MMA Fighting or Boxing: Which Sport is Right for You?
Deciding between MMA fighting or Boxing is a tough choice for many. Both have a long history of providing crowds with intense sports competition. But to call them separate but equal would do the two sports a disservice. Boxing isn’t what it was in years past. In the 21st century, MMA fighting has dominated American combat sports.
The two sports are similar but have several major differences. The recent surge of MMA popularity has put pressure on Boxing to show how it can stay relevant. The brutal nature of MMA makes it a difficult replacement for schools and other youth sports. So, despite the recent changes in popularity, Boxing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Boxing prides itself on the technical skill and precision needed to accel at the sport. MMA fighting values winning at any cost. Boxing is like a well-choreographed dance while MMA is a brutal street fight. But there is more to the differences than simply how each sport looks.
A big difference is the gear
Basic boxing gear includes boxing shoes, shorts, and padded gloves. Other protective equipment like padded helmets and mouthguards are common for practice but rarely get used in big fights. Training equipment like heavy bags and speed bags help a Boxer’s practice when not sparring.
MMA gear generally doesn’t bother with the padded gloves, helmets, or shoes. The full contact nature of the sport often makes using this gear cumbersome or otherwise pointless. Sparring is the primary way to prepare for fights although fighters often devise novel training regimens to compensate for the somewhat chaotic nature of their movements. Depending on which moves are encouraged, MMA fighting dojos may opt to use non-traditional training equipment.
MMA fighters often pride themselves on their “real fight” skills. The kinds of moves that can win a street fight or other unmoderated combat. This means they often train in street gear. They also tend to view the stylized combat of professional Boxing with a bit of disdain because of the rules limiting where and how fighters can engage.
The rules are different
Besides the gear, MMA fighting and Boxing have drastically different rules. MMA fighters can legally use any limb to incapacitate their opponent with very little considered off limits. The full contact, bloodsport style of the matches make them bloody and grappling intensive. This makes MMA a significantly more likely to result in minor mutilation (compound fractures, dislocations, and other open wounds)than Boxing.
Clinches and grapples are common in MMA fighting while they are generally banned in Boxing. MMA fights often devolve into wrestling matches where two fighters hug each other for half an hour. Boxing matches on the other hand, tend to showcase hundreds of punches delivered in furious volleys round after round. This makes the technical expertise of Boxers more visible in a single fight.
Blood is a major difference between the two sports. Boxing rarely results in open wounds while MMA fights do so regularly. The blood is a real crowd pleaser but takes a harder toll on fighters bodies. Broken bones are a part of any combat sport but are less common in Boxing than MMA fights. The difference in risk to a fighter’s body can be the deciding factor for many when choosing MMA fighting or boxing.
That doesn’t mean that Boxing isn’t dangerous. The rules of Boxing allow fighters to sustain serious injuries like concussions and permanent brain trauma. These injuries are less visible but can be far more serious than a bloody nose or broken arm. Despite efforts to reduce risk to the fighter, permanent injury is a real risk with either MMA fighting or Boxing.
The viewers are also different
Action sports like MMA fighting or Boxing cater to different viewers with specialized tastes. What appeals to a Boxing fan might be the very thing that makes it unwatchable for an MMA fan. This leads to a much different feeling in the ring. Fighters looking to win over the crowd use different methods to engage.
It has been a long time since legends like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson but Boxing fans still love them. Movies like “Rocky”, “Creed” and others cement the human side of Boxing in popular culture in ways that MMA hasn’t managed yet. This creates a situation where casual fans traditionally have a harder time connecting with an MMA fighter than a Boxer.
The UFC is by far the biggest organization changing the equation and promoting MMA style fights like crazy. They do a great job of hyping fights and providing fans with entertaining matches. The brutality of MMA is one of the biggest draws to these matches and plays well into the hyper-aggressive combat style favored in cage fighting.
It all comes down to angles
How many angles of attack can you keep track of? Boxing limits the angles of attack to strikes to the upper body. Kicks and grapples are banned, reducing the amount of information a fighter needs to keep track of but increasing the reaction speed needed to compete. The open nature of MMA offers more opportunities to catch opponents off guard.
MMA fights often involve joint locks or other grappling techniques to finish things off. This makes it mandatory to build strength throughout the body, not just up top. But the ‘anything goes’ nature of the sport makes it a great place for people to leverage all the combat tricks they know. More legal moves mean fighters have more room to experiment. It also makes it important to understand how to combat a significantly larger number of attacks than Boxing.
If you are looking to get into MMA fighting or boxing as a career, the future looks bright for MMA. The popularity is growing and eclipsing current Boxing championships in both prize money and size of fan base. But the long history and deep cultural connection Boxing has, isn’t going anywhere any time soon.