Is Mixed Martial Arts Better Than Boxing? (Differences Explained)

By Kimberly


Are you looking for a sport that can also teach you some self-defense techniques? How about some martial arts? There are a lot of sports under martial arts that you can choose, learn, and enjoy at the same time, you can even gain some cool moves and fight like Jackie Chan. Kidding aside, martial arts can be very helpful in so many ways – not only for self-defense but also for your mental health.

Mixed martial arts and boxing are different sports, both of which have their pros and cons. Both require skill, work, and physicality. Which is better depends on a participant or viewer’s preferences, skills, goals, and athletic talents.

But our main topic is all about Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and boxing, so what is the difference between these two sports? To help you out, here is a quick introduction to both sports that you should know about before starting.

An image of a Female MMA fighter performing a throw through herself in a cage in the gym. Strong women in the ring, combat workout, martial arts training, competition, or sparring.

Boxing: a quick introduction

Boxing is one of the most known combat sports today, but what most people don’t know is that it dates to Ancient Greece – around 3000 BC. But back then, fighters don’t have any protective gear yet and they punched each other using their bare knuckles.

Boxing was later then introduced as an ancient Olympic game by the Greeks in the 7th century BC. They then added soft leather hand strips wound around their hands and arms. These leather strips served to bind and protect the hands and forearms of the fighters.

Here’s a fun fact: ancient Greeks also competed in the nude.

During the Roman period, boxing was usually a fight-to-death sport – it is set that way to please the people who are watching the event. Boxing was then abolished during the Roman gladiator times due to excessive brutality, it was only re-surfaced in London during the 17th century.

Today, boxing matches are already held in a safer boxing ring, which is a square with corners marked with the color of each fighter’s team. Corner colors are usually red or blue. Each fighter is required to wear gloves to protect their hands from injuries.

The main objective of this sport is to weaken and knock down your opponent so you to gain points and win the game. Boxing games are all under the supervision of referees so, it is not that brutal compared to the games in the old days.

There are 12 rounds in total in a boxing match and in each round, the judges carry out “the ten-must system.” This means that a fighter needs to gain ten points to win a round, then the loser would receive nine points. Or, if both fighters gave an outstanding performance, they will both receive equal points.

The points are all tallied after 12 rounds and whoever receives the highest score is deemed to be the overall winner.

Keep in mind that these are general rules. Some bouts between boxers may have special rules, especially if it’s a publicity match.

Mixed Martial Arts: a brief explanation

Mixed martial art is also known as MMA, this sport is a combination of Boxing, Muay Thai boxing, Wrestling, Judo, Karate, and Jiu-Jitsu. Some people referred to this sport as No Holds Barred (NHB), Cage fighting, and/or Ultimate fighting.

Although this sport has been around for decades, it is still relatively new in most countries.

The main objective of this sport is to defeat your opponent by striking, grappling, and throwing them until one gives up and admits defeat. The scoring is done the same way as Boxing, whoever gets the highest score wins the game. However, MMA fights only have 3 to 5 rounds, unlike Boxing which has 12 rounds in total.

MMA is a physically demanding sport. It even gets dangerous at times, which is why the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was pushed to set some rules to protect the fighters and standardize this sport globally.

An image of a Male MMA fighter finishing his opponent in a cage in the gym. Muscular men in the ring, combat workout, martial arts training, competition, or sparring.

Under these rules, one is that all fighters must wear MMA gloves. MMA gloves are padded but fingerless, making them different from boxing gloves where the hand is completely covered.

As mentioned above, you can attack your opponent by striking, throwing, kicking, or grappling them.

To prevent too many injuries, certain attacks are prohibited. Prohibited attacks include head butting, gouging the eye of your opponent, biting, hair pulling, downward elbow strikes, strikes to the spine, throat strikes, and groin attacks.

If a fighter violates any of these rules, then the referee can issue a warning, deduct points, or even disqualify the offending contestant.

Today, MMA is a legitimate and respected sport, and the athletes are true professionals.

Differences between Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts

Boxing and mixed martial arts are two different styles of sports or fighting. Boxing is a standing-up striking sport while mixed martial arts is a hybrid style.

The 6 types of fighting sports

All fighting sports are broken down into six distinct categories, which include a variety of different styles.

  1. Striking or standing-up style – which includes boxing, karate, Krav Maga, kung fu, kickboxing, and Tae Kwon do.
  2. Throwing or takedown style – this includes Aikido, judo, hapkido, Shai Jiao
  3. Grappling or ground fighting style – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Russian Sambo, wrestling, and shootfighting (which is also a hybrid sport) are included.
  4. Weapon-based style – this includes Laido, Kali, and Kendo.
  5. Low Impact or Meditative style – these include Baguazhang, Tai chi, and Chi Gong.
  6. Hybrid Sport style – Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Difference #1: What’s allowed in MMA VS boxing

The biggest difference between Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing is that what is allowed in the fight and what isn’t. The difference in what is allowed and what isn’t changes everything; the fighting style, the number of rounds, and the rules, are the only some of differences between MMA and Boxing.

