Boxing vs MMA – Which One Is Better?

“Western boxing’ or simply ‘boxing’ is a combat sport that involves two opponents throwing punches at each other with the aim of knocking the opponent out. The sport dates back to the 

Olympic tournaments of ancient Greece and is recognized today as one of the most popular and highest-grossing sports.

A fairly recent addition to the world of combat sports is Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Colloquially referred to as ‘cage-fighting’, this sport involves full-contact combat between two opponents.

To be precise, MMA is actually an amalgam of different techniques used across the various types of martial arts including Muay Thai and kickboxing among others. Roots of the sport extend from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In this article we are going to look at boxing vs mma and see what are the differences.

The Governing Rules

Boxing is a sport governed by a strict set of rules and regulations. In a fair fight, boxers are forbidden from pushing or tripping their opponent. The use of kicks and head-butts is also strictly prohibited. Boxers are also not allowed to throw punches below the belt or in the groin region. The set of rules keeps the players from getting involved in vicious brawls.

Additionally, to minimize the damage to the hands due to repeated punching, precautionary measures are employed. Hand-wraps are used to protect the bones of the hand and gloves are worn to buffer the impact of the punch. Because most punches land on the face, mouth guards are employed to cushion the impact of the blows on teeth and jaws.

Because of the rather limited set of rules governing the game, it was deemed as an illegal 

sport by most countries till the 2000s. Almost every move a player decided to apply to the game was allowed. By the late 90s, however, it was observed that this absence of strict rules imparted a sense of viciousness to the sport and that needed to be eliminated MMA was to be recognized as a proper sport on an international level. 

Still kicking and grappling are commonly employed in matches. In the majority of Asian countries, knee-butts to the head along with stomps and soccer kicks are legally allowed techniques to this day. Predictably, injuries in 

MMA is more common and more severe as compared to other combat sports like boxing. 

Boxers are not allowed to punch their opponent once he is no longer on his feet. When the opponent loses his footing, the boxer is to move to a neutral corner of the ring and await the referee’s instructions to continue the fight or not. Whereas in MMA, the fighters are allowed to push the opponent to the ground and to continue hitting him after he hits the ground, a technique known as ‘ground and pound’.

Recognition and Popularity

Boxing has been an internationally acclaimed sport for a long while now. It has been

recognized as an Olympic sport since 1904 and is also part of the Commonwealth Games and all other major portentous MMA, despite its increasing popularity, is not yet part of the Olympics.

However, some people believe that because of the multi-dimensional aspect of 

MMA, its advent has led to a decline in the popularity of conventional boxing. The players are required to put in a lot of strategy along with physical power to win a match. The fight is also not limited entirely to punches and it continues even when one player loses his footing.

The decision is also reached in a fairly shorter amount of time. To the more enthusiastic crowdsourcing, boxing is a rather slow and dull sport in comparison.

Rounds per Match

The two sports differ not only in their set of rules but also in the timings and number of rounds per game. In a typical boxing match, there are nine to twelve rounds of three minutes each. The number of rounds usually averages to 10. In MMA, however, there are three rounds per each match. For each round, the players are given five minutes. 

Arena of Choice

boxing vs mma

Another major difference is in the structure of the arenas. Boxing matches take place in rings 

made of ropes that are aimed at limiting the area of the fight. Holding the ropes by the boxers for leverage is not allowed. On the contrary, MMA matches are held in cages. The cages are typical structures made of metal. 

The aim is to provide a surface for grappling and imparting injury to the opponent. The area given to fighters also varies tremendously in both arenas. The rings for boxes are kept between 16-20 square feet. On the other hand, the cages are usually built as the infamous ‘Octagon’ with eight peripheries. 

Boxing vs MMA – gloves

Another difference lies in the gloves worn by the players in the two sports. The MMA fighters wear gloves that are lighter and more flexible.

The typical weight is around 0.1 kg.The fingers are also sometimes left uncovered making it easier to grab and hold the opponent. The purpose is not to protect the hand but to impart injury to the opponent. Whereas, the gloves used in boxing are bulkier and much heavier. 

Their purpose is to minimize damage to the hands and are used in some defense techniques to stop blows to the head. The weight is typically between 0.3 to 0.5 kg. The difference is also imparted by the padding used in the two types of gloves. The boxing gloves are heavily padded to serve as cushions while hard padding is used in MMA employed gloves.

