Boxing versus MMA

Boxing versus MMA

Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts are arguably the most famous forms of Combat Sport. And the biggest debate in the fight world looms around one question: How do they compare, and “Which one is better?”

If we put a boxer against an MMA fighter in the Octagon, then the boxer is bound to lose. And if we put an MMA fighter against a boxer, in a square ring, the boxer will easily destroy the MMA fighter. The best example in front of us is McGregor vs Mayweather.

A lot of fans do not understand the differences between the two sports. Apart from the obvious use of all four limbs, there are stark differences between the two, and a lot of similarities as well.

One of the underlying differences between the two sports are the rules and regulations. In boxing, punching above the waist is allowed, only. Meanwhile, in MMA, everything goes from kicks, punches, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu.

Background on Boxing

Boxing is an ancient combat sport that people have known for centuries. However, since the 20th century, boxing has seen an incredible rise in its fame.

The sport constitutes the use of punches, to either knock your opponent out or score enough points to win the match in 12 rounds. Each round lasts up to 3 minutes with a 30-second break in between.

Once a fighter scores a knockout, the referee counts to ten to allow your opponent to stand back up. If the fighter fails to stand up in those 10 seconds, the referee will declare the winner. However, if the fallen opponent gets back up, the fight continues.

In boxing, both fighters will wear heavy boxing gloves which are 8,10, or 12 ounces. These gloves are padded with soft foam to protect the fighter’s hands.

Fighters cannot bite, kick, headbutt, gouge, hit below the belt or the groin. If a fighter does so, then they are disqualified.

Background on MMA

Mixed Martial Arts or MMA is a new sport that arrived in the ’90s. Ever since then it has seen a tremendous rise in fame, growth, and net worth. The reason it gained so much popularity was its violent nature which evolved from “Vale Tudo” which meant that “Anything Goes”.

Mixed Martial Arts is a mixture of all the martial arts that have been developed all over the world. It takes techniques from Judo, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Sambo, Karate, Kyu Ko Shin, and Taekwondo.

In MMA, fighters can wrestle, strike, grapple, and box without any restrictions. That is why MMA is so exciting because it brings in the best of all worlds. However, there are a few rules which restrict the sport from becoming an all-over street fight.

Fighters fight for 3 rounds each, with 5 minutes allotted per round. In championship fights, there are 5 rounds in total. The winner of the match is declared via a knockout, a tap out, or by winning more rounds than your opponent.

The restrictions in MMA are quite similar to boxing, with no groin shots, no eye gouges, no scratching, no headbutts, no hits on the back of the head, and no illegal strikes.

Some organizations such as the ONE FC have allowed their fighters to stomp or kick their fighters while they are on the ground. This move is banned in the American leagues such as UFC and Bellator.

What makes MMA fights exciting is the diversity of fighting styles that each fighter brings in the ring. Wrestlers, Boxers, Kick Boxers, Grapplers are pitted against one another to see which one trumps over the other. There are no limitations and fighters are free to elbow, kick, knee, and slam on another.

Boxing Vs. MMA

Now that you are aware of the basics of both sports, let us dig deep and find the differences between the two.

As it is known, MMA is a combination of multiple styles of fighting that are mixed to form one complete sport. Therefore an MMA fighter is comfortable in exchanging punches standing up, he is comfortable going on the ground and fighting from his back, and well trained to throw kicks and defend against kicks, shins, knees, and elbows.

A boxer is only trained to fight with his hands. This can be a problem when he faces a fighter that is trained to fight in any given position. Especially if the fight goes to the ground a boxer will be unable to guard himself.

Similarly, if the rules are restricted to boxing only, the MMA fighter will be in trouble. Although he may be able to withstand the pressure and launch his offensive, he will not be able to win against an opponent who understands the sweet science of boxing.

Furthermore, in boxing, when a fighter goes down on the ground, the referee provides a 10-second count for the fighter to regain his strength and go again. In MMA, once an opponent goes down, he is hammered consistently with strikes and often made to tap out with a choke or a joint lock. In simple words, there is no escape in MMA. That is why MMA is extremely unpredictable.