Difference #2: Focus of the sport

Martial art sports are just like yoga, they all practice self-healing; which aims to remove the stress from your body, awaken your energy (your chi) and increase your awareness in (samadhi) and out.

Boxing is all about strength, speed, footwork, and skill, though you can definitely focus on stress removal and awareness there, too.

Difference #3: No-holds barred

In MMA you have more options because you can do almost anything and that includes any allowed fighting techniques.

However, in boxing, you can only punch your opponent in certain areas. You better not hit them below the belt, as it’s both bad form and an illegal hit.

Difference #4: Getting knocked down

In Boxing, there is a rule that if you get knocked down three times in a fight, you will completely lose to your opponent.

In MMA, if you get knocked down in a fight, the match will not stop unless the referee says so.

An image of Two young kick-boxers practicing mix-fighting in the gym.

Difference #5: Putting your arms up (to protect your head)

In Boxing, you can protect your head from any injuries by putting your arms together in front of you.

However, you can’t do that in an MMA fight because you can easily lose to your opponent if you do so. After all, they can kick you.

Frequently Asked Questions about Boxing and MMA

Now let’s make sure that you’ve got all of your boxing and MMA questions answered. If we missed your question, use our contact us page and send it to us. We’ll get it answered and added here for others who have the same question.

Which is better: Mixed Martial Arts or Boxing?

Both MMA and boxing are great sports; the better one is whichever an athlete or audience member prefers to watch or participate in.

Both sports are great in their own ways.

If you are looking for a sport that can help you reduce weight, teach you some self-defense techniques, and improve your speed, reflexes, eye-hand coordination, and strength, then boxing is perfect for you.

But if you are looking for a more extreme sport that has a total body workout, then MMA (mixed martial arts) might be the one that you are looking for. In playing this sport, you will end up using not only your upper body but also your lower body and abdominals.

MMA can also improve your overall flexibility, teach you some self-defense techniques, and improve your punch and kicking techniques.

Personally, I enjoy the full-body workout aspect of MMA more. I have friends that compete in MMA, and friends who enjoy watching professional boxing. Our family participates in martial arts, too.

Which is more dangerous: boxing or mixed martial arts?

According to researchers from Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic of the University of Alberta, Canada: “You are more likely to get injured in mixed martial arts, but the severity is less compared to boxing.”

If you’ve already experienced watching an MMA fight, you might say that it is more dangerous compared to boxing, but that is where you are wrong. As brutal as it is, it is already proven that MMA is safer compared to Boxing.

The researchers also added that the injuries from boxing are more severe compared to mixed martial arts.

Examples of injuries from boxing are head trauma, eye injuries, loss of consciousness, smashed noses, and broken bones.

Researchers reviewed medical examinations of mixed martial arts and boxing matches from the past years to prove this point.

Who would win in a fight between a boxer and a mixed martial artist?

A boxer would beat an MMA athlete in a boxing match while an MMA fighter would beat a boxer in an MMA match. In a no-holds-barred match, MMA fighters typically have an advantage over boxers.

A lot of people are wondering, can an MMA fighter beat a boxer? The answer to that is it depends. A Boxer is better when it comes to boxing and an MMA fighter is better when it comes to MMA fights.

But, if you remove all the rules, an MMA fighter can beat a boxer because they have the upper hand: they know a lot of fighting techniques compared to boxers who only know limited moves and don’t have any experience when it comes to ground fights.

With extra training in takedowns, defense, wrestling, and footwork, then there is a possibility for a boxer to beat an MMA fighter.

An image of Full length shot of two young martial artists practicing jiu-jitsu in the gym.

Next Steps

Ready to learn more about martial arts? Make sure you read everything we’ve got on the topic or read this article on martial arts uniforms next: Do You Have To Wear A Gi (Uniform) To Martial Arts?

Between boxing and martial arts, our family prefers martial arts. That being said, we’re still a family of nerds who enjoys sports rather than professional athletes in training. So I’m glad that nobody has voiced any desire to go pro at MMA or boxing, though I’d prefer they pick MMA over boxing.

For now, we’ll stick to going to our kung fu classes and call it good.


Learning from your own experiences is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as a family of sports nuts wannabes.

  • Baptiste, Baron, and Kathleen Finn Mendola. “The Yoga of Combat.” Yoga Journal, 28 Aug. 2007,
  • de Lacey, James. “Boxing vs. MMA: Who Would Win?” Sweet Science of Fighting, 8 Nov. 2020,
  • Indo-Asian News Service. “Boxing More Dangerous than Mixed Martial Arts.” India Today, India Today, 6 Nov. 2015,
  • Ivanov, Dimitar. “Boxer vs MMA Fighter – Who Would Win a Street Fight?”,
  • “MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Rules.” Rules of,
  • Rousseau, Robert. “The Origins and Types of Martial Arts.” LiveAbout Dotcom, LiveAbout, 23 Feb. 2019,
  • Seto, J.L. “What’s the Difference between Boxing and MMA?” Sportscasting, 22 Sept. 2019,
  • “Mixed Martial Arts.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 Oct. 2016,
  • Tutorials Point. “Boxing – Quick Guide.” Tutorials Point – Simply Easy Learning,

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