How to Taper to Be a Monster For Your Fight

I recently got a question from a reader asking me, "Should I stop lifting a week before my fight?"

In short, the answer is a resounding ‘YES’!

But that’s the kind of answer you get when you ask a simple question.

A more complex (and better) question would be, "How do I alter my training to maximize my ability to perform at my best in my fight in the week or two leading up to it?"

Well ask and you shall receive!

OK so I’m talking to myself right now, I’d better stop and just get on with it before they take me away…

Here are some KEY pointers on how to alter your training to be at your best so when you step into the cage you’re at your physical peak.

KEY Pointer #1 – Focus on SPEED and POWER

As a fight approaches, you want to get as specific to the demands that a fight might require of you.

You’re not training for a powerlifting contest, so you should definitely change your training to reflect the needs of MMA: speed and explosive power and their endurance.

So you can still lift, in fact I recommend you stop lifting one week out but keep it going up until then, but you want to use a lighter weight and lift it as fast and explosive as possible.

My recommendation is something I call the ‘Power Curve’ method, where you choose a weight, such as 80% of your 1RM in a big compound exercise like Bench Press or Deadlift, and lift it for only 3-4 reps.

The great thing about this method is that you won’t develop soreness or fatigue, but you’ll maximize your abillity to recruit your fast twitch muscle fibres and EXPLODE, something that I’m sure you know is important in winning a fight.

You also want to use exercises like jumps, plyo pushups and swings at this point because they’re more speed and power exercises, which are what you need.

KEY Pointer #2 – Decrease Overall Volume

You want to decrease the amount of non-specific training you do because most of your energy should go towards sparring and specific drills that you’ll use in your fight.

However, strength training will still help keep your maximal strength and help you ‘feel’ strong, which might be just as important as any actual physical benefits.

After all, MMA is such a mental game when it comes down to fight time, that any edge you can have in your confidence in your preparedness will help.

So decreasing the number of exercises, sets and increasing the rest times of your strength training routines as you edge closer to your fight will help you maintain your strength (and confidence), while not making you too sore or tired.

KEY Pointer #3 – Keep Your Sleep and Nutrition ON POINT

Sleep, nutrition and managing stress are very, very important factors in making sure you go into your fight at your best.

Because your MMA training will be at its highest level of intensity and volume leading into a fight, without proper recovery, you’re more likely to get sick, injured or just run-down.

You’ve gotta be dialed in and there’s little room for error.

Make time to do things that help you relax – whether it be playing video games, talking a walk through the woods, or cuddling with your favourite stuffed animal (just don’t let anyone take pictures).

Make sure your diet is on point and increase the amount of good fats you get, especially fish oils (which are my #1 supplement recommendation).

At this point, you can take 3 tablespoons per day, which will greatly help sore joints.


Do everything in your power to go to bed early and get up naturally.

Get off the internet, grab a book and zonk out by 11 or midnight the latest.

If it’s 2am and you’ve got a fight soon STOP NOW and go to bed – this article will be here in the morning.

There’s nothing worse than an injury, sickness or overtraining to derail all of your hard work, so plan ahead and get these things under control and you’ll have a far more enjoyable experience (beating down your opponent) because of it.

OK so that’s the MMA performance article for today – got any follow-up questions or Comments, or is there something else you’d like me to address?

If so, leave em below.

And if you’d be so kind as to hit the ‘Like’ button if you thought this was a good article I’d appreciate it!

Peace out.




Leave a Reply

7 Comment threads
7 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
JabAndy ChamberlainEugenioChaseJustin Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Hey eric what if i didn’t have to cut some weight on a fight what kind of training should i do a week before

Andy Chamberlain
Andy Chamberlain

How should I alter my cardio during my taper phase 1 week out from my fight? Should I still continue interval training?

Thank you!


Stop all intense training the week of!


Hi Eric, what´s a good drill for speed training a week before a fight or for any athletic pursuit?


im just wondering because im only 15 and i dont fight mma should i use these same tips for an upcoming bjj tournament?


