MMA (Mixed martial arts) is a combat sport which is derived from the skills and techniques used in many other martial arts and most of the martial arts used in MMA generally have a belt grading system.

In MMA, it doesn’t have a belt or ranking system, so you can’t get a black belt in MMA. However, Some martial arts clubs do have their own belt system for MMA, but it is not a recognised standard in any martial arts organisation.

MMA does have championship belts for fighters in competitions, which are in different weight classes. For example a heavyweight or lightweight championship belt. These championship belts are different to a grading belt you will expect to see in a martial arts class, as these championship belts are like a trophy which you need to fight to win or defend it. Read our article ‘MMA championship belts and organisations’ here.

So, unfortunately if you was hoping to find out how to get a black belt in MMA, we are very sorry to disappoint you, but there is no black belt in MMA, for now anyway. However, we will discuss why MMA doesn’t have a belt system and why it could work.

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Why doesn’t MMA have a grading syllabus?

MMA hasn’t really been around very long and it’s still relatively new compared to other combat sports or martial arts. Originally MMA was simply a case of different styles of martial artists would come face-to-face to see who had the best fighting discpline. For instance, it would be karate vs Jiu-Jitsu, and neither fighter would be experienced in other martial arts.

Today, MMA has dramatically changed and has become its own style within itself. In the early days of training in MMA, fighters would attend multiple different classes of disciplines in order to merge them together to form their own mixed martial arts style.

Nowadays, MMA fighters can still train in other classes to focus on and improve on certain areas, but now there are solely MMA classes. These MMA classes focus on all the essential training and tuition to create an all-round MMA fighter.

Do you need to be a black belt to compete in MMA?

No. You don’t to have a black belt in any martial art to compete in MMA. For example, both a white belt in Judo or a blue belt in Taekwondo can enter a MMA competition. In fact, you don’t need any belt in a martial arts system to enter a MMA competition.

There are many MMA champions who don’t have any belts. Also, having a black belt in MMA may not be considered as important, as MMA is formed from merging different disciplines, so a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu still may not be as good of an all-round fighter than a fighter who isn’t a black belt. A fighter needs to be able to be skilled at stand up striking, take-downs, grappling and submissions.

Former Muay Thai world champion Kieran Keddle believes MMA doesn’t have the same level of elite fighters compared to Muay Thai or boxing as it currently hasn’t got the best level of amateur MMA pedigree to progress in to the professional circuit. We wrote an article ‘Thaiboxing vs MMA: Which has the more elite fighters?’ here.

MMA has only been going for over 30 years, so there is still plenty of room for improvement, and a MMA grading system could be another way in the future to make the sport better.

Belts in MMA

If MMA does develop its own grading syllabus, it could look something similar to this:

White belt in MMA

This is a novice entry belt so a student would wear a white belt or white rash guard on joining the club.

Red belt in MMA

  • Stance and guard position
  • Basic footwork
  • Single punches Jab / cross / hook / uppercut  front kicks
  • Front roll and sprawl

1×5 minute round of fitness test

Yellow Belt in MMA

  • 2-3 Punch and kick combos
  • Moving around in a stance
  • Front and back leg defence
  • Roundhouse kick
  • Side control
  • Good use of gable grip and Kamura grip

2×5 minute rounds of fitness test.

Orange Belt in MMA

  • Punch and kick combos with blocks and defence
  • Block and counter techniques
  • Americana lock
  • Taking the back

2×5 minute rounds of fitness test.

Green Belt in MMA

Sparring is practiced as an orange belt so a student will need to demonstrate their sparring in their green belt. Block and counter standing striking with basic techniques. Demonstrate take down.

  • Grading drills
  • Single leg and double leg take down.
  • Can effectively sprawl to avoid takedowns
  • Advanced striking like elbows, knees and clinching
  • Blocking and checking leg kicks
  • Stand up block and counters
  • Grappling sparring

2×5 minute rounds of fitness test.

Blue belt in MMA

  • Grading drills with takedowns
  • Arm bar from mount and side control.
  • Shoulder locks.
  • Choke from mount and guard.
  • Block and counters and sparring

2×5 minute rounds of fitness test.

Purple Belt in MMA

  • Grading drills with takedowns
  • Single and double leg takedowns with submissions
  • Can demonstrate body lock take downs from the cage
  • Directional work
  • Sparring both grappling and stand up

3×5 minute rounds of fitness test (equivalent to a MMA fight)


Brown belt in MMA

  • Grading drills with takedowns
  • Arm bar from mount and side control
  • Rear Naked Choke  
  • Stand up striking sparring with all strikes allowed including knees and elbows
  • Free style sparring

4×5 minute rounds of fitness test. 

Black belt in MMA

  • To go through all previous grading moves and submissions
  • Shown they have developed their own style
  • Striking sparring
  • Grappling sparring
  • 3×5 minutes of free style MMA sparring

5×5 minute rounds of fitness test (equivalent to a MMA title fight)

Final Thoughts

If MMA does get its own grading syllabus in the future it could be a good thing for the sport, as it will standardize certain requirements of tuition and it is a way of monitoring individuals levels of MMA.