Injuries acquire

Injuries that result in bleeding are significantly more common in MMA fights. Injuries of such magnitude are relatively uncommon in boxing. MMA fighters also suffer an increased number of fractures.No doubt, a significant part of the injuries is due to the lack of protective gear like helmets, padded gloves, and shoes. 

This is done in part to please the audiences. The blood is specifically something audiences demand in these sorts of fights. The audiences of MMA matches tend to show less empathy towards the fighters. This leads to the fighters making the fight as brutal as they can in hopes to please the crowd.

The stance of Fighters

The stance used by fighters in both sports also varies intensely. Boxers tend to stand side-ways. This is simply an attempt to reduce the area of the body that can be hit by the opponent. Whereas, MMA fighters tend to maintain a larger distance between themselves and their opponents. 

This is because they have to avoid a larger array of hits from the opponent because the fight is not merely limited to the hands. They have wider body areas they can target on the opponent. The focus of boxers is more on specific zones due to the comparatively limited range of motion lent by their hands. 

MMA fighters also tend to keep most of their weight on their rear leg. This adds the mobility they need for kicks. But in doing so they are also deprived of the balance needed to withstand punches from the opponent. However, in boxing, the weight is most distributed towards the front leg to add force to the punches.

Endurance and Stamina

In terms of endurance, the stamina of boxers is more likely to last longer because of them raining according to a match that lasts roughly 45 minutes. MMA fighters are more used to matches that span around 15 to minutes with each round lasting 5 minutes. 

This does not contribute to building as much endurance as boxers, but they train to throw all their energy in the short intervals they get. Being good at MMA implies achieving mastering a few skill sets of multiple combat techniques. But that does not necessarily mean the MMA athlete will be a pro of every martial arts technique out there.

Odds in a Street Fight

When it comes to street fights, boxers will usually not be prepared for the ugliness that comes with full-body combats. Their skillset nonetheless, lend them a proficiency in self-defense. Boxers are lighter on their feet and have faster reflexes. 

This will aid them in getting out of harm’s way, all the while placing well-timed blows to their opponents. They also ace at not losing their balance. Falling to the ground while in a street fight will, no doubt, end in getting beaten to a pulp. MMA fighters, on the other hand, excels at putting up a great fight and also finishing it in a short span of time. 

That can contribute to them displaying some formidable few minutes against their opponent in street fights. Their skill set also includes grappling that can help incapacitate the opponent immediately. But MMA is not well trained to stay on their feet and the push and pull of a brawl can throw them to the ground.

Health Hazards

However, because boxing is limited to punches in the head concussions are more common. 

The brain health deteriorates more rapidly in boxing due to this reason. Studies indicate that persistent head trauma increases the chances of permanent brain damage. A prime example of this Muhammad Ali himself. 

His boxing career left him with neuronal damage leading to Parkinson’s disease for his entire life. It was observed in several studies that even though boxers used protective headgear, it was not enough to prevent brain damage by concussions. Retinal detachment caused by injuries to the eye is also prevalent among boxers.

Health Benefits

If practiced carefully boxing can impart several health benefits to the body like burning fat, increasing endurance and relieving stress. It will also do wonders for your reflexes, preparing you for uncertain situations in the outside world. No, unlike boxing, MMA also has its fair share of health benefits. MMA athletes burn calories at the rate of 844 calories per hour in the cage. 

Financial Stability

Boxers usually gain more stability from their sport than MMA athletes. The reason being that MMA athletes do not engage in fights as regularly as the boxers participate in tournaments. The earning also depends on the response from the crowd in MMA fights. 51% boxers earn between 1000-10,000$, but 48% MMA athletes earn less than 1000$.

Deciding Winner

In boxing, the winner is decided by knockout i.e. if he fails to get up by the count of 10. Technical knockout is when the referee or a doctor decides that a player is unable to continue or should not continue to avoid some damage to the player’s body. 

Alternatively, a score count is maintained by the referee or a jury and the player who scores the highest points wins. In MMA, in addition to these three conditions the victor can also be decided if his opponent decides to accomplish submission. Submission is accomplished by tapping the body of one’s opponent or the fighting mat. Submission immediately withdraws a player from the game and the other wins by default.


The two are entirely different sports and comparing them to decide which is the superior sport is unfair to both. To be precise, boxing is like performing an elaborate dance with the sole focus on skill and precision. Audiences with their focus on the craft and skill will find pleasure in boxing matches. MMA, on the other hand, is like a civilized offspring of street brawls which only has its mind on winning no matter the cost. Crowds that feed on adrenaline will find MMA to their liking.

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