to your gut feeling and never let anybody tell you what you can or cannot do." So what does it take to be a UFC star? Here's how 20 of the most impressive female MMA fighters stay fighting fit and camera-ready.
Ronda Rousey intermittent fasts and tries to follow a clean diet. "[My diet is] a kind of a combination of The Paleo and The Warrior diet," she says. "I pretty much eat one meal a day – which takes place at night. I usually eat between 4 and 10 (p.m.). As far as supplements go, I don't take anything that is made in a lab. If it was on earth 10,000 years ago then I will eat it. There is one exception to all of this each day: I get to have coffee every morning. That's the only thing I really fudge on… There weren't really hunger pains when I switched to the diet. You're just used to eating, you're sitting around and you're bored, sometimes you just want to eat to keep yourself occupied. But as long as I'm busy – and I'm busy a lot these days so I'm run ragged all day long – I just pretty much need coffee and I'm cool."
Holly Holm's training is not for the faint of heart. "Monday through Friday every morning we have class and it's intense," she says. "They're pretty hardcore workouts. Monday there's MMA sparring, Tuesday is sparring, Wednesday is wrestling, Thursday is MMA day, Friday is wrestling, and Saturday I do sprint runs. So that's just the morning. Other than that I run five days a week with Saturday's sprint run being one of them. Monday through Friday four out of the five days I'm running distance as well. I do mitt work three to four times a week. I go back to either jujitsu or wrestling at night Monday through Thursday. I'm working out about four and five hours a day depending [on my schedule]."
Jessica Eye focuses on inner as well as outer health. "We do the exercising with our body and do the diet, but sometimes, we forget to exercise our mind and make ourselves better that way and think we have it all figured out," she says. "This time, I was able to exercise myself in a way that I have never been exercised before, so it's allowed me to feel more confident in my abilities, just like I did when I first started."
Felice Herrig was given the nickname "Lil Bulldog" for good reason. "I did start off as a kickboxer 11 years ago and racked up many kickboxing titles as an amateur and pro but I have evolved so much throughout the years," she says. "Especially when I started training at Team Curran 5 years ago. They've gotten my ground game up as far as the jiu jitsu goes and also with my wrestling as well. I train hard and I'm determined. For me it's always been important to become a well rounded fighter and I am comfortable on the ground and on the feet… If I put together the tools I have developed I'm gonna be hard for anyone to handle."
Jessica Andrade overhauled her diet for training. "I started eating healthier, more salad, sweet potato and chicken, and I'm feeling stronger than I was before," she says. "I train with the same people I used to train before, and I'm using less strength against them. It was weird. I even asked them if they stopped working out because I felt stronger against bigger training partners. I used to eat a lot of pasta and cookies, things like that. I really eat a lot. I'd eat everything if you let me."
Paige VanZant works out every day, rain or shine. "I of course have a very strict workout regimen," she says. "I'm in the gym every day twice a day. Since I have switched over to professional boxing my schedule comprises of boxing every day sometimes twice a day. And strength and conditioning three days a week. I do all of my training at American Top Team, a world renowned MMA and combat academy."
Bethe Correia knows how important it is to take time off from training for healing. "An eye injury is much more serious than fighting with an injured arm," she says. "It could force retirement. I don't wish to retire so early. I want to continue fighting for many years to come, so I followed all instructions to the letter. Vision is serious business, and as soon as the doctor gave me clearance, I let the UFC know."
Rose Namajunas sticks to whole foods cooked at home as much as she can. "I try and make everything homemade as possible," she says. "So that's kind of my thing. I'm never 'anti' anything, except for lots of sugar and things that are obviously bad for you. The more process that something takes in order to make from scratch, I think the less you should eat it… I try not to be too scientific with stuff. Whatever makes you feel good I think is what you should eat. I don't like sweets or anything like that. My parents are Lithuanian refugees. We grew up eating sauerkraut and potatoes. You know, just real Eastern European type stuff. I never really liked candy or anything like that. It's always been a lifestyle for me and not like I'm on this diet like this thing I have to do."
Carla Esparza ups her protein when she wants to build more muscle. "I've been wanting a fight for a long time, so I've been training super hard," she says. "I've been changing a lot of things in my nutrition, in my supplementation, so I feel like I'm excited to show a kind of newer, bigger, stronger, better version of me… I was just preparing myself using the UFC Performance Institute, using Clint (STAT) for nutrition, just adding a lot of protein into my diet, adding supplements, and just doing all these things to kind of ensure that I was going to be as strong as I could possibly be."
