As a UFC champion, Leon Edwards has risen to the top of his game through hard work, skill, and determination. And one key factor that sets him apart from other fighters is his impressive cardio abilities.

In MMA, having strong cardiovascular endurance is crucial for success in the Octagon. It allows fighters to maintain high intensity throughout the entire fight, outlasting their opponents and securing victory. And Leon Edwards has proven time and time again that his cardio is top-notch.

But how does he do it? What’s his secret to mastering cardio in the Octagon? Let’s look closely at Leon Edwards’ cardio workout and strategies.

The Significance of Cardio In MMA

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a physically demanding sport that requires the competitor to be well-rounded in various disciplines, such as striking, grappling, and wrestling. But there’s one aspect of training that is often overlooked – cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular fitness or cardio is the ability of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels to supply oxygen-rich blood to working muscles during physical activity. This fitness component plays a significant role in MMA, allowing fighters to sustain high-intensity movements for extended periods.

This is also what is commonly referred to as stamina, i.e. a fighter’s ability to both take and deal damage while remaining active throughout the full duration of a fight. In the octagon, fights typically last for three rounds of five minutes each or five rounds of five minutes each, usually in championship bouts.

During these rounds, fighters must constantly move and engage in explosive bursts of energy. The more active a fighter is, the more stamina they will use up in each round, hence making cardio an essential factor in their performance and their ability to go the full distance in a fight. Poor cardio usually manifests itself in a fighter getting worn down or “gassed out”, becoming less and less active as a fight progresses.

This is a problem that UFC welterweight contender Leon Edwards does not really have. In fact, he is known for his exceptional cardio and conditioning, which has proven to be a significant advantage in many of his fights. In an interview, he mentioned prioritizing cardio workouts that are even more rigorous than the demands of actual MMA bouts, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuits.

Moreover, having good cardiovascular fitness also allows fighters to recover quickly between rounds, which is crucial in gaining an edge over their opponents. As a fight drags on and exhaustion sets in, the fighter with better cardio can maintain their pace and will often outlast their opponent.

Related article: Add Fire To Your Burning Cardio Workout

Leon Edwards’ Cardio Workout Regimen

Leon Edwards, the UFC Welterweight fighter, is known for his impressive cardiovascular endurance and stamina inside the Octagon. His ability to maintain a high pace throughout the fight has helped him secure multiple victories in the UFC. Cardio has remained a consistent feature in his road to champion at the very top of the UFC welterweight division.

So, what exactly does Leon’s cardio workout regimen look like? Let’s dive deeper into the specific cardio exercises and training he incorporates into his routine that continue to yield such high dividends.

Sparring And Drilling

Sparring and drilling are crucial components of an MMA fighter’s training routine. They are typically thought to improve technique, reaction times, and precision. But they also contribute to overall cardiovascular development. The intensity and structure of these sessions play a significant role in preparing fighters for the physical demands of a real fight. For Leon Edwards, these sessions are essential for maintaining his high level of conditioning and endurance in the octagon, and cementing his place at the very top of his division.

Intensity of Sparring Sessions

Sparring sessions are simulated fights where fighters face off against each other with varying degrees of intensity. In Leon Edwards’ training, sparring sessions can range from light to full-contact rounds, depending on his upcoming fight and the opponent he is training to face. These sessions help him improve his reflexes, footwork, and striking accuracy while building his stamina and endurance to go the full distance in each new fight. The intensity of sparring sessions also allows him to train his mind and body for the unpredictability of a real fight, without compromising his ability to initiate attacks as well as countering them.

Structure of Drilling Exercises

Drilling exercises involve repetitive practice of specific techniques, combinations, or movements. In Leon Edwards’ training, these drills focus on areas that need improvement or fine-tuning. They can also simulate certain scenarios or situations that may arise in a fight. Drilling exercises help improve muscle memory and increase endurance and cardiovascular capacity. Leon Edwards’ training camp carefully structures these drills to balance intensity and recovery, allowing him to push his limits while avoiding burnout.

Cardiac Development Through Sustained Intensity

Sparring and drilling exercises’ intense and repetitive nature challenges the cardiovascular system, leading to cardiac function and endurance improvements. The constant movement, changes in pace, and combination of striking techniques all contribute to increased heart rate and improved blood flow. These sessions also incorporate short rest periods, mimicking the intensity of a real fight where fighters need to recover quickly between rounds.

Over time, this type of training leads to improved cardiovascular health and performance in the octagon. Very often, Leon, like many other top-tier athletes, will initiate sparring and drilling sessions that are significantly longer than the average MMA round. This allows him to develop his cardio under durations that are much longer than a real fight, thereby becoming an even more formidable force in the relatively shorter durations inside the octagon.

Related article: How does Sparring Improve fighting skills?

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval Training, also known as HIIT, is a type of exercise routine consisting of short bursts of high-intensity exercises followed by brief rest or lower-intensity exercises. This training method has gained popularity recently due to its numerous benefits, especially for MMA fighters like Leon Edwards. In this blog, we will delve into the concept of HIIT and how it has helped Edwards in his training.

