MMA vs Boxing 2022: What are the main differences

Combat sports have been a test of skill and courage since the dawn of civilization. Although boxing and wrestling had all the press in ancient times, pankration was part of the Olympic Games. This full-contact sport combined wrestling with boxing and was the precursor to modern mixed martial arts (MMA).

The lure of boxing and MMA fights is consistently breaking TV ratings records, and sportsbooks make it easy to bet on the most popular fights. However, before you google how to bet on boxing, it is crucial to know the difference between MMA and boxing.

fighting styles

It is said that a boxer must have good footwork and a good punch. All of the great fighters danced around the ring, throwing lightning-fast punches. However, in MMA, punches are only a tiny segment of the techniques used to bring down an opponent. The concept of the sport is to incorporate various fighting styles including grappling, kicking and punching. Most MMA fighters train in kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, and other disciplines.

This wide range of styles means that contact is allowed in all parts of the body except the eyes and groin. This is one of the most significant differences when talking about MMA versus boxing, the latter having more limitations as boxers cannot punch below the waist. There is no holding, slapping or punching when an opponent is down. Something that isn’t a rule in MMA, where fighters can go for it while they’re on the ground, with a few exceptions like stomping and soccer kicks to the head.

Knockouts are part of both sports, although MMA fighters frequently aim for submission, which involves many skills.

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Weight classes

The setting of an MMA fight resembles a scene from an action movie with illegal underground fights. But, in reality, the sport is highly regulated, with fighters only allowed to compete in their weight class. This aspect is one of the most significant differences between MMA and boxing.

Organizations that promote MMA fights usually have 14 weight classes that differ between 5 and 20 pounds. However, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has 8 weight classes for men and 4 for women.

But MMA regulations are constantly changing. The problem for most fighters in the UFC and similar promotions is that the reduced number of weight classes means a more drastic weight reduction when they want to migrate from one weight class to another. The same is true when they want to climb and need to add extra weight. The heavyweight division is capped at 265 pounds.

Boxing is more versatile in the organization of weight classes. There are 18 classes for professional boxers. The reason for the large number is the smaller weight difference between the classes, ranging between 3 and 8 pounds. This allows boxers to be champions in multiple divisions simultaneously, because shedding a few pounds isn’t a problem. And heavyweight divisions have no limit in boxing, unlike in MMA.

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Number of turns

A standard boxing match lasts 12 rounds with 3 minutes per round. Matches may end early in the event of a knockout or if a boxer cannot continue due to injury. If the boxers are standing when the bell signals the end of the 12th round, the victory goes to the boxer with the most points from the judges.

The fighting protocol in MMA is remarkably similar to boxing. Points, knockouts or a submission determine the winner. A submission means that a fighter is in an unavoidable situation and yields. The biggest difference is in the number of rounds, with MMA fighting having 3 rounds, each lasting 5 minutes.

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MMA octagon versus boxing ring

The stage for boxing versus MMA matches differs in size and shape. MMA fights take place in an octagon-shaped cage, with a fence separating the fighters from the audience. The size of the octagon may vary depending on the organization promoting the fights. In the case of the UFC, matches take place in a 750 square foot octagon.

The boxing ring is a square with boundary lines bounded by ropes, and there are approximately 20 feet between the ropes. Most combat sports fans believe that boxers benefit from the ring because the corners help trap an opponent, while the MMA cage limits options for fighters. Nonetheless, some have used the net as leverage for leg kicks to gain extra altitude when striking an opponent.

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fighting gloves

Participants of both sports do not enter the ring or the octagon with their bare hands. They wear gloves that offer some degree of protection to the hands and limit the damage that can be inflicted on an opponent.

In both sports, the gloves are different in weight and shape. MMA gloves are designed for grappling, which means the fingers are exposed. The gloves are also lighter, weighing around 3 ounces, offering great flexibility during takedowns and chokes.

Boxing gloves are designed to punch and weigh up to 12 ounces. The hand is clenched into a fist, with no possibility of grabbing an opponent.

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Boxing is an Olympic sport, and internationally each country has a national federation that promotes the matches. Some of the most popular organizations are WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO. Each federation has its own rules and a boxer who holds a title from one federation can compete in another organization. For example, Lennox Lewis unified the WBC title with the IBF and WBA titles.

MMA is a young sport, where the UFC is the dominant force – the first organization to promote MMA fighting in the United States. The UFC is the epicenter of the sport and attracts the best fighters from around the world. Bellator and Japan’s ONE FC are promotions with market share and influence.


Combat sports tap into the instinctual impulse to survive and always draw crowds who enjoy the catharsis a match offers. Boxing’s popularity against MMA is growing, and the two sports generally have the same fan base.

Unsurprisingly, we’re starting to see crossover matches, like the Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor matchup two years ago.