A key contrast between an MMA fighter and a boxer is their stance, style, and positioning. For example, boxers can stand with their hands near their head, but MMA fighters have to protect their whole body instead of just their head.

If a fighter puts their hands up, then a wrestler can easily execute a takedown or throw a leg kick directed right at the liver. The fighter’s hands are supposed to be in a position that allows him to defend against kicks, punches, and takedowns simultaneously. Otherwise, an explosive haymaker can rock your world, exactly what Khabib Nurmagomedov did to Conor McGregor.

Another difference is the three knockdown rule in boxing which MMA does not have. If a boxer is knocked down thrice in a fight, they lose. Although, in MMA, you cannot lose if you are knocked down until the referee says so.

Now if we pit a boxer versus an MMA fighter, inside a boxing ring. The boxer will easily outbox the MMA fighter just because of his adaptability to the boxing ring, the longer number of rounds, energy conservation, and using his pace.

MMA fighters are more used to explosive training, and finishing fights earlier. While boxers are trained to last the whole 12 rounds, outsmart their opponents, outbox their opponents, and use proper pace. This gives boxers more composure than MMA fighters.

Just by the virtue of patience, a boxer can easily defeat an MMA fighter inside the ring. Just like Mayweather defeated McGregor just by gassing him out and launching his offense in the last round to finish McGregor with a TKO.

Which Sport is Better?

The most asked question of all time. Which sport is better? Boxing? Or MMA?

No two sports are the same. The dimensions where these sports work are completely different. If you are looking to become a champion, get fit or just learn self-defense, both sports will have their own merits and demerits. The matter is subjective.

MMA enthusiasts will have to train in multiple disciplines in order to become a true MMA fighter. This includes boxing, judo, wrestling, bjj, and Muay Thai. Most newbies pick one base and build their style around it. For example, UFC Champion Daniel Cormier was a wrestler before he switched to MMA. Similarly, Conor McGregor was a boxer, before he switched to MMA. One sport is always dominant in a fighter’s arsenal.

Then comes the physical part, to train each sport, the individual must be willing to go through rigorous physical exercises, drills, and camps to build their power, speed, and stamina. This also includes building one’s technique which takes years and years to perfect.

On the flip side, for someone looking to become a boxer, for competition, for fitness, or for self-defense. They will have to train their punches, their footwork, their physical endurance, and their fight IQ. Boxing is an amazing sport that will allow you to build that mental fortitude to go for long hours of training, roadwork, and sparring in the ring.

Digging deep into the sweet science of boxing, there are three basic rhythms in boxing that MMA does not have. The first one is the setup rhythm, which enables a boxer to launch counterpunches or set up his offense, then there is an offensive rhythm, and lastly a defensive rhythm

If we look at both sports in terms of physical fitness, both can help you get fit, lean, and combat-ready. However, if we focus on the self-defense part, MMA has its advantages over boxing.

This is due to the fact that street fights are short, without any rules, and always go on the ground. A boxer will have no mobility on the ground whereas someone who has MMA training can execute chokeholds, locks, takedowns, and sprawls.

Both sports have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you are looking to become a well-rounded fighter then MMA is for you. If you want to excel in just one area, then boxing is the best option.

In the end, this is a totally subjective matter and depends on your preferences. Choose your style, stick to it, and increase your skill in that area. The best that you can do is cross-train and see what works for you then build upon it.

Different gear 

Another key difference between the two sports is the usage of equipment.


MMA fighters use small 4 ounce gloves with thin padding and bare fingers for grappling. The gloves in MMA allow the hand of the fighter to be as dexterous as possible.

Meanwhile, boxers use 8,10, 12, or 16-ounce gloves depending on their weight class. The padding on a boxer’s gloves is thick, with multiple layers of foam encompassing the whole hand.


