Boxing and MMA are both popular sports with millions of fans worldwide. They share some common traits but are still vastly different, with different sets of strengths and weaknesses. Whether you are curious about who would win in a fight or are deciding which combat sport you would like to learn, read on for how these two arts stack up.
The art of boxing, combatting an opponent exclusively with punches, is millennia old, with evidence of its practice dating back to ancient Sumer and Egypt. In the modern era, boxing has been a persisting favorite for over a century, rising in popularity with the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Currently, a third of Americans consider themselves fans of the Sweet Science. Many of the biggest historical and current champions are even household names for the vast majority of people.
Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is a more recent invention, only dating back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1980 with the founding of the Tough Guy Contest, nearly a decade before its rise to fame with the UFC. Since the 1990s, MMA has skyrocketed in popularity.
MMA fighters train in a range of martial arts from around the world and throughout history, resulting in the potential for an extremely well-rounded fighter. Boxing skill sets are often included in MMA training, with some MMA fighters, like Conor McGregor and Alexander Gustafsson, even specializing in boxing.
Now, lets go over the pros and cons of MMA Vs Boxing:
Pros of MMA
Cons of MMA
- Difficult to master
- Slow to learn
Pros of Boxing
- Defense against strikes
- Quicker to master
Cons of Boxing
- Limited stance
- Weak against kicks
- Weak against grappling
- More dangerous
Who Would Win?
Ultimately, boxers are better at boxing and MMA fighters are better at MMA. When you put an MMA fighter into the octagon facing a boxer of the same weight class, the MMA fighter typically wins.
Boxers are inexperienced at guarding against any strike that doesn’t come from the hands, and their limited stance means they often struggle to defend against kicks, resulting in their struggling to remain standing when an MMA fighter lands multiple kicks on the same spot. Once the fight goes to the ground, boxers are almost guaranteed to struggle and ultimately fail.
On the other hand, in a boxing match, an MMA fighter is likely to tire more quickly than a boxer and face more fouls because they are likely to struggle to use only strikes for the duration of the match. If the MMA fighter isn’t prepared to deal with a boxer’s techniques, and the boxer is able to get in their strong hits, then the fight can be ended pretty quickly.
Boxers often have the advantage of speed because they develop their punches to be strong and fast and they train heavily in footwork and evasive head movement. Boxers’ bread and butter are jabs, which are excellent for distracting an opponent. After all, it’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you out.
Where boxing fails is when the fight goes to the ground. A pure boxer has no training to deal with a fight that turns to grappling.
In a street fight, the story could end a little differently. A boxer could easily use their greater speed and focus on powerful punches to quickly end a brawl before an MMA fighter has a chance to take the fight to their strengths.
If you want to get good at a martial art quickly, boxing is probably a better fit than MMA. The more honed focus of boxing on purely upright hand strikes allows one to become as competent in boxing over a course of three months as they could over years of MMA training. Take a look below at the differences in training for MMA compared to boxing.
MMA’s broad focus is its strength as well as its weakness, as it will be much more difficult to learn such a wide range of knowledge than to focus on the distilled techniques of boxing.
MMA is unquestionably more well-rounded than boxing. Rather than focusing only on punching the opponent from a standing position, MMA fighters also train in takedowns and submissions, kicks, and knee and elbow attacks as well. MMA practitioners often study jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and taekwondo. On top of that, boxing, with all of its strengths, can also be a core component of MMA training.
MMA’s strength is also its weakness; MMA focuses on such a wide variety of techniques that it is possible to spread their training too thin and not be adequately prepared against some of the fighting styles they may meet in the octagon or on the street. MMA covers such a wide variety of skill sets that it can be a huge challenge and time commitment to learn.
Like any martial art, MMA is an excellent tool to achieve physical fitness, comprising core strength and cardio training. However, it has a slight disadvantage against boxing due to the fact that MMA fighters train to fight for shorter bursts of time.
Training in boxing is excellent for endurance and physical fitness. Boxers train for up to fifteen three-minute rounds, granting excellent stamina and cardio fitness.
Although it is certainly a challenging art, some people may find boxing a little easier to learn than MMA simply because it deals exclusively in punches. No worrying about throwing kicks or mastering grappling techniques. Boxing equips the practitioner to achieve deep mastery of a few effective techniques.
People tend to think of MMA and boxing as vastly different sports, and they do have definite distinctions, but they have more in common than you may think at first glance.
In boxing, the most basic equipment required is hand wraps and gloves. Beyond that, boxing shoes are helpful for preventing ankle injuries and a jump rope and heavy bag are very useful for training. When you begin sparring, a mouthpiece and groin protection are essential and protective headgear is strongly recommended.
For an MMA practitioner, light gloves that allow the hands freedom for grappling, groin protector, and a mouthguard are required. Chest and leg guards can be useful as well.
Statistically, boxing is more dangerous than MMA. MMA fighters are more likely to sustain injury in general, mostly receiving cuts to the face, but less likely to sustain long-term damage. Boxing has resulted in nearly a thousand deaths and has a high rate of serious head injury, with chances for losing consciousness clocking in at just over 7% as compared to only about 4% in MMA.
Naturally, a part of these statistics is the relative ages of the sports. Organized Boxing has well over a century of history, and safety regulations were slow to develop, but MMA’s record of fewer than twenty deaths in the octagon is still reassuring. Part of this is due to the fact that as MMA was being organized, the developers looked at the mistakes peppering boxing’s history and sought to avoid them.
In MMA, when a competitor can no longer defend themself due to injury, the fight is immediately halted, preventing further damage; however, in boxing, the three knockdown rule means that a boxer can take up to three traumatic brain injuries in just one fight.
Another factor contributing to the higher rate of serious injury in boxing is the fact that strikes are limited to the combatants’ head and upper body, whereas MMA allows much more varied contact. Part of the resulting brain damage common in boxing is that fighters receive such a high volume of strikes to the head.
Both sports can have a match ended by disqualification (DQ), knockout (KO), or technical knockout (TKO), which is when a fighter is no longer defending themself.
Neither MMA nor boxing allows groin attacks, head butting, or hair pulling
In boxing, when a competitor is knocked down, they must rise to their feet before the referee’s ten-count and may not resume action until after the count of eight, whereas in MMA fighting, a knockdown simply results in the fight continuing on the ground.
One main difference in how boxing and MMA are conducted as sports is the difference in round timers. MMA fights are made up of three to five rounds of five minutes each, while boxing matches consist of up to fifteen three-minute rounds. This creates a definite gap in the stamina required for each sport.
In self-defense situations, the best martial art is the one that you can use. Both boxing and MMA are solid choices.
MMA will better prepare you for when a fight goes to the ground, but because most fights begin from standing, boxers can often end a fight before their opponent has the opportunity to take them down. Unfortunately, if a fight does go to the ground, boxing quickly becomes almost completely ineffective, whereas MMA prepares you for all sorts of fighting, from punching and kicking to takedowns, as well as engaging in combat at longer range and grappling in close.
For most people whose goal in martial arts training is purely for self-defense, MMA is a better choice. You will learn to employ and combat a variety of techniques rather than strictly punches, making you better prepared for the unexpected.