The main principle behind HIIT is to push the body to its limits during short bursts of intense exercises, followed by periods of rest or active recovery. This type of training improves cardiovascular health and enhances overall physical performance. The high-intensity intervals help improve endurance, speed, and power, while the brief rest periods allow faster recovery between sets. This makes HIIT an ideal training method for MMA fighters who require strength, endurance, and agility.

Leon Edwards, a top-ranked UFC welterweight fighter, is known to have a visibly impressive cardio conditioning inside the Octagon. His intense training routine includes various HIIT exercises such as sprints, plyometrics, and circuit training. These high-intensity workouts improve his cardiovascular fitness and help build the explosive power and speed required in MMA fights. Edwards also incorporates active recovery periods between sets, which allows him to maintain a high level of performance throughout his training. By extension, he is able to keep up the pressure on his opponents inside the octagon, and make it extremely difficult for the other fighter to his pace.

One of the main advantages of HIIT for MMA fighters is that it mimics the intensity and duration of a real fight without the risk of serious injuries that one can sustain in sparring. As MMA fights typically consist of short bursts of intense activity followed by brief rest periods, HIIT-focused training allows fighters to build endurance specific to their sport. This type of conditioning also helps improve mental toughness as fighters learn to push through fatigue and keep up with the fast-paced nature of actual MMA fights.

Moreover, HIIT is a time-efficient training method, perfect for fighters like Edwards with demanding schedules. With only 20-30 minutes of intense exercise, HIIT can provide the same benefits as longer traditional cardio workouts. Plus, the variety of exercises that can be incorporated into a HIIT routine keeps training interesting and challenging for fighters while helping them cut weight much faster than a traditional workout.

High-Intensity Interval Training is a crucial aspect of Leon Edwards’ training routine that has helped him become one of the top MMA fighters in the world. HIIT has improved his cardio conditioning, endurance, speed, and power by incorporating short bursts of intense exercises and active recovery periods. It’s no wonder that he has missed weight only once in his MMA career.

Related article: 5 HIIT Workouts That You Can Do With Jump Rope

Outdoor Cardio Workouts

One of the key components of Edwards’ outdoor cardio training is running. But rather than just sticking to traditional road or treadmill running, he likes to mix things up by incorporating sprints, hill runs, and long-distance trails into his routine. These variations challenge him physically and keep his workouts interesting and engaging.

Another staple in Edwards’ outdoor cardio workouts is cycling. He often goes on long-distance bike rides, sometimes covering over 50 miles in a single session. Cycling helps improve his cardiovascular endurance and works out different muscle groups, providing a full-body workout.

Apart from running and cycling, Edwards also includes plyometric exercises such as jump squats, burpees, and box jumps in his outdoor workouts. These explosive movements help improve power and speed while challenging the cardiovascular system.

Advantages of Outdoor Training for Cardio Fitness

There are numerous benefits to incorporating outdoor cardio training into your fitness routine, and Edwards knows this all too well. One significant advantage is the constantly changing terrain and weather conditions that can make workouts more challenging and mimic real-life situations. This prepares Edwards for any unforeseen challenges he may face in the Octagon.

Additionally, outdoor training exposes Edwards to fresh air and natural surroundings, which can help improve mental health and reduce stress levels. Training outdoors also means he is not confined to a gym setting, providing him with more space and freedom to move around and experiment with different exercises.

Moreover, outdoor cardio training also allows for a full-body workout instead of just working on a specific muscle group. This is because many outdoor activities, such as hiking, swimming, and rock climbing, use multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Importance of Endurance in the Octagon

MMA fights have three 5-minute rounds (for non-title fights) and five 5-minute rounds (for title fights). That means fighters must have enough stamina to last 15-25 minutes inside the Octagon. This requires not only physical strength but also mental toughness and resilience. Endurance allows a fighter to keep going, even when their body and mind are tired.

Besides helping fighters maintain their energy levels throughout the fight, cardio also improves overall physical health, mobility, and conditioning, thereby reducing the risk of injuries. It strengthens the heart, boosts metabolism, and increases endurance – all crucial for MMA athletes who need to be in top shape for an opponent that is also a professional MMA fighter.

Cardio Training for MMA

MMA training involves various cardio forms, such as sparring, grappling, and striking. However, Leon Edwards takes his cardio training a step further by incorporating specific workouts that target the energy systems used in MMA fights – aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercises focus on building endurance and improving oxygen delivery to muscles, while anaerobic exercises aim to improve power and speed. Leon’s approach ensures that he has both the stamina to sustain long fights and the explosiveness needed in quick bursts during a fight. Some of the cardio exercises he includes in his training are running, cycling, and circuit training.

Strategies in the Octagon

Aside from his impressive cardio abilities, Leon Edwards has a strategic approach to each fight. He is known for his precise striking and effective ground game, but he also has a calculated fighting style.

Leon takes the time to study his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and then creates a plan that matches his strengths while exploiting his opponent’s vulnerabilities. This allows him to conserve energy and make calculated moves throughout the fight rather than constantly exerting himself.

