Functionality profiling in modern elite mixed martial arts

Postgraduate V.E. Timokhina1
PhD, Associate Professor K.R. Mekhdieva1
PhD, Professor A.V. Zakharova1
PhD, Associate Professor N.B. Serova1
1Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg


Keywords: mixed martial arts, functional tests, sport physiology, functionality profile.


Introduction. Nowadays, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a dynamically developing sport that combines a variety of techniques, schools and directions. It should be noted that high sports results in MMA require from a fighter a high level of development of all his physical qualities [1]. Meanwhile, the athlete’s functional and psycho-physiological qualities that can both facilitate and limit his success in this sport have been studied insufficiently.

Objective of the study was to profile functional, physical and psycho-physiological qualities in modern elite mixed martial arts.

Methods and structure of the study. Sampled for the study purposes were the 18-34 year-old (n=9) male MMA competitors and prize-winners of regional, national and international championships, who were tested at the pre-season training stage. Pursuant to the requirements of the local ethics committee, all athletes gave their voluntary written consent to participate in the experiment. According to the annual medical examination report, at the time of the study, all subjects were virtually healthy. All the tests and techniques used during the experiment complied with all the humanity and ethical principles of the WMA Declaration of Helsinki. The study was conducted in the pre-season mesocycle in September 2018.

The sample body component composition was tested by the bioimpedansometry method using the body composition analyzer MS-980 (Tanita, Japan). The following parameters were registered: height (cm), weight (kg), body mass index (BMI, kg/cm2), absolute and relative fat mass (kg and %, respectively), absolute and relative muscle mass (kg and %, respectively), as well as total body water (TBW, %), and extracellular water/ TBW ratio (ECW/TBW, %).

The current functional status of the subjects was tested by the HR variability test method using the diagnostic device "Varicard 2.51” (RAMENA, Russia) [3]. We assessed the index of activity of regulatory systems (IARS, c.u.) and HR (ΔHR, bpm) in the orthostatic test, as well as stress index (SI, c.u.), total spectrum power (TP), HF and LF (ms2) in the lying and standing positions, respectively.

The sample physical working capacity and anaerobic capacity were tested in the submaximal load test on the ERG 911 S cycle ergometer (Schiller AG, Switzerland) conducted according to the RAMP-protocol [4] (power increase by 1 W, duration - 1.5 sec (40 W/ min), cadence – 80 rpm, performed to failure). The exhaled gas analysis was carried out using the "FitMatePro" mobile gas analyzer (COSMED, Italy) with a wireless sensor attached to register HR (bpm). The test results enabled to determine: maximal lung ventilation (MLV, l/min), MLV index (l/min/kg), maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max, ml/kg/min), relative maximal load power (SI, W/kg), HR at the level of anaerobic metabolism threshold (AMT) (HRAMT, bpm), as well as AMT/ VO2 max ratio (AMT, % of VO2 max).

The athletes' speed-strength fitness level was determined by the Wingate test [2] using the 874 E vertical cycle ergometer with the software suite (MONARK, Sweden) and an upper body ergometer TOP EXCITE 700 MD (TechnoGym, Italy). The subjects were to perform pedaling exercises on the cycle ergometer with maximum tempo for 30 sec. Prior to the test, the cycle ergometer software suite automatically calculated resistance based on the subjects’ weight and age. During the test, the following indicators were recorded: peak power (PP, W), time to reach the peak power (tРР, ms), relative peak power (relative PP, W/kg), average power (AP, W), relative average power (relative AP, W/kg) of the lower and upper extremities. In both cases, the Wingate test was accompanied by the exhaled gas analysis and HR analysis.

The individual psycho-physiological qualities of the athletes were tested using the "NS-PsychoTest" (Neurosoft, Russia) software complex enabling to determine the time of a simple visual-motor reaction (SVMR, ms) on 30 red signals, complex visual-motor reaction time (CVMR, ms) or the "Choice Reaction" time, as well as the Tapping test [4].

Results and discussion. The anthropometric measurements and body composition analysis results, presented in Table 1, indicate the high level of development of the athletes’ muscular system, as well as the extracellular fluid volume reduction. These tendencies may be due to the peculiarities of the sport-specific dietary regimen of the athletes, since at the time of the survey they were preparing for the control weighing and, thus, were actively training down.


