I think it’s safe to say:
Both MMA and Boxing are the two biggest combat sports in the world.
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people tune in each month to watch these sports.
But, to the uninitiated, it can be hard to know the difference between these two titans of combat sports.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. We will take a closer look at MMA Vs Boxing, and break down exactly what the difference is.
Let’s get to it.
What is MMA?
MMA stands for “Mixed Martial Arts”, and, as I’m sure you can guess from the name, incorporates elements from various Martial Arts/ combat sports into one.
The idea of putting different fighting styles into one discipline isn’t anything new. Brazil had Vale Tudo, also known as “no holds barred” fighting, and Bruce Lee famously created Jeet Kune Do, a blending of traditional martial arts into one system.
That said, it wasn’t until the advent of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), that MMA began to take shape as a sport. Similarly, the UFC played a vital role in pushing MMA into the spotlight, eventually becoming the mainstream sport that it is today.
If you’re interested in watching MMA and seeing what it’s all about, I’d recommend reading our guide on where to watch MMA for a breakdown.
What is Boxing?
Boxing has been the pillar of combat sports for a long, long time. Some of the most famous athletes of the past century have been boxers, for example, Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather.
Likewise, some of the most iconic and memorable sporting events in history have been in boxing. Admittedly before my time, the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle“, between George Foreman and Muhammed Ali was one of the most watched sporting events ever at that point in time.
For reference, Rumble in the Jungle occurred 20 years before the UFC first aired on television in America.
So, what is boxing?
Boxing in its simplest form, is two competitors, utilizing punches to either knock their opponent unconscious or otherwise render them unable to continue the fight.
Right then, now we’ve taken a quick look at each sport on a higher level, let’s get into the details and examine the differences between boxing and MMA.
Given that MMA incorporates all of the striking techniques used in boxing, it’s worth discussing boxing first.
Although limited to just the hands, there’s an array of striking techniques that boxers can employ. These consist of jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. While this may not seem like a lot, pulling these off in combinations whilst simultaneously trying to defend, is no easy feat.
Moving onto MMA, where boxing is one of the key foundations, especially given that all fights start on the feat. Aside from the boxing techniques mentioned above, MMA fighters have more strikes to add to their arsenal.
Both kicks and elbows are allowed in MMA. Kicks can be aimed anywhere from the legs up to the head, whereas elbow strikes are most used to the head. These techniques are taken from various martial arts, however, Muay Thai is the main contributing discipline.
Standing and striking are only half the battle in MMA. Fighters must be well versed in grappling as well, to both take their opponent down to the canvas and be able to defend against similar attacks.
Once on the ground, there are a ton of avenues to victory. There are simply too many submissions to name here, but let’s just say there is a lot to learn when it comes to submitting an opponent.
On the other hand, once on the ground, a fighter can opt for the “ground and pound” strategy. Ground and pound is used to describe when one fighter is on top of another in a controlling position, and uses various striking techniques, such as hammer fists, to attack their opponent.
As you can see, there is a lot to take in when it comes to MMA. MMA fighters require a well-rounded skill set in multiple disciplines, whereas boxers can spend their time on the minute details and focus their attention solely on boxing.
It’s worth noting here that every fighter has their style, and they’ll change their stance and style depending on who they’re fighting. For example, if an MMA fighter is competing against a well-known takedown artist, their stance will likely be different compared to if they were fighting a top-class striker.
Given that in MMA, fighters need to defend against such a vast array of attacks and techniques, the fighting stance between the two sports is often very different.
In MMA, you’ll see different fighters utilizing different stances, with their background and their opponent being key factors when deciding on the best MMA stance to use.
Wrestlers or grapplers will often opt for a fairly low base, keeping their weight down and their heads somewhat forward. This in turn allows them to easily attempt a takedown if they see an opening. Similarly, an MMA fighter facing a proficient wrestler will likely utilize a similar stance, allowing them to sprawl in time and stuff the expected takedown attempts.
Another popular stance is the Muay Thai stance, or at least, a modified version of it. The traditional Muay Thai stance leaves the chin somewhat exposed and forces the fighter to stand fairly straight, providing a good opening for takedowns.
A slightly modified version of this stance allows the fighter to keep their chin tucked, whilst not standing too tall. Most MMA fighters utilize this sort of stance, as it offers a good amount of defensive posture, whilst also allowing for big, powerful kicks to be thrown effectively.
Now, with boxing, there are a lot fewer attacks that you can expect to receive. You don’t need to worry about being taken down, nor do you need to be aware of getting caught with an explosive head kick. All the opponent can do is use their hands, and this is the key factor that determines the best way to stand in boxing.