This strategic approach and his superior cardio abilities have helped Leon become an unstoppable force in the Octagon.

Leon’s Nutrition And Recovery

Nutrition and recovery are two key factors that play a crucial role in maintaining optimal cardio health. To achieve peak performance, athletes like Leon Edwards focus on training and exercise and pay close attention to their nutrition and recovery strategies. This section will discuss the importance of nutrition and recovery for cardio health and look closely at how Leon Edwards incorporates these elements into his routine.

Nutrition and Cardio Health

Proper nutrition is essential for maintaining optimal cardio health. Our food provides the necessary energy and nutrients for our bodies to function properly, including our cardiovascular system. A balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help keep your heart and blood vessels in shape. Additionally, certain nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and potassium have been shown to specifically benefit cardiovascular health.

Leon Edwards’ Diet

Leon Edwards is known for his strict diet regimen, which he follows religiously to maintain peak physical condition. He fuels his body with nutrient-dense foods such as lean proteins (chicken, fish), complex carbohydrates (brown rice, sweet potatoes), and plenty of fruits and vegetables. He also incorporates healthy fats into his diet through avocados and nuts. This well-rounded approach ensures he gets all the nutrients for optimal cardio health.

Related article: Nutrition Guide to Refuel and Reclaim After Tough Fights

Recovery and Cardio Health

Apart from nutrition, recovery is vital in maintaining optimal cardio health. After intense training sessions or competitions, giving your body time to rest and recover is essential. This allows your muscles and cardiovascular system to repair and grow stronger. Ignoring recovery can lead to overtraining, fatigue, and increased risk of injury.

Leon Edwards’ Recovery Strategies

In addition to proper nutrition, Leon Edwards also prioritises his recovery. He ensures getting sufficient sleep each night and incorporates active recovery activities like swimming and yoga into his routine. He also uses foam rolling and massage therapy to aid in muscle recovery. Caring for his body’s recovery needs enables him to maintain peak performance without risking burnout or injury.

How Can Young Athletes Train Like Edwards?

Incorporating a jump rope, a speed bag, sandbags, and a duffle bag into your cardio routine can effectively enhance your endurance, agility, and overall cardiovascular fitness. To emulate a cardio routine similar to UFC Champ Leon Edwards, consider the following exercises and techniques:

Jump Rope

  • Warm-up: Begin your workout with 5-10 minutes of jump rope to elevate your heart rate and warm up your muscles.
  • Interval Training: Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with the jump rope. Alternate between 1-2 minutes of intense jumping and 30 seconds of rest for several rounds.
  • Footwork Drills: Mimic the footwork of a fighter by incorporating lateral jumps, high knees, and double-unders. This helps improve agility and coordination.

Related article: A Guide To Choosing The Right Skipping Rope Length

Speed Bag

  • Hand-Eye Coordination: Practise rhythmic punching on the speed bag to improve hand-eye coordination and timing. Start with basic combinations and gradually increase the complexity.
  • Interval Rounds: Set up rounds of 2-3 minutes on the speed bag, simulating the intensity of a fight. Use active recovery between rounds, such as shadow boxing or light jogging.


  • Functional Strength: Incorporate sandbag exercises like squats, lunges, and overhead presses for functional strength training with sandbag. The shifting weight of the sandbag engages stabilising muscles.
  • Cardio Circuits: Integrate sandbag slams and throws into your routine for explosive power and cardio conditioning. Perform these exercises in quick, intense bursts.

Duffle Bag

  • Store Your Equipment: You can use a duffle bag to store your equipment. With separate compartments you can keep your things securely. And you can also use this bag for some of your workouts.
  • Weighted Exercises: Fill the duffle bag with moderate weight and use it for exercises like weighted squats, lunges, and twists to add resistance to your cardio routine.
  • Carry Drills: Hold the duffle bag in different positions (front carry, shoulder carry) and walk or jog for a set distance or time. This engages multiple muscle groups and enhances endurance.

General Tips

  • Circuit Training: Combine these exercises in a circuit format, moving from one to the next with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated.
  • Progressive Intensity: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to challenge your cardiovascular system and promote continuous improvement.
  • Rest and Recovery: Ensure proper rest between intense sessions to allow your body to recover and prevent overtraining.

Remember to tailor the intensity and duration based on your fitness level, gradually increasing the challenge as you progress. Always consult a fitness professional or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.

Final Words

Leon Edwards is an accomplished MMA fighter known for his impressive cardio and striking ability. His training regimen includes sparring sessions, cardio training, HIIT and drilling exercises, contributing to his cardiovascular development. Leon Edwards’ mastery of cardio and strategic approach to fighting has undoubtedly contributed to his success as a UFC champion.

By incorporating various exercises into his training regimen and utilising calculated strategies in the Octagon, he has solidified himself as one of the top fighters in the MMA world. Leon Edwards’ fight-ready cardio strategies combine hard work, dedication, and intelligent training.

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