MMA vs Boxing: Differences, Rules, Popularity

Today, it is fair to say that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Boxing are two of the most popular sports in the world. Both have been around for centuries and continue to grow in popularity. However, many people still need to learn about how these two sports are different from each other.

More and more people are getting hooked on boxing, but while they think they know the rules, they really don’t. This is why the sporting world is becoming more and more diverse with the addition of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

MMA is a fighting form that blends principles and techniques from different disciplines, including Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu.  With the growing popularity of MMA, people often wonder if this is just another boxing sport.

So what is the difference between MMA and Boxing? There is a bit of confusion around the difference between Mixed Martial Art (MMA) and Boxing. The two styles may look similar, but there are quite a few differences.

What is MMA?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full-contact combat sport that allows both striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from various other sports and martial arts. In MMA, you can use your hands and feet to strike your opponent while on their feet or the ground (groundwork).

The first documented use of the term “mixed martial arts” was in a review of UFC 1 by television critic Howard Rosenberg in 1993. The term gained popularity when the new full-contact ruleset of Vale Tudo fighting was introduced to the UFC. Vale Tudo fighting had been practiced in Brazil since the 1920s.

What is Boxing?

Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined time in a ring. Amateur Boxing is both an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport and is a common fixture in most international games. In Boxing, you can only strike with your fists when they’re in an upright position.

It also has its own World Championships. Boxing is overseen by a referee over a series of one- to three-minute intervals called rounds. The result is decided when an opponent is deemed incapable of continuing by a referee, is disqualified for breaking a rule, resigns by throwing in the towel, or is knocked out.

The Basic Difference Between MMA and Boxing

In March 1997, Bruce Lee Enterprises released an article about their “Warrior Spirit Training” program, where they integrated concepts from Muay Thai into their curriculum. The basic difference is discussed below.

Fighting Styles

There are also some major differences between the two.

MMA, or mixed martial arts, is a sport that incorporates a variety of different fighting styles. These include Kung Fu, Muay Thai, wrestling, and submission grappling. MMA fighters are often considered to be well-rounded, as they need to be proficient in all areas of fighting to be successful. Whatever style a fighter chooses, it does not matter if it remains within the rules of MMA.

Fighting Styles (Arts)

Fighting Styles (Arts)
Boxing Standup, Fighting
Muay Thai Standup, Clinch Fighting
Wrestling Ground, Clinch Fighting
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ground Fighting

On the other hand, boxing is a sport that focuses primarily on hand striking. Boxers use only their fists to hit their opponents, and the goal is to knock them out.

While Boxing does require some degree of fitness and athleticism, it is less demanding than MMA in terms of overall fighting ability. Despite simple play style, as a boxer, you must need hand speed, footwork, counterattack, and head motion.

So, what is the difference between MMA and Boxing? It comes down to fighting style. MMA fighters need to be well-rounded, as they will face opponents with various styles.

On the other hand, Boxers focus primarily on striking (footwork, defense, offense) and can be more specialized in their approach.


MMA and Boxing are both self-defense sports. They are similar in that they both involve striking an opponent with fists but differ in their overall approach. Boxing is a more traditional sport that uses fists to score points against an opponent.

MMA, on the other hand, is a newer sport that incorporates various techniques from different disciplines, including Boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. MMA fighters can also strike their opponents with elbows and knees, which are not allowed in Boxing.

Overall, MMA is a more complete self-defense system than Boxing. While Boxing is a great way to learn how to punch and defend yourself, MMA will give you a more well-rounded set of skills to defend yourself in any situation.


One of the most obvious differences between MMA and Boxing is the stance. In Boxing, fighters typically fight from a relatively narrow stance with their feet pointed directly at each other.

This allows them to move quickly in any direction and provides better balance for quick punches and footwork.

The MMA fighter stands with his or her feet wider apart than in Boxing, about shoulder width, and keeps them parallel rather than turned toward each other or out at angles like some boxers do (called an open-handed stance).

In MMA, fighters are constantly moving and shifting their weight, which allows them to generate more power in their strikes.

