Understanding Boxing vs MMA: How These And Other Combat Sports Compare

Here's what you need to know about boxing vs mma combat sports
We make money from support by sponsors, advertisers, and affiliate partners. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you are a fan of combat sports, then you have probably heard of Boxing, MMA, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (or BBJ). These sports are all different, but they share some similarities. They are all forms of martial arts that allow fighters to use striking and grappling techniques to defeat their opponents. In this blog post, we will take a look at these sports and see how they compare. We will also discuss which one might be the right fit for you if you are looking to try something new!

Over the past few decades, combat sports have skyrocketed in popularity. Not only are they a great way to stay in shape, but they’re also a thrilling activity perfect for tuning your body and mind so you are more healthy and sharp.

However, it can be tricky to know where to begin if you’re a fresh-faced combat fanatic, with each sport encompassing unique activities and methods. If you are curious about which sport is suitable for you, read on for a starting point on a few popular combat sports.

Here are some of the most popular combat sports to try ...

mma mixed martial arts fighting

MMA - Mixed Martial Arts is the "New Kid On The Block"

MMA is a combination of various styles of combative sports that has become well known due to the emergence of thrilling UFC ring matches.

Mixed Martial Arts stands out amongst other combative sports because it combines so many different techniques, styles, and rules without transforming the techniques into something else. Ultimately, MMA training allows fighters to be creative and experimental as they face challenging opponents and learn the art of different fighting styles. This full-contact sport has become a melting pot of martial arts by mixing strikes from Muay Thai and Kickboxing with grappling and groundwork from wrestling and BJJ.

While most MMA fans look at it as something very recent - evolving out of Japan in 1985 and popularized in November of 1993 with the UFC 1 match in Denver, Colorado - the concept traces its origin back to the ancient Olympic Games in Greece. At that time, the concept of a mixture of wrestling, boxing, and street fighting was seen as both a great way to train the Greek army as well as a brutally entertaining contest.

Between the ancient Greeks and modern MMA guys and UFC fighters, this has grown from what appears to outsiders as simply a street fight into a very popular sport worldwide. As the sport continues to evolve in the United States and globally, the injury rates and bloody reputation of the sport is also evolving. Today for instance, most fights are less of a free-for-all than most people think. This includes requirements to wear MMA gloves to protect hands and fingers as well as referees who monitor and enforce the rules of the match.

As a result, despite the reputation of MMA being a bloody street fight, the reality is that among professional MMA fighters, while 59.4% received some sort of injury, Boxers showed 49.8%. While it would be hard to look at either of these sports and be proud of the injury rate numbers - it is an important thing to consider when comparing the two sports.

However, despite the popularity of mixed martial arts, it has as of yet failed to dethrone the king of combat sports - Boxing.

 

 traditional boxing

Boxing The King Of Combat Sports Is Still The Most Popular

The sport of boxing is a classic combat sport known for its high-impact cardio and high-intensity ring matches. When it comes to popularity and media coverage, boxing title fights are absolutely the biggest fights out there.

The major difference between traditional boxing matches and MMA fights is that in boxing, only punches are allowed and generally the focus is on upper body targets. As a result, MMA matches are also generally shorter, more intense exhibitions than found in boxing. For instance, MMA rounds are five minutes long with title fights being as long as five rounds if needed. In comparison, professional boxers fight for a maximum of 12 rounds lasting three minutes each.

This core difference in timing and structure exemplifies a significant difference between the intensity of the two sports. Another obvious difference between MMA vs Boxing is the gloves. While boxing gloves are padded and more like a mitten, MMA gloves have fingers with the tips open to allow for better airflow to keep the hands dry and comfortable during a fight.

Though it may seem intimidating to step into the arena for the first time, boxing can be beginner-friendly with the proper training and techniques. When looking for a boxing gym in San Diego, options like the Arena Gym are perfect for those looking to dip their toes into the ring. 

While some guys may be drawn to the brutality of MMA, starting your journey in the boxing ring is probably a better place. Not only is the sport perhaps a bit more refined compared to MMA and you can spar without worrying about getting bloody, but there is also plenty of room to grow as your skills evolve.

Additionally, even if your intention is never to hurt someone, boxing is a high-intensity cardio-focused workout that will increase heart health and overall circulation every time you get your blood pumping in the ring with another fighter.  It can also be a great way to help build upper body strength.

One of the other big differences between boxing and the other combat sports is that since it is the biggest and most popular - it also has some of the most recognized names compared to any of the other contact sports. When I say names like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, or the world's most famous boxer Mike Tyson, you immediately know what sport I'm talking about. 

In comparison, Randy Couture is an extraordinary athlete with a record of 16 title fights and tied for the most UFC Heavyweight Championships, but few people outside of MMA fans would recognize his name in casual conversation. There are some exceptions such as MMA fighter Conor McGregor who has become a pop culture icon in the mass mainstream media.

It is likely that over time, as MMA continues to evolve that more legendary heroes will become common household names as well.

brazilian jiu jitsu is also known as bjj martial arts

BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu)

If boxing isn’t quite your speed, you may want to switch gears to a more technique-focused sport like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an increasingly popular combat-based activity. Jiu-Jitsu artists practice patience and thoughtful strikes as they attempt to subdue their opponents into submission.   

When looking at BJJ vs MMA or even Boxing, the core difference here is that the objective isn't just to knock the opponent out, but rather to control him and bring the person to the ground where they are forced to submit.

While there are still knockouts and technical knockout situations with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it has a reputation for being less brutal and it also takes away the raw strength and power benefit that larger fighters might have over the smaller ones.

This challenging sport is unique due to its focus on grappling as opposed to striking, allowing athletes of all sizes to compete and succeed. Less about stature, and more about strategic technique, BJJ is a favorite among fighters currently.

 muay thai fighting is similar to kickboxing

Muay Thai

Popularized by the legendary Tony Ja in the film Ong Bak, Muay Thai is an aggressive combat style that uses speed and striking to devastate an opponent. Similar to kickboxing, this sport allows for knees and elbow strikes. One of the reasons many athletes are gravitating toward Muay Thai is because of its practical uses in the real world. 

As one of the most efficient striking arts in the world, Muay Thai is a well-renowned practice put to genuine use for protection and competition. 

 

How Are These Combat Sports Similar?

Each of these sports makes for fantastic entertainment that show off the strength and power of the human body as well as nimbleness and even strategy. These martial artists have all inspired fans to follow in the footsteps of the people they see on TV and try for themselves.

While the specific rules and fighting styles may differ, at the competition level they all use weight classes, they have rounds, and as brutal and bloody as they appear, they all care for the safety of the fighters.

Another similarity is that while most professional fighters don't want to cause serious injury their opponent, head trauma and long-term damage to the body are symptomatic of each of the different combat sports.

These are all contests of human power with a long history and traditions. It is almost impossible to determine which would be the best option for you to try if you are looking for a new sport to get yourself into better shape or simply looking to get the upper hand in a self defense situation.

Your best bet here would be to visit your local MMA gym or Boxing gym and try it out yourself. Be open and honest when talking with the folks who manage these locations about what you are looking for and what level of commitment you have.

For instance, the sport of MMA can be intimidating not everyone wants to be the next Ultimate Fighting Championship winner and that's ok. Just make sure you find classes that match what you are looking for and if you are willing to explore, you'll find that one of the many different martial arts is a great fit for you.

Let's Stay In Touch!