Boxers that use utilize a bladed stance, which is essentially standing almost sideways to your opponent, would have a hard time dealing with leg kicks in MMA. However, in boxing, this works extremely well. Floyd Mayweather famously uses a similar stance and is commonly heralded as the best defensive boxer of all time (given the fact he’s never lost, it’s probably a fair comment).
With all that said, whether in boxing or MMA, each fighter brings something different in the way that they stand. Some have wide stances, others narrow, some fighters keep their hands up, and others (questionably) don’t. This is what makes combat sports so interesting, as the saying goes, styles make fights.
Although similar sports, the two use slightly different equipment that I’ll discuss below.
In terms of professional boxing, the gloves fighters wear will either weigh 8oz or 10oz. The weight of the gloves depends on their weight class, with any fighter from Super Welterweight and above using 10oz gloves. Professional MMA fighters, on the other hand, use 4oz gloves across all weight classes, which of course, have far less padding.
Aside from the glaring size difference, the two feature very different designs.
Given that an MMA fighter needs to be able to hold onto their opponent, MMA gloves are much more flexible and feature an open palm design. Whereas a boxing glove encases the whole hand up to the wrist.
Boxing gloves simply wouldn’t work in MMA. It would be virtually impossible to grapple, both due to the size of the glove and the fact that your hand is cased in padding, making it impossible to grip.
Similarly, it would be senseless to use 4oz MMA gloves in boxing. They offer much less protection, both to the hand of the person wearing them and to their opponent.
With that said MMA fighters will often use boxing gloves in training, either for sparring or bag work, as they offer significantly more protection.
When competing, both MMA fighters and boxers will wear shorts.
Boxing shorts are a log baggier, have a significantly higher and more padded waistband, and are often more flashy in their design.
MMA shorts come in a few different varieties, some are skin compression shorts, while others are baggier, more like boardshorts. The type of shorts an MMA fighter wears when competing comes down to their personal preference. The best MMA shorts will provide unhindered range of motion, given that kicks are a vital component of Mixed Martial Arts.
MMA fighters compete bear foot, although sometimes wear ankle supports. Boxers, on the other hand, wear boxing shoes. This allows them to maintain a better grip on the floor, in turn providing them with a stable base to generate more power in their shots.
Both MMA fighters and Boxers sometimes opt to wear headgear when sparring. While the effectiveness of headgear in preventing concussions is uncertain, it does help to prevent facial fractures, cuts, and bruises. For this reason, it’s common to see both MMA fighters and boxers opt to wear headgear in training camps leading up to a fight.
While the best MMA headgear can be pretty expensive, there are plenty of more affordable options out there.
It’s also worth mentioning here that both sports require fighters to wear mouthguards. Mouthguards are known to protect the fighters from blunt force trauma to the face and are a requirement in both professional and amateur fights.
Given that MMA incorporates a vast array of kicks, wearing the right protection during sparring and training is important. Shin Guards serve to not only protect the wearer but also to dampen the impact of any kicks they land against their sparring partner. If you’re interested in getting some shin guards, I’d recommend checking out our article on the best MMA shin guards for some great options.
When watching MMA and boxing, the most glaring difference is where the fight takes place.
MMA uses an 8-sided cage, referred to as the octagon. Whereas boxing uses a square platform, lined by ropes, referred to as the ring.
In terms of size, the two are fairly similar, with MMA’s octagon typically possessing a diameter of 9m, whilst a boxing ring is usually around 6.1m across. See the image below for a full breakdown of their size.
The number of rounds and the length of rounds will vary depending on the type of fight, which is true for both MMA and boxing.
Professional MMA will take place over the course of 3 or 5, 5-minute rounds. 5-minute rounds are employed for title fights, or big, main events.
Whereas professional boxing takes place over more, shorter rounds. Typically a boxing round lasts for 3 minutes, and the number of rounds can change depending on the fight itself. Typically though, a professional boxing match can be anywhere between 4-12 rounds.
It’s well known that MMA fighters, most of them anyway, do not get paid as much as professional boxers. Even the likes of Jake Paul have been calling out the UFC on their lackluster fighter pay.
It’s important to remember that I’m discussing pay at the highest level of competition. Very few fighters, across either sport, are earning “the big bucks”.
Professional boxers competing in highly watched mega fights will likely earn significantly more than MMA figures competing at a similar level. Let’s take a look at an example.
