For instance, why are there no MMA guys over 62 that can win championships? Is it that MMA techniques no longer work once you reach a certain age when fighting a competitive opponent? What is the deal? For example should MMA schools post a disclaimer that these skill wear off after a few years?
It is also a simple fact of aging. You could look at any sport, and see the same thing. Champions in any sport at extended ages are outliers. Some examples of these outliers would be:
- Al Oerter - Olympic Champion in track and field, winning medals in events into his mid 40's
- Gordie Howe - NHL player, played in 5 decades, last game at 52 (All Star electee that year as well)
- George Blanda - 26 NFL seasons, last season at age 48
There are many more examples in various sports (Ken Shamrock), but at some point, everyone starts losing muscle mass, reaction times slow down, etc. For a sport like MMA where there is a lot of reaction/reflex activity, that is a critical point. If you take a 50 year old and a 24 year old of equal ability and statistics (height/weight/reach, and so on), the 24 year old will win the majority of the time simply due to the fact of being younger.
There are also senior competitions, and age graded competitions where you compete against people of similar rank and age. In these you will find champions of all ages, it's up to you to decide if they have validity.
If you compete in MMA for long enough you will get hurt. Every time you are gambling with your health. If you start competing young you won't get to be good when you are old. Or rather, you may be a good instructor or a good coach but you will never be a good competitor with the damage. If you start competing old, you may struggle to learn the techniques.
You do get plenty of older martial artist in the traditional styles. I have had instructors in their 30s 40s 50s and yes even in their 60s. One instructor is able to to axe kicks at 70... Why he does axe kicks I have no idea as no-one else in the style does but I digress.
Another way of looking at it is this: How many 61 year old soccer players are there? Why should martial arts be any different?
Techniques require speed and power (some more than others)
Take a technique like a straight punch at range to the face. To land this punch, the attacker need speeds to move across distance to reach the target before defense can be employed. As a younger person, it may be sufficient to increase speed and power to be successful. If you are faster than everyone else, you can defeat defenses and be successful with punches at distance. As speed declines with age, a simple attack strategy built around the straight punch at range fails because defenses can react in time.
Strategy must be different with strength or speed deficiencies
If you are stronger and faster than your opponents, your fighting strategy can be simple and direct like the straight punch at range to the face. If not, you need different strategies. For example, the opponent may focus on attacking your face, but you attack the hands, which require you to cover less distance. Or you focus on redirecting an initial attack to close and attack with combinations that rely more on thought speed than physical speed.
Body maintenance is essential
To be able to fight into old age, it is essential that the body be maintained. If you shuffle around like a crippled old man, no fighting techniques you have learned will be of use to you because you will not have the power to apply them anymore. Note especially that practices that were successful in developing strength or speed in youth may be detrimental in the long term if they result in damage.
Championship capability in old age
My personal experience is that yes, martial ability can be maintained into old age. I have had instructors in their late 70's who were completely capable of defeating much younger and physically stronger fighters. But even these people think their younger selves were more capable than their older selves.
Martial arts school attendance in general peaks sometime around age 17 or 18. Then it falls off. By the time you reach age 62, you'll be lucky to find even a single competitor.
This has to do with the fact that, for most people, their life changes when they head off to college or enter the workforce. They can no longer prioritize martial arts highly. Then when they get married and have kids, only a vanishingly small percentage of people still pursue martial arts training. The demands of their lives as well as their interests change over time.
That doesn't say anything about MMA not being effective for older people, or that older people don't retain skills learned in MMA practice. That's certainly not the case. There are a number of older MMA competitors that have higher skill level than much younger practitioners.
That said, older MMA practitioners will not have the same level of physical ability that much younger students have. And that's just because of what happens naturally as we age. We become more susceptible to bruising. We don't recover as quickly. We can't exert ourselves as much. We have joint pain and tendonitis as a result of years of damage and simply getting older. Our backs, elbows, shoulders, and knees give out on us. We don't put on muscle as fast or as much. We have higher levels of body fat. All of this is normal as we age, and it all works against us when compared against younger practitioners.
It takes a special kind of person to stick around into their 60's in MMA. Most will drop out long before that. Again, it has to do with changing life priorities, but also because it's hard on an older person's body. There are more gentle ways of staying in shape as we age. And the motivation to be a fighter fades over time due to a number of factors, some social / psychological, and some biological.
But aging effects are largely irrelevant in MMA competition, because of age brackets. Presumably your competition is in the same age category as you are. So that's not a big factor. It only becomes a big factor if a 62 year old is fighting a 25 year old.
Hope that helps!