For Miesha Tate, being active is not just work but pleasure. "I'm an outdoorsy person. I love being in the water, whether it's on a boat or just relaxing, and I love inner tubing. I also love camping or just being in the sun, enjoying life!" she says. "I've learned firsthand that training smarter, not harder, is just better. Doing this sport for so long, I know my body really well. I've had fights where I have definitely overtrained and didn't give myself enough rest between fights or during training camp. I typically use a heart-rate monitor to track my recovery each morning to see where I'm at, and if it's a day to push really hard or take it a little lighter. I also use it when I'm sparring to make sure my heart rate's getting up high enough. After workouts, I'll often take an ice bath to speed recovery."
Joanne Calderwood never skips breakfast before she trains. "I always have my coffee first, and then I eat two eggs, half an avocado, and two slices of bread," she says. "But before eating, I take my iron, then after breakfast, I take Vitamin C, Beta-Alanine, a B Complex, and a magnesium glycinate powder. I try to get that all in before my 30-minute stretch session. Afterward, I move to mobility, then a pad practice, and then a pro practice with some sparring and live situation type fighting."
Cat Zingano is passionate about becoming a better fighter through her training. "I worked with some wrestling coaches that I grew up with and we wrestled on the national circuit together," she says. "Lester Bowling, he's Georges St. Pierre's wrestling coach and I've been working with him for years. For jiu-jitsu and judo, I work at a great school in Denver and I did a tournament at the Olympic training center and won that… I think I'm better at this sport than I was at any other sport. It's my calling and I've heard from many people that this was meant for me and I'm excited for this to take off for me and to put on the best fights I possibly can."
Michelle Waterson trains by shadow boxing and tabata workouts. "I think it is important to drill over and over again until you are sick of drilling, then drill some more," she says. "I also like shadow boxing which is like fighting an imaginary opponent. Shadow boxing allows you to fix your mistakes and make your movement smooth so that it becomes second nature. Doing bag work is also a good workout routine. It allows me to work on my power and footwork. One of my favorite things to do to improve my stamina are tabatas. 20 seconds high intensity, 10 seconds rest, seven times, then rest for one min in between sets. Do it three times. This is a very short but very effective way to build your explosive muscles."
Melissa Sophia Karagianis
Melissa Sophia Karagianis trains other fighters, and loves her work. "I run the Warrior Women's Fit Program," she says. "It's out of Kingsway Boxing at their high-performance location. I've been running it now for about a year. It's a mixed-martial arts-inspired workout Bootcamp. So it's growing and it's an awesome bunch of ladies that I train."
Bruna Ellen says she thrives under pressure. "I competed overseas before, and I know how it's like to fight with the crowd booing you and all that, and that kind of helps me," she says. "The crowd was booing me in Turkey, and cheering a lot when my opponent entered the gymnasium. This pressure actually helps me, to silence the crowd. I know how it's like. I react well under pressure, and I'm mentally prepared."
Claudia Gadelha starts every day with meditation before her training schedule kicks in. "I love my breakfast, so I cook a very nice Brazilian breakfast every morning to be nourished for my hardest session, which is always in the a.m.," she says. "I love waking up to a nice cardio session, so even on my rest days, I wake up and go for a nice run or a high intensity session. I work out two to three times a day. Usually a strength and conditioning session and two technical sessions."
Bruna Vargas wants to be known for her skill as much as her looks. "It would be hypocritical to say that beauty doesn't help, but I believe that it's not only that," she says. "I fight Muay Thai for 10 years, I'm 2-0 in MMA, and I'm sure that I'll show in this fight that they didn't sign me only because I'm beautiful. I'm going there to fight, not for a fashion show."
Alexandra Albu loves CrossFit and running to stay in shape. "I wake up, eat my breakfast and after that I run like the wind to a training session," she says. "After training I go to lectures. Next there is work as a CrossFit instructor and after that I have a jog planned, then maybe I can get some rest. I'm always nervous before I compete. There are always chills before I enter the cage, but when I'm in, when I can see people yelling, rooting for me, all that nervousness goes away and it's only fun after that."
Mackenzie Dern is trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and it's still a major part of her exercise routine. "In the afternoon, I go to my dad's BJJ academy and teach classes and get my BJJ training in there," she says. "Wednesdays and Saturdays consist of sparring rounds at The MMA Lab. I keep to a strict diet when I'm training for a competition, but I love sweets like candy and pies."
Jinh Yu Frey
Jinh Yu Frey swears by a healthy lifestyle with good habits. "I try and stay in pretty good shape all the time, but about four weeks before a fight I really start sharpening up my skills and with these title fights there are like twenty five minutes, it gets me time to get my cardio to where I need to be," she says. "I don't eat processed foods and I try to stick to organic and as close to raw as I can. Mornings I do usually eat oats with chia and hemp seed and honey. After that it's lots of legumes, nuts, and vegetables. I really don't eat much meat. Mostly vegetables and quinoa, especially during a fight camp."