Francis Ngannou, UFC heavyweight champion, earned $600,000 for his last title defense victory against Ciryl Gane. Compare this to Tyson Fury, a boxing heavyweight champion, who earned $30 million for his last fight. Yes, Ngannou isn’t quite the household name like Fury, but the two are similarly known in the realm of combat sports.
At the top level of competition, boxers without a doubt earn more for their troubles.
Boxing has significantly more weight classes than MMA. The increments that boxing weight classes increase are significantly smaller than MMA.
This is why some boxers have been world champions in so many different weight classes. Manny Pacquaio, for example, has held titles across 8 different weight classes. Men’s MMA only has 8 weight classes, so I think it’s safe to say that this is an impossible feat in MMA.
Boxing Weight Classes:
- Strawweight: under 105lbs
- Light flyweight: 108lbs
- Flyweight: 112lbs
- Super flyweight: 115lbs
- Bantamweight: 118lbs
- Super bantamweight: 122lbs
- Featherweight: 126lbs
- Super featherweight: 130lbs
- Lightweight: 135lbs
- Super lightweight: 140lbs
- Welterweight: 147lbs
- Super welterweight: 154lbs
- Middleweight: 160lbs
- Super middleweight: 168lbs
- Light heavyweight: 175lbs
- Cruiserweight: 200lbs
- Heavyweight: 200lbs
MMA Weight Classes:
- Flyweight: 125lbs
- Bantamweight: 135lbs
- Featherweight: 145lbs
- Lightweight: 155lbs
- Welterweight: 170lbs
- Middleweight: 185lbs
- Light heavyweight: 205lbs
- Heavyweight: 265lbs
As you can see from these lists, MMA is pretty limited in weight classes. In my opinion, there needs to be more divisions added, as some of the jumps in weight classes are too big. Lightweight to Welterweight for example is 15 lbs, whilst the jump from Middleweight to Light Heavyweight is even bigger at 20 lbs.
More weight classes in MMA would mean more Champions, more big fights, and help to reduce the amount of weight fighters are forcing themselves to cut each fight.
MMA VS Boxing: Which Who Would Win in a Fight?
When it comes to a professional fight, both fighters have what’s called a “punchers chance”. At the end of the day, anything can happen, and there is no surefire way to know, with certainty, who is going to win.
That said, the odds are highly in the MMA fighter’s favor. This is due to the fact that they have such a wide array of techniques to employ, that the boxer simply wouldn’t know how to defend against. I’ll give a couple of examples of this.
Firstly, leg kicks. These things hurt a lot and speaking from experience, I know that these end fights. A traditional boxer that hasn’t trained in Muay Thai, wouldn’t know how to check these kicks, and would soon have their ability to move, or even walk at all, negated.
Another, more obvious route to victory for an MMA fighter would be to take the boxer to the ground and submit them. With no wrestling or BJJ experience, there’s virtually no chance that they would be able to defend against takedowns or submission attempts by someone well-trained in no-gi BJJ.
All of this is, of course, hypothetical. Although, there have been several times when boxers have crossed over into the MMA realm.
The most famous example of this was James Tony, a legendary boxer who held titles across three weight classes. For some reason, he was pitted against Randy Couture, a matchup that’s no easy feat for even the most seasoned MMA fighter, although both were definitely passed their prime. Couture predictably took the fight to the ground, where he submitted Tony in the 3rd minute of the 1st round.
On the other hand, if an MMA fighter and a boxer were to go ahead in a boxing match, the odds become very much in the boxer’s favor.
While MMA fighters are well-trained in boxing and do possess a high level of skill, it’s not to the extent of professional boxers. MMA fighters have too many different elements to train, that prevent them from achieving the polish and overall quality of a professional boxer.
To summarise, in a fight where virtually anything goes, the odds are in the MMA fighter’s favor. If it’s a fight abiding by boxing rules, then I’d put my money on the boxer any day of the week.
MMA VS Boxing: Which is Better for Self-Defense?
This section is of course subjective, as I’m sure there are some people out there that hold a different opinion than myself.
That said, between the two, I would 100% recommend MMA for self-defense. Very few people know how to defend themselves against being taken to the ground. Once on the ground, it would be very easy for even a moderately trained MMA practitioner to control someone who has no experience in grappling.
Although knowing self-defense is always a good thing, the best defense is avoiding fighting (outside of the gym) altogether.
Well, there we have it. I hope I’ve done a good job of breaking down the differences between MMA VS boxing.
If you’re considering picking up one of these sports, then you really can’t go wrong. Both have something to offer, and it comes down to personal preference.
If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to get in touch, which you can do in the comment section below.
Thanks for stopping by!