I’m interested in dietary periodization – in particular the phase in 1-2 weeks out from a fight – I’ve always heard about or read how the pro’s have dietitians that keep them dialed in…I’d be interested in learning what others do from a diet perspective 1-2 weeks out from comp.


Well this all depends on the fighter and their needs at the time – are they a guy like Anthony Johnson who walks around 40 lbs over their weight class?

If so, they’ll be on a reducing diet, which will be protein/fat with minimal carbs.

But if they’re a guy who walks around 15-20 lbs over their weight class, then they’ll be on a slight reducing diet or even a maintenance diet.

Generally you need 6-7 days to cut 15-20 lbs of water NATURALLY before a weigh-in that happens the day before.

Any more than that and you’re going to have to look into IVs, which is a whole other ball game.


Hey Eric I work in construction and start at 6:30am, so that means I’m up at 5am at the latest. I have two children and they’re in bed by 8pm. That leaves me an hour to wind down before I should be in bed at 9pm to achieve my optimal 8 hours sleep. I find I’m physically tired by that time but not mentally and often sit tossing and turning till 10-10:30pm and subsequently wake up feeling tired or at least not fully rested. My window of training is 5-7pm and on those days it seems even harder. Do you have any “tricks of the trade” I could try to make this problem a little easier or should I just get another job (which is not gonna happen, anytime soon at least)?

jeff mann

I have a similar schedule. I started taking a supplement called ZMA, which has zinc, magnesium, and some other ingredients designed to help with sleep. It’s all pretty benign stuff, so maybe check that or a similar product out? It really helped me. Or… there’s always a glass of warm milk!


Use melatonin – it’s the exact chemical your body produces to create sleepiness, so no side effects vs diphenhydramine which I think effects sleep quality negatively or prescription drugs. Melatonin is the way better choice, get the 5 milligram ones and take two about an hour or 45 mins before you want to fall asleep and it’ll make you just drowsy enough to where you can do it. That’s what I do when my job flips me from night to morning shift for a day or two, I’ve tried valerian root and other stuff, with mixed results, but melatonin is tried and true.


Hey Ben,

Yeah it’s pretty much impossible to avoid training in the evening, so we’ve got to work around it.

Some good suggestions by Jeff and Justin…

ZMA has been shown to help increase the depth of your sleep, so even though it may not help you get to sleep, it’ll increase your sleep QUALITY once you do fall asleep, which is a good thing for sure.

Melatonin has been shown to help as well, so it may be worth a shot.

Here’s a pretty good list of things to do to get good sleep:

One of my favourite bedtime snacks is cottage cheese + 1 tsp jam + 1 tbsp natural peanut butter.

This snack packs in the tryptophan and the jam makes it taste good and helps the tryptophan cross the blood brain barrier. Give it a shot!


Hey Eric,

I head that flaxseed oil is better than fish oil in terms of overall benefits. What do you think about that? And would you advice to take such supplements as L-Arginine, Glutamine and Glucosamine to keep the body in check?


NO WAY! Fish oil is FAR superior to flaxseed oil! Here’s why… The most important components that you need are called EPA and DHA – these are grouped under the term omega-3 fats. Fish oil contains these substances as is (~3750 mg per tablespoon) and your body can readily use them for its needs. Flaxseed oil on the other hand has a substance called ALA, which is also an omega-3 fat, but little to no EPA/DHA. Your body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA. Unfortunately, this conversion happens at a very poor ratio. For example, 1 tbsp of flaxseed oil has about 6500 mg of ALA, but the conversion ratio can range (depending on MANY factors) from 8-21% for EPA and 1-9% for DHA… That means that each tablespoon of flax oil might give you anywhere from 520-1365 mg of EPA and 65-585 mg of DHA, which is at… Read more »

jeff mann

I believe Arginine is a Nitric Oxide booster found in a lot of pre-workout supplements. It seems intended to increase blood flow and vascularity, which results in bigger “pumps” and more energy and focus when training. At least that’s what I see on the internet…!