Mouthguards are necessary for fighters, and they do not have much of a difference in both sports. It is totally optional for a fighter to choose whatever mouthguard they prefer. They can be custom-made, boil and bite mouthguards or gel mouthguards.


MMA fighters often wear compression shorts or board shorts. They do not use tank tops and fight without shoes.

Boxers wear boxing trunks, which often carry the sponsor’s name, they are a bit longer than your average shorts, without any pockets.

Boxers wear boxing shoes that are specially designed for grip and maneuverability. This is a crucial part of their attire that allows them to remain agile in the ring.

Lastly, what both sports have are hand wraps. Both boxers and MMA fighters wear gauze, tape, or boxing wraps. MMA fighters keep it thin as compared to boxing because of their grappling. Boxers make sure their gauze is thick and tightly taped in order to protect their hand from breaking.


The boxing ring is a 16-20 foot square ring with four ropes attached to a corner post via turnbuckles. Each organization has its own standard for different weight classes, and divisions.

In MMA there is a steel cage usually known as the Octagon. It has seven panels and an additional panel with a 185 cm door. The door is locked when the fight begins. The floor is made up of a smooth mat with shock-absorbing foam underneath it.

What is better for self-defense?

All combat sports are in one way or the other, forms of self-defense. If you take these sports outside the ring, they can be either weapons or tools to defend yourself.

As we said earlier, MMA is the better tool to defend yourself and your family. Why? Because when you train in MMA, you get a diverse range of weapons in your arsenal. To handle different situations, on your feet, on the ground, against multiple attackers. MMA can be the best option for you.

In a dangerous situation where your life or your loved ones are in danger. You must be able to maneuver in close range, on the ground, against a fence, or standing up.

Boxing provides limited options for you in such a situation, while an MMA fighter can launch a barrage of attacks with their fists, elbows, shins, and knees. Moreover, you would feel comfortable disarming a fighter using your grappling skills. While a boxer might not be able to do that.

If you fall on the ground, you are stuck in a single position with no way to get back up on your feet. But with MMA you can prevent the fight from going to the ground, and even if it does go there, you would be comfortable escaping it.

While MMA might sound great for self-defense, boxing is not that bad either. We are not saying that a boxer might feel incapacitated in a street situation. If a boxer does get into a street fight or a dangerous situation, the best option for them is to keep the fight on their feet and avoid the ground at all costs.

Both sports have their own advantages or disadvantages. Fighter who is well-equipped in their skill can escape any situation with ease. In the end, it is you who is going to decide which route to take.

What’s better for fitness?

Both sports are excellent to build one’s capacity, gas tank, speed, agility, and strength. The training regimens for both sports are quite similar.

However, MMA fighters are used to training in a more holistic way as they use their complete body in a fight. Whereas boxers are often focused on working their upper body.

Boxers have to train for longer rounds and more minutes, so their condition is far more superior to MMA fighters. MMA fighters are more equipped to handle explosive situations, where they have to finish the fights earlier.

Boxers are comfortable going into deep waters, and still, keep the same amount of pressure on their opponents. This is also due to the fact that boxers are not accustomed to grappling, or feel the full force of another human on top of their body trying to smother them.

If you want to lose weight then MMA is the perfect option for you, as it works every muscle in your body. If you are someone who wants to get in peak physique then boxing is the best option for you. In the end, both sports are grueling, tough, and fast-paced. Training in both of them is not for the faint of heart. If you have no prior experience in fitness then take it easy, go slow and let your coaches know how much punishment you can take before joining a gym.


We believe that you cannot go wrong with either sport. Every person has their preferences, and they should go with that decision. Regardless of what your goal is, Boxing and MMA are sports that will provide you with countless benefits. Such as your health, mental clarity, satisfaction, a good dose of endorphins after each workout.

Remember, it is never too late to start your fitness journey or learn to defend yourself. The task may look daunting to some, but martial arts gyms are full of encouraging people that will help you achieve your goals. We wish you the best in your journey.

Thanks for reading!

Until the next one,

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