How does someone become a professional MMA fighter, seems you can’t be amateur for long?

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How does someone become a professional MMA fighter, seems you can’t be amateur for long?

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They *usually* have a background in a more specific/traditional discipline with more institutional amateur/youth competition. Kickboxing, Wrestling, Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, etc etc.

They succeed in that as an amateur, but most aren’t financially viable as a career.

Guys inevitably train different disciplines now, even if just casually since most gyms are multi-discipline these days. I do BJJ, but could do boxing, kick boxing, or MMA out of the same gym.

Edit: realized i didn’t fully answer your question. You’re right, “amateur” MMA is a bit of a misnomer compared to other sports. It usually just means lower tier competition. There are a ton of local/regional promotions, that while technically pro, act as an amateur/feeder system for the bigger promotions like UFC/Bellator. That said, it’s a legit sport, but ultimately entertainment. A big name in another sport or a super charismatic person can quickly get a contract with a top tier promotion based on their accomplishments in other disciplines or their personality.