As the sport of MMA becomes more and more popular, I’m continually asked whether Boxing or MMA is more effective when it comes to training, self-defence and fitness. The truth is, it’s all situational.
Both MMA and Boxing can be effective depending on what you set out to accomplish. Although there are pros and cons to training both, MMA training will typically create a more well-rounded fighter because of the stand-up and ground training involved.
When you pit a boxing virtuoso against an MMA master in a boxing match, the former will almost always be guaranteed to be the victor. In the same way, if the fight takes place in an MMA cage, it’s easy to see the latter claim the win.
That has been proven repeatedly, with the most concrete proof coming on the world stage. These events showed us how distinct these two sports are and how your skills in one won’t necessarily translate well to the other.
A story is told as time AKA MMA vs. Boxing. Since UFC 1 was an infant, the comparisons between MMA and boxing have been hotly debated.
Who could forget Joe Rogan and Lou DiBella showing up on ESPN to defend the merits of their respective sports? Look up that several minute yell fest for a taste of the passion both MMA and Boxing have in their fandom.
This post is not about that, though.
Boxers are better when it comes to boxing. However, MMA fighters are better when it comes to MMA. In a fight without rules, MMA is far better because MMA fighters are familiar with more styles (standing or ground styles), while boxers can only utilize their hands.
So, which should you choose? First, we’ll look at how effective boxing and MMA areas fighting styles are. In doing so, you can see where you measure up better in terms of self-defence, training, and fitness.
MMA Vs. Boxing: Which Is The More Effective Style?
One thing that most people don’t realize is that MMA isn’t just one form of training. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the practice of various martial arts (such as Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) that date back throughout history.
In addition, not all martial arts are created equally in cage fighting, with some being more effective than others when it comes to MMA. So when I talk about MMA training, I’m assuming that a person is well versed with various martial arts training.
Although training at an MMA gym is ideal if you dream of becoming an MMA fighter, boxing is still a very useful skillset that can be used in MMA.
Boxing is a great skill set to learn because it teaches fighters head movement and proper footwork technique. It’s also extremely effective in self-defence situations, as most fights start standing up.
Boxing is a sport studied throughout history and even evolved to where MMA fighters such as Conor McGregor specialize in boxing techniques.
What is MMA?
MMA is an abbreviation for mixed martial arts (1). It is a combat sport where competitors attempt to dominate each other using finishing holds, control, and striking. In MMA fighting, fighters can use:
- Joint locking
To win an MMA fight, a fighter can knock out their opponent, get the opponent to submit, or have the referee stop the match. MMA can describe any martial arts style that uses techniques and theories from several different martial arts.
MMA has few rules, although modern fights have more rules than old-school MMA fights. It’s also an ongoing debate about which style of fighting is the best martial arts.
What is Boxing?
Situations in which two people fight with their hands to demonstrate their power and strength have been known since the dawn of civilization. The rules varied a lot, from the form and length of the game to gloves, rules, etc.
Often these fights were brutal and even deadly.
The first rules of boxing in modern times date back to London in the 18th century, where the rules were defined that defined the fighting space, prohibiting blows to the head and below…
In 1867, the Marquis of Queensberry published systematic rules of fighting according to the Londoner’s Rules, and today these “Queensberry Rules” are considered the first official boxing rules.
These rules mandated three-minute rounds, ring size, no below-the-belt movement, and other unsportsmanlike moves and enacted most of the rules that still exist in the boxing world today.
Today, there are two basic branches of boxing: amateur boxing (often called Olympic boxing), practised at the Olympics, and professional boxing, administered by several different boxing federations.
Each federation sets its own specific rules about ranking boxers and the routes to winning titles, although fundamentally, boxing rules are very similar, if not identical.
What’s the Difference?
There are several major differences in the two sports that you can break down into the following categories:
Boxing gear depends on the level of the fighter. More often than not, boxers only have boxing shorts, shoes, mouthguards, and gloves. Some amateur boxers may use padded helmets for fighting or practice. While training, boxers use speed and heavy bags when they’re not sparring.
MMA is a full-contact sport, so they don’t use gear during fights. Their gloves are a lot smaller and more flexible than Boxing gloves. The best way to prepare for an MMA fight is to spar, although there are other training methods.
The two sports have extremely different rules. MMA fighters can use any body part to injure their opponent, with very few strikes off-limits. The sport tends to feature intensive grappling. Some MMA fights can quickly become full-blown wrestling matches.
In boxing, the fighters must remain upright and have limited good strikes. As a result, boxers can show off their technical expertise in most fights, while an MMA fighter may not get to use even half of their arsenal in a single match. Additionally, clinching is much more acceptable in MMA than in boxing.
