What’s the Difference? Boxing vs MMA

This article marks the beginning of a new series, What’s the Difference? This series will cover sports competitions that sometimes gets mixed up with one another. Enjoy the article, and hope you leave the site with a clearer understanding!


 Boxing and MMA (short for Mixed Martial Arts) both involve 2 people fighting each other by using only their body as weapons.

These are two of the most popular sports in the world, with millions eager to see dynamic and bloody fights between top ranked fighters from a variety of nations. However, it appears that some people confuse MMA and Boxing, which are completely different sporting events. Here are some major differences.

1) The allowed actions during the fight and variety.

Boxing rules only allow punches, above the belt of the trunks boxers wear in a match. In MMA, almost any move is allowed. MMA has a variety of types of fighters, including wrestlers and boxers both at the top level, meaning that wrestlers can use their abilities to make tackles and take great boxers down to victory. Conversely, boxers are only allowed to master the craft of punching, though similar to MMA fighters, boxers have different styles.

2) Where the fighters fight.

This is another significant difference, and the 2 images make it easier to explain.


The 1st image shows a boxing ring, which is square in shape and  is surrounded by ropes. The 2nd image shows a Ultimate Fighting Championship fighting cage (MMA tournament), which is an octagon surrounded with metal caging. It is often said that boxing rings make it easier for judges and spectators to watch the action. The MMA cage, meanwhile has contributed to the development of several new tactics of fighting, such as defending tackles and taking down opponents.

3) Terminology

MMA fighters, besides wrestling and kicking, also learn how to master boxing. In the process, they will learn basic terms of the martial art. However, for many boxers, words used for moves in MMA are quite alien. One example is the rear-naked choke, the most common type of finish move, which involves one fighter locking both his arms in a L shape to choke the opponent and force to give up. This is obviously not seen in boxing as boxing rules do not allow this move. Similarly, the boxing term Philly Shell is unknown to MMA fighters, as the move involves using boxing gloves, significantly larger compared to MMA gloves, to guard a fighter’s face.

Overall, it can be seen that there are differences between these 2 sports, but that does not mean you have to prefer one over the other. If you like a bit of excitement and seeing drama in the ring/cage, I highly recommend you to watch these events!


The Sports team of the CGA Press will continue to cover experiences of athletes, and stories of students that you could be in the same classroom everyday. Look out for new articles released on the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month.