MMA vs Boxing: The Significant Differences And Rules That Divide The Line

Boxer wearing hood and gloves

Last Updated on February 16, 2021

There’s a bit of a rivalry between Mixed Martial Arts and boxing. The MMA vs. Boxing rivalry test happened when Floyd Mayweather Jr. faced Conor McGregor. Mayweather defeated him because punching was all that was allowed in the ring. Even though the McGregor vs. Mayweather Jr. fight had a winner, the two sports continue to battle it out for supremacy. 

There are significant differences between the two sports. While they both take place within the confines of a ring or an octagon, they couldn’t be more distinct in their styles, techniques, and goals. 

Main Differences MMA vs Boxing

  • Boxing involves two types of training: throwing punches and defending against them, whereas MMA includes several martial arts, usually Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 
  • Boxers do not kick while fighting, whereas MMA fighters do. 
  • MMA fighters need to be well-trained in several martial arts styles and techniques, whereas boxers ‘only’ box.
  • Boxing involves fighting on your feet only, whereas MMA can involve grappling on the ground as well.

Boxing Or MMA: What Training Is Easier?

Both boxing and MMA have challenging training programs. They are both combat sports, so you can sustain injuries if you decide actually to put the programs into practice. Neither sport is easy to train for, but there are some differences between the regimens.

Since MMA involves several martial arts and boxing forms, it is safe to say that MMA has a more grueling training program. 

One striking difference between MMA and boxing is the ground game. When you box, you and your opponent are always on your feet. If you fall and cannot get up, you lose. But, in MMA, fighters can attack each other while standing and on the ground. To succeed in MMA, you have to learn how to strike with your feet, elbows, fists, and knees. You must be able to kick low. 

But, is boxing good for MMA? In most cases, the answer is yes. On the flipside, MMA training can help with boxing. You can use all boxing techniques in MMA, but you cannot use most MMA techniques in boxing. 

Overall, learning to box is easier than MMA. If you choose to train for boxing, you learn the different types of punches, like crosses and jabs. You also learn to bob and weave to avoid being punched. Boxing trainers also teach footwork to help with bobbing and weaving, which is why so many boxers look like they are dancing in the ring. 

MMA fighters in action

Boxing Vs. MMA: Which Offers A Better Fitness Program?

If you are looking to build strength and cardio conditioning, you can achieve your goals with both programs. They both offer outstanding training for upper-body, core, and leg strength. Both programs also provide cardiovascular training. 

Fitness programs vary based on the clock. Boxers need to last ten rounds of three-minute bouts. MMA fighters have a clock that includes three rounds that are each five minutes. Conditioning varies, so boxers can fight for 30 minutes; MMA fighters condition for 15 minutes of fighting. 

When it comes to strength, boxers need to have strong cores, upper bodies, and arm muscles. Since they do not kick, they do not need to worry about large-muscle leg strength. They need their legs for bobbing and weaving, so they need their fast-twitch leg muscles to work well. Box jumps and ladders help boxers hone their leg strength. 

MMA fighters need to have incredibly strong legs because they use them for defense and offense. They need to know how to bob and weave like boxers, but they also need to know how to kick and hold their opponents with their legs.

If you are only looking to use boxing or MMA for fitness, then you should choose the one that looks the most fun to you. Both are a major commitment, so pick the one you can stick with to accomplish your fitness goals. 

What Are The Rules For MMA And Boxing?

MMA vs. boxing competitions have several notable differences in their rules, timing, gear, and positioning. 

Rounds And Time

The two competitions have differences in the time and amount of rounds. MMA fighters battle for three rounds that last for five minutes. If it is a UFC title fight, it lasts five rounds or five minutes. Boxers have ten or twelve rounds that are each three minutes. Both types of competitions can end early if one fighter falls. 

In an MMA fight and a boxing match, fighters get a minute of rest between each round. 

Between Jiu-Jitsu vs boxing, there's another set of rules that divide them apart. I'd like to say, "to each its own". 😉

Where To Put Your Hands

In boxing, fighters often keep their hands near their face. They do this to protect their head. But, in MMA, if you use your hands to block your face, your hands cannot cover the rest of your body. In an MMA fight, your hands need to stay moving or stay low to prevent the opponent from using their legs or attacking the lower body. 

Knockdown Rules

Winning an MMA fight happens when the referee says you win. In boxing, one boxer has to knock down an opponent three times. An official knockdown is when a boxer falls or takes a knee. Unless the boxer is technically knocked out, a boxer gets three knockdowns before officially losing. 

Necessary Gear

Both sports have the necessary gear. Boxers wear massive gloves that have plenty of padding over the back of the hand and the knuckles. MMA fighters have flexible gloves with less padding. Both wear mouthpieces, yet there is a  type mouthpiece for MMA  and there's another type that is designed for boxers.

Do Boxers and MMA fighters wear headgears? Yes, but when training MMA, they don't. You can read more about it in one of our articles about wrestling headgear reviews, which they also use.

MMA fighters are barefoot when they are in the UFC octagon. Boxers wear high-top boxing shoes that provide ankle support and have minimal tread. 

Another essential part of boxing and MMA is the location of the fights. MMA fights happen in a cage, where the fighters use the walls of the enclosure to help with their martial arts moves. Thus, the cage becomes part of an MMA fighter’s gear. 

On the other hand, boxers fight in a ring, only to keep the fight contained. Boxers cannot use the ring to help them defeat their opponents. 

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