The rounds also differ. While boxing has a certain number of three-minute rounds, MMA fights have either three or five five-minute rounds.
Finally, MMA fighting often results in more open wounds, broken bones, and blood. While both sports are dangerous, MMA takes a serious toll on the fighters’ bodies.
However, according to The Fighting Report, “boxing rules allow fighters to sustain serious injuries like concussions and permanent brain trauma. These injuries are less visible but can be far more serious than a bloody nose or broken arm.” (5)
Boxing in MMA
Many people don’t realize that MMA is a blend of different disciplines in one sport. It’s called Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) because its practice uses several forms of martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai.
Before you get into MMA training, you have to, at least, have some form of knowledge and know-how to perform several martial art forms. Plus, even when you possess a certain degree of expertise, you must bear in mind that the forms you’re well-versed in might not necessarily be the best for cage fighting.
Although there is likely no better place to hone your MMA fighting skills than in an MMA gym, a boxing facility can still help you develop a useful skill set that furthers your MMA progress.
What’s great about boxing is that it teaches fighters proper footwork and head movement, which are critical in cage fights. Also, since boxing matches start with competitors standing up, it’s an excellent discipline for developing an effective self-defence strategy.
Boxing is an ancient sport that’s been excessively studied throughout history. Today, it has even become a crucial MMA sub-skill, with some of the world’s most prized fighters constantly honing their boxing technique to enhance their defensive and counter-attacking game.
Boxing Vs. MMA: Who Would Win?
In a fight with no rules or MMA rules, an MMA fighter beats a boxer in similar weight classes. There may be a different outcome if we are talking Mike Tyson vs. 135 lb semi-professional MMA fighter.
But if we are strictly talking two professionals (e.g. McGregor vs. Mayweather), then an MMA fighter always beats the boxer.
Now, under a boxing ruleset, a boxer wins. However, a boxer’s advantage of honing a specific skillset for years on end is too great to overcome for an MMA fighter who has to spread their training time over several martial arts.
People become fascinated when they see professional fighters fighting for titles on TV. However, many people cannot tell one martial art from the other. For a layperson, both boxing and MMA may look the same. But there is a huge difference between MMA and boxing.
MMA or Boxing, What’s Better for Self-Defense?
Both MMA and Boxing are great skillsets to know when it comes to self-defence and various real-life situations. Boxing will allow someone to prepare for most stand-up situations, as the focus is on spacing, timing, and reading your opponent for the use of your hands.
Every fight starts standing up (well, almost every night), and boxing is one of the best skills to have in a fight because of this very reason.
However, the fight gets to the ground when the boxing technique becomes almost useless. MMA is much more adaptable to a wide variety of skills and techniques.
When you train MMA, you are constantly dealing with punches, kicks, and takedowns all of the time. Suppose you get taken down while training MMA.
You’re expected to have a variety of options from your back. If it’s a stand-up fight, then you’re trained on defending yourself not only against punches but also kicks, knees, and elbows.
Boxing is the exact opposite in this regard. Boxers only train their hands, which means they are susceptible to kicks, takedowns, submissions, you name it. I’m not saying boxing is useless in a street fight. However, training MMA will give someone more of a toolkit to prepare for various unarmed self-defence situations.
The moment a boxer eats a leg-kick, they’ll be contemplating their livelihood. If your goal is to win a street fight, then MMA is your best option.
If you are training strictly for self-defence purposes, I recommend joining an MMA gym or training a combination of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Boxing. Muay Thai and Boxing training will help you in stand-up situations, while Jiu-Jitsu will give you the skillset needed to incase any fight goes to the ground (which it most likely will).
MMA vs Boxing – Most Effective for Street Fighting
In a street fight with no rules, an MMA fighter would most likely win, depending on a few factors. An MMA fighter can employ kicks, elbow and knee strikes, and takedowns. Boxers have little experience in this area, having only punching and dodging in their arsenal.
A boxer can employ an aggressive strategy, such as knocking their opponent out before they have a chance to fight and win that way. However, an MMA fighter can avoid this outcome with a more varied approach.
Based on historical MMA vs Boxing fights, the MMA fighter’s path to victory includes:
- Attempting a single-leg takedown to avoid punches
- Neutralizing the boxer with wrestling moves
- Staying out of boxing range
- Using leg kicks, since boxers stand widely with one leg in front
However, a boxer can still win if they strategize well. Boxers tend to have stronger punches and better hand speed. If they land some good punches, they can avoid being taken down by the MMA fighter. Boxers also have better footwork. They move in and out to create angles for strong attacks.
Unfortunately, the boxer will be out of luck if the MMA fighter takes the fight to the ground. So the boxer’s main strategy would be to keep the fight upright and stay out of takedown and kicking range.
