MMA and boxing are often compared - both are fighting sports, both are one versus one, and both take place in the ring (or in some cases, the cage.) However, the differences between the two sports are vast and pronounced. Just what makes them so unique? Continue reading to find out.
Variety of Attacks
The most obvious similarities and differences are technical. Both MMA and boxing involve punching, but MMA is far more versatile, allowing for kicks, throws, submission locks, and more. In boxing, you only worry about your opponent's hands and footwork. In MMA, you have to worry about everything (hands, elbows, knees, etc.) your opponent can use against you.
Style of Attack
Since MMA is inspired from martial arts, even MMA punching techniques are different from that of boxing - especially if a fighter needs to be watching for kicks and takedown attempts when throwing each punch. Whereas boxers focus on strength and speed, MMA fighters must develop a much more diverse range of physical attributes – such as flexibility and balance - in all positions, not just standing.
As such, MMA offers more opportunities for gracefulness compared to boxing. Undoubtedly, you need to be strong and capable of throwing those punches and kicks, but only vast flexibility offers fighters the ability to stretch out that kick to the head, or throw someone down from an awkward position.
Popularity of Professional Fighters
When it comes to the professional game, the top MMA fighters tend to be less iconic than their boxing counterparts, partly due to the relative longevity and fame of boxing. Boxing has always had its famous champions, such as Tyson and Foreman, who dominated their sport to the point where they earned tens of millions of dollars per fight. But because of the disparity between the great and standard boxers, boxing fans must often endure mediocre, one-sided fights that are decided before the competitors enter the ring. However, they also get the tension, drama and excitement of fights between kings of the sport, such as Ali versus Liston.
Dominance of the Champions
MMA fighters tend to dominate their sport less than the top boxers, and earn much lower salaries. Statistically, the best MMA fighters can expect to be dethroned much more quickly than their boxing counterparts. But while it's interesting to watch top fighters fall to determined newcomers, MMA consequently lacks the immutable aura of the huge boxing fighters that could propel the sport's popularity even further. Of course, MMA is not devoid of champions – see Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, or Georges St. Pierre – but it has a long way to go before it reaches the prestige of boxing.
Safety and Injury
Finally, MMA and boxing seem to argue regularly over which sport is the most brutal or damaging to its competitors. There are valid arguments either way, but MMA is safer overall. That MMA incorporates martial arts suggests fighters will be more respectful to one another than in boxing, and since MMA is not just about hitting your opponent in the face, fighters are much less likely to sustain fatal head injuries. Certainly, the emphasis on hitting any part of your opponent's body in MMA opens competitors to a variety of injuries