The wider stance allows for more movement, but it also makes it harder for fighters to block kicks or get around their opponent’s guard when on defense; consequently, many MMA practitioners use some form of kickboxing technique as well as punching power moves to compensate.

Additionally, the way that each sport uses its hands is different. In Boxing, the hands are primarily used for punching, while in MMA, they are used for various purposes, including striking, grappling, and submission.

Risk of Injury

MMA and Boxing are contact sports with a certain risk of injury. However, the risk of injury in MMA is generally higher than in Boxing. MMA fighters can use a wider range of techniques, including striking with elbows and knees, which can result in more serious injuries.

In addition, MMA fights typically last longer than boxing matches, which gives fighters more opportunities to sustain injuries.


While both Boxing and MMA use punching bags, there are some key differences. For example, a boxing bag is a hanging device that can be swung around by the user while they punch it. MMA fighters prefer a standing bag that they can kick and punch at their leisure.

An athlete can swing a hanging bag to get in more training time for their upper body muscles than just standing still would allow for–but it could be more effective at simulating real-world situations than standing does.

For this reason alone, we’d recommend going with an MMA-style punching bag if you’re looking for something with more versatility regarding what kind of exercises you can do.

Difference of Rules Between MMA and Boxing

In Boxing, there are a few rules. You can’t hit the head or the back of the head, and you can’t punch someone when they’re down. In MMA, those rules don’t exist. You can kick and knee people in their heads or backs as much as you want (unless it’s illegal in your state).

There is some difference in rules between MMA & Boxing; those are,

In Boxing, there is only one round for each fight: three minutes long with one-minute breaks between rounds where both fighters return to their corners to rest before starting again at 0:00 on the clock.

In MMA, however, fights consist of multiple rounds with no time limits; they keep going until someone taps out or gets knocked out by an elbow strike (a blow delivered by hitting someone’s face).

Weight Classes

The difference between Boxing and MMA is that in MMA, there are only 14 different weight divisions, while in Boxing, there are 18 different weight divisions.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) and Boxing have different weight classes.

The weight classes in MMA are:

  • Strawweight (up to 115 lbs)
  • Flyweight (up to 125 lbs)
  • Bantamweight (up to 135 lbs)
  • Featherweight (up to 145 lbs)
  • Lightweight (up to 155 lbs)
  • Welterweight (up to 170 lbs)
  • Middleweight (up to 185 lbs)
  • Light Heavyweight (up to 205 lbs)
  • Heavyweight (up to 265 lbs).

There are also catchweight fights (a weight class between two other weight classes) and open weight classes (no weight limit).

The weight classes in Boxing are:

  • Flyweight (up to 112 lbs)
  • Super Flyweight (up to 115 lbs)
  • Bantamweight (up to 118 lbs)
  • Super Bantamweight (up to 122 lbs)
  • Featherweight (up to 126 lbs)
  • Super Featherweight (up to 130 lbs)
  • Lightweight (up to 135 lbs)
  • Super Lightweight (up to 140 lbs)
  • Welterweight (up to 147 lbs)
  • Super Welterweight (up to 154 lbs)
  • Middleweight (up to 160 lbs)
  • Super Middleweight (up to 168 lbs)
  • Light Heavyweight (up to 175 lbs)
  • Cruiserweight (up to 200 lbs)
  • Heavyweight (up to 265 lbs)
  • There are also catchweight fights and open-weight classes.

This means there is more opportunity for weight class differences in MMA than in Boxing. Another key difference is that in Boxing, the weight classes are based on the boxer’s weight, whereas in MMA, the weight classes are based on the fighter’s weight.

This means that a fighter in MMA could be fighting someone significantly heavier than them, which is not the case in Boxing.

Fighting Rounds and Time Limits

One of the biggest differences between MMA and Boxing is that while both sports are comprised of rounds, they have different lengths.

In Boxing, each round is three minutes long and will only go for 9-12 rounds at most (though this depends on whether or not there is a decision). After each round player will get a 1-minute break. In general professional boxer gets 35 minutes of action time.

Its duration is considerable due to their rule requiring fighters to remain standing upright throughout each round rather than fall down after being hit hard enough by their opponent(s).

