Christopher Kirk

DOI Number
First page
Last page


Physiological changes brought about by a person’s aging process are known to negatively affect elite sports performance, but this may be delayed by skill mastery brought about by continued training.  The intersection of these two separate processes causes a potential ‘peak performance window’ in many sports.  Within MMA it has been shown that older competitors are more likely to lose individual bouts, especially due to strikes, and when they win it is most likely to be due to a decision.  It has not been determined whether age has a long-term effect on success in MMA.  This study divided the top 100 competitors in each MMA weight division into 5 ranking groups (RG) and used Bayesian ANOVA (BF10), 95% credible interval plots and Bayesian Kendall’s Tau (BF10) to determine if competitor rankings are affected by their age, and if each division displays a different age profile.  The results found that whilst there is a general pattern of older participants being ranked higher, middleweight was the only division where this was statistically relevant.  It was found, however, that the heavier the mass limit of the division, the older the participants are across each RG.  These results suggest that skill mastery may be of more short-term importance to successful performance in MMA than physiological ability, particularly in the heavier divisions, but physiological decrements effect lighter competitors earlier in their chronological age.  This is potentially due to differing performance requirements between the different divisions.


MMA; aging; peak performance; combat sports; competitive ranking

Full Text:



Allen, S., & Hopkins, W. (2015). Age of peak competitive performance of elite athletes: A systematic review. Sports Medicine, 45(10), 1431-1441.

Baic, M., Karnincic, H., & Sprem, D., (2014). Beginning age, wrestling experience and wrestling peak performance-trends in period 2002-2012. Kinesiology, 46(1), 94-100.

Baker, J., Cote, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Sport-specific practice and the development of expert ´ decision-making in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15(1), 12–25.

Bradbury, J. (2009). Peak athletic performance and ageing: evidence from baseball. Journal of Sport Sciences, 27(6), 599-610.

Brander, J., Egan, E., & Yeung, L. (2014). Estimating the effects of age on NHL player performance, Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports, 10, 241–259.

Bruce, L., Farrow, D., & Raynor, A. (2013). Performance milestones in the development of expertise: are they critical? Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 25, 281-297.

De Beaumont, L., Tremblay, S., Henry, L., Poirier, J., Lassonde, M., & Theoret, H.,(2013). Motor systems alterations in retired former athletes: the role of aging and concussion history. BMC Neurology, 13(1), 109.

Donato, A., Tench, K., Glueck, D., Seals, D., Eskurza, I., & Tanaka, H. (2003). Declines in physiological functional cpacity with age: a longitudinal study in peak swimming performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 94(2), 764-769.

Elmenshawy, A., Machin, D., & Tanaka, H. (2015). A rise in peak performance age in female athletes. Age, 37(3), 57.

Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics. Fourth Edition. Sage:London.

Fightmatrix (2018a, January 15), Current MMA Rankings, Retrieved January 15th 2018, from the World Wide Web:

Fightmatrix (2018b, March 28), FAQ, Retrieved March 28th 2018, from the World Wide Web:

Helsen, W., Starkes, J., & Hodges, N. (1998). Team sports and the theory of deliberate practice, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 20(1), 12-34.

Hopkins, W.G. (2002). A scale of magnitudes for effect statistics. A new view of statistics, Retrieved February 14, 2018 from the World Wide Web:

Hunter, S., Pererira, H., & Keenan, K. (2016). The aging neuromuscular system and motor performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 121(4), 982-995.

Izquierdo, M., Aguado, X., Gonzalez, R., Lopez, J., & Hakkinen, K. (1999). Maximal and explosive force production capacity and balance performance in men of different ages. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 79(3), 260-267.

Kangas, R., Tormakangas, T., Heinonen, A., Alen, M., Suominen, H., Kovanen, V., Laakkonen, E., & Korhonen, M. (2017). Declining physical performance associates with serum fasl, mir-21, and mir-146a in aging sprinters, BioMed Research International.

Kirk, C. (2016a). The influence of age and anthropometric variables on winning and losing in professional mixed martial arts. Facta Universitatis Series Physical Education and Sport, 14(2), 226-236.

Kirk, C. (2016b). Does stature or wingspan length have a positive effect on competitor rankings or attainment of world title bouts in international and elite mixed martial arts? Sport Science Review, 25(1-2), 321-344.

Kirk, C. (2018). Does anthropometry influence technical factors in competitive mixed martial arts? Human Movement 19(2), 46-59.

Korhonen, M., Mero, A., Alen, M., Sipila, S., Hakkinen, K., Liikavainio, T., Viitasalo, J., Haverinen, M., & Suominen, H., (2009), Biomechanical and skeletal muscle determinants of maximum running speed with aging. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41(4), 844-856.

Kovalchik, S., (2014). The older they rise the younger they fall: Age and performance trends in men’s professional tennis from 1991 to 2012. Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports, 10(2), 99–107.

Kovalchik, S., Bane, M., & Reid, M. (2017). Getting to the top: an analysis of 25 years of career rankings trajectories for professional women’s tennis. Journal of Sport Sciences, 35(19), 1904-1910.

Lukacs, A., & Kemeny, F., (2014). Development of different forms of skill learning throughout the lifespan. Cognitive Science, 39(2), 383-404.

Radek, V. (2014). Identification of peak performance age in track and field athletics. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 14(1), 238-251.

Ratcliff, R., McKoon, G., & Thapar, A., (2001). The effects of aging on reaction time in a signal detection task. Psychology and Aging, 16(2), 323-341.

Richmond, E., & Rogol, A., (2014), Traumatic brain injury: Endocrine consequences in children and adults. Endocrine, 45(1), 3-8.

Rittweger, J., Prampero, P., Maffulli, N., & Narici, M., (2009), Sprint and endurance power and aging: An analysis of master athletic world records. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 279(1657), 683-689.

Tanaka, H., & Seals, D., (2003), Invited review: Dynamic exercise performance in masters athletes: Insight into the effects of primary human aging on physiological functional capacity. Journal of Applied Physiology, 95(5), 2152-2162.

Tiruneh, G. (2010). Age and winning professional golf tournaments. Journal of Quantitative Analysis of Sports, 6(1), 1-16.

UFC Fighter Rankings, (2018, March 26), Ultimate Fighting Championships, Retrieved March 28th 2018, from the World Wide Web:

Wetzel, R., & Wagenmakers, E. (2012). A default bayesian hypothesis test for correlations and partial correlations. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 19(6), 1057-1064.

Witnauer, W., Rogers, R., & Saint Onge, J. (2007), Major league baseball career length in the 20th century. Population Research and Policy Review, 26(4), 371-386.

Wilson, R., David, G., Murphy, S., Angilleta, M., Niehaus, A., Hunter, A., & Smith, M., (2017). Skill not athleticism predicts individual variation in match performance of soccer players. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284(1868). 1-9.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN   1451-740X (Print)

ISSN   2406-0496 (Online)