Which Is Better for Getting Fit: Boxing or MMA?
Both Boxing and MMA are at a level playing field for health and fitness. These combat sports are excellent for conditioning, cardiovascular strength, core strength, and more.
As far as competition goes, boxers are conditioned to have the endurance to last 10 to 12 three-minute rounds. In contrast, MMA involves short-burst fights that last three, five-minute rounds. While boxing does require you to endure longer, it doesn’t entail experiencing a fight with the full weight of your opponent on you.
Whether you choose boxing or MMA for fitness will ultimately depend on your personal preference. However, both these sports involve gruelling training and discipline that will get your body in tip-top shape.
What’s Easier to Learn? MMA or Boxing
There isn’t an easy option when it comes to training combat sports. Both MMA and Boxing will challenge someone in many different ways. Both are gruelling skill sets to learn. I say this because I don’t want to come off as biased.
If you are training in combat sports, you’re in a small minority already badass. Any combat sport can be beneficial depending on how much effort you put into learning the art and technique.
MMA involves both stand-up technique and ground game, which takes much more time to learn when compared to using one form of attack.
Not only do you need to learn how to use various strikes (kicks, elbows, knees, and punches) and submissions, you also need to learn how to defend against these strikes and submissions as well. For example, every MMA fighter is expected to check a low kick.
Boxing is much easier to learn than MMA because you’re strictly focusing on just your hands. Of course, in boxing, you also learn how to defend, typically through bobbing and weaving.
Footwork is something boxing trainers also stress the importance of. However, these techniques aren’t nearly as helpful when involving kicks and takedowns.
The biggest weakness in training boxing is that you’re ignoring 50% of your body (lower half), which any intelligent MMA fighter would exploit in a fight.
MMA is a masterful chess game, while boxing is more like checkers.
Should You Train MMA or Boxing?
Both MMA and Boxing share many similarities. However, both are completely different combat sports in many aspects. When it comes to which martial art you should train, the answer isn’t necessarily which fighting style is better.
If you decide which martial art to choose, we believe it’s important to decide which martial art is more appealing to you personally.
Do you want to focus on only punching, or do you want to add kicks, knees, elbows, takedowns, and submissions to your toolkit?
If you’re someone who is simply looking for the best fighting style, then we highly suggest learning as many martial arts as you can to become a well-rounded fighter.
Which Combat Sport Should You Go For?
Although MMA and boxing share many similarities, they are two completely distinct sports in several aspects. As far as which, combat sport suits you. You don’t always need to look at the “better” fighting style for the answer.
When choosing between these fighting styles, consider your goals and what appeals to you personally. While it’s tempting to choose the scientifically backed option to have the edge in self-defence, training, and fitness, sometimes you have to go with what your heart tells you.
Whether that ends up being MMA or boxing, trust that you can’t go wrong with either.
Is Boxing The Most Effective Martial Art?
Also known as “the sweet science”, boxing has been refined and perfected for thousands of years. It utilizes head movements, footwork, and punches to form a very efficient striking system. This system is also widely considered one of the most effective self-defence methods.
Is MMA Harder Than Boxing?
While both boxing and MMA are intense workouts that take practice and dedication to excel at, MMA is harder because it is a more diverse mix of martial arts.
Why Is UFC More Popular Than Boxing?
The fighters get paid astronomic figures compared to any other combat sportsmen. Also, the fan base is a lot more worldwide, as there are organizations and champions worldwide. That might be one reason why UFC and MMA are on the rise, while boxing is stagnating, even starting to drop slightly.
Which Is More Brutal Boxing Or MMA?
Mixed martial arts is one of the most brutal and bloody of all contact sports. Still, the reality is boxing poses a greater risk of serious injury, according to new research from the University of Alberta.
Why Do Boxing Fighters Earn More Than MMA?
If a fighter can generate more money by selling more tickets and pay-per-views, they are worth more. Currently, more people are willing to shell out more money to see a high-level boxing match than a high-level MMA fight. As this changes, the money will change.
- Find a gym. Boxing gyms aren't typically found in the yellow pages, but there are resources on the internet that can lead you in the right direction. ...
- Be sure the gym is within striking distance. ...
- Be open-minded. ...
- Choose your coach carefully. ...
- Do judge the gym by its cover.
So, can boxing be self-taught? Boxing can be self-taught but it's not the quickest and most effective way to become better at the sport because you aren't able to tap into the knowledge of a boxing coach who would be able to help you one to one.
Best Age to Start
Specialists in sports medicine believe that boxing classes are better to start from 9-10 years. Starting too early could result in putting the student off, as boxing is hard work and not always as fun as team sports, such as football or rugby.