In MMA, each round is five minutes long. This means that an MMA bout can last up to 3 rounds. These rules are the same for both Men and Women. MMA fight usually lasts about 20 minutes, including all breaks between rounds and introductions, before beginning again on your feet.

The Shape and Size of the Ring

One of the biggest differences between MMA and Boxing is the shape and size of their respective rings.

Boxing uses a square ring (a rectangle with one corner cut off). This means that fighters have much more mobility than in an octagon-shaped cage like those used in MMA fights. The diameter of the boxing ring is 16-20 feet. Each side of the ring has a post held by four ropes.

The MMA ring is typically a caged octagon, while a boxing ring is square. The size of the MMA cage is typically between 20 and 30 feet, while a boxing ring is only 20 feet square. The MMA cage walls are also higher than the ropes of a boxing ring, which can range from 4 to 6 feet.

The octagon shape gives fighters less room to move around, which forces them to stand toe-to-toe with their opponents instead of avoiding them altogether.


MMA gloves’ size and shape differ from those used in Boxing. They’re much smaller than their counterparts. The reason for this is that the sport involves grappling, wrestling, and striking. The smaller gloves allow fighters to throw more precise punches and more easily defend against takedowns or other grappling techniques.

In Boxing, fighters must wear padded gloves designed to protect the hands and minimize the damage that can be inflicted on an opponent.

Additionally, because MMA fighters don’t need extra padding on their hands like boxers do and because they often compete with cuts on them, their gloves are less padded than boxing gloves. This makes them more durable but also less flexible when it comes time to hit someone with one.


The UFC is by far the most popular MMA organization in the world, with over 4 billion views on YouTube. Their main event fights are almost always between two top stars and are thought to be some of the best in all sports.

The UFC has a lot more weight classes than other organizations as well, ranging from flyweight (up to 125 lbs) to super heavyweight (over 205 lbs).

It is the first and most popular organization to promote MMA in the USA, Europe, and other countries. Another MMA organization is Pride FC (Japan).

On the other hand, Boxing has lots of organizations like,

  • WBA (USA)
  • WBC
  • IBF
  • WBO

The WWE also has its own brand and set of rules for professional wrestling matches which differ from those used in Boxing or mixed martial arts competitions. The company’s signature match type is called “hardcore,” where anything goes, including weapons, chair shots to heads, and even thumbtacks.

MMA Striking and Boxing

In MMA, you will find that striking is more versatile and powerful than Boxing. The reason for this is because of the many different types of strikes one can use in MMA.

In Boxing, you only have one type of strike: punches with both hands.

However, in MMA, you can use kicks from either leg (a kick being a hard strike with the foot), knees, elbows, and even head butts! All these different types of strikes make it harder for your opponent to defend them all at once instead of just blocking punches which is what boxers do when they fight each other.

Another difference between Boxing and mixed martial arts striking is power. On top of this fact, we now know why kicks are better than punches, mainly because kicks cause less damage overall but still pack quite a bit of force behind them, making them extremely effective against opponents trying to get back up after being knocked down by using their legs instead.

MMA & Boxing: Which One is More Popular?

MMA and Boxing are popular sports, but which is more popular?

  • One factor to consider is the popularity of sports in different parts of the world. For example, Boxing is more popular than MMA in the United States, while MMA is more popular than Boxing in Brazil.
  • Another factor to consider is the popularity of the different weight classes. For example, the heavyweight division is more popular than the lightweight division in Boxing, while the lightweight division is more popular than the heavyweight division in MMA.
  • Finally, you have to consider the popularity of the different organizations within each sport. For example, the UFC is more popular than Strikeforce in MMA, while the WBA is more popular than the IBF in Boxing.

It’s difficult to say which sport is more popular, MMA or Boxing. It depends on many factors, including the popularity of the sport in different parts of the world, the popularity of the different weight classes, and the popularity of the different organizations within each sport.


There are many differences between Boxing and MMA, both in terms of the rules and the popularity of the sports. They’re both combat sports but also very different in how they’re played, what rules apply to each one, what equipment is used, and so on. If you want to learn more about each type of fighting, then check out our guides on MMA vs Boxing.

Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.