Table 1. Body component composition test results obtained in MMA fighters



Height, cm


Weight, kg


BMI, kg/cm2


TBW, %


ECW / TBW, %


Muscle mass

69.8±8.1 kg

85.9±3.6 %

Fat mass

8.1±3.8 kg

9.8±3.8 %

BMI – body mass index, TBW – total body water, ECW – extracellular water


The sample functional status (Table 2), estimated based on the athletes’ heart rate variability rates, indicates the tensed functionality of the body regulation systems and physical overloading. In addition, the research findings testify to the high variability and statistically significant individual differences in the test results. In particular, several athletes were found to have the signs of overtraining, while the physical condition of the rest of the participants corresponded to the optimal level.


Table 2. Functional status test rates in MMA fighters, M±SD


In the lying position

In the standing position

ТР lying, ms2



HF lying, ms2



LF lying, ms2



SI, c.u.



IARS, c.u.


ΔHRstanding-lying, bpm


IARS – index of activity of regulatory systems, SI – stress index, Δ – difference, HR – heart rate, TP – total spectrum power, HF – high frequency, LF – low frequency.


In turn, the load testing results (Table 3) revealed that the parameters of the cardiovascular system functioning and aerobic capacity rates in the subjects corresponded to the standard values (norms for athletes). Whereas, insufficient ventilation and low anaerobic metabolism threshold can reduce the athletes’ cardiorespiratory fitness and their recovery rate after anaerobic exercises, and may have a negative impact on the comprehensive realization of their physical potencies.


Table 3. Load testing and gas analysis results obtained in MMA fighters



Norm for athletes

HRrest, bpm



HRmax, bpm



SI, W/kg


˃ 5.0

VO2 max, ml/kg/min


˃ 50

HRAMT, bpm



AMT, % of VO2 max



MLV index, l/min/kg


˃ 2.0

HRrest – the athletes’ HR on the cycle ergometer prior to testing, SI – relative maximal load power, VO2 max – maximal oxygen consumption, AMT – anaerobic metabolism threshold, MVL index – maximal lung ventilation index.


The Wingate test results (Table 4) testified to the sufficient level of development of the subjects’ speed-strength abilities. For instance, the time to reach the peak power in the test was significantly shorter for the lower extremities as opposed to the upper ones. HRmax in the MMA fighters and their HR during the 1st min of recovery did not differ significantly between the upper and lower extremities (see Table 4) and were lower than the maximum HR values in the loading test (see Table 3).


Table 4.  Wingate test and gas analysis results obtained in MMA fighters, M±SD


Lower extremities

Upper extremities




РР/kg, W/kg






АР/kg, W/kg



tРР, s



VO2 max, ml/kg/min



иМВЛ, l/min/kg



HRmax, bpm



HR, 1st min of recovery, bpm



РР – peak power, АР – average power, tРР – time to reach РР, VO2 max – maximal oxygen consumption, HR – heart rate

**р˂0.01, * р˂0.05.


The psycho-physiological test rates in the MMA fighters indicated the high simple and complex psychomotor reaction rates, as well as the high level of development of the athletes’ ability to withstand intense physical loads (Table 5).


Table 5. Psychophysiological test results obtained in MMA fighters



SVMR, red, ms


CVMR, ms


Tapping test, number of taps


SVMR – simple visual-motor reaction time, CVMR – complex visual-motor reaction time.


Conclusion. The study found the MMA fighters to have fairly high functional and psychomotor response indices and helped identify the factors that limit their success in this sport.



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  4. Zakharova A., Mekhdieva K., Kondratovich S. Physical and Psychophysiological Profiles of Sub-elite Basketball Players Novel Approach to Complex Testing. Proceedings of the 5th International Congress on Sport Sciences Research and Technology Support (icSPORTS 2017), 2017, pp. 132-139.


Corresponding author:



Objective of the study was to profile functional, physical and psycho-physiological qualities in modern elite mixed martial arts. Sampled for the study purposes were the 18-34 year-old (n=9) male MMA competitors who were tested at the pre-season training stage. The sample functionality was tested by the body components testing Tanita (Japan-made) Test system; HR variability testing RAMENA (Russia-made) test system; physical working capacity testing (Schiller AG Switzerland-made) test system; anaerobic capacity testing COSMED (Italy-made) test system; speed-strength testing MONARK (Sweden/ Italian TechnoGym made) test system; plus Neurosoft (Russia-made) psychophysiological test system. The sample was tested with fairly high speed-strength, speed and psychomotor response indices and fair aerobic working capacity indices on the one hand. On the other hand, however, the tests showed some underdevelopment of the respiratory and muscular systems; plus the tensed functionality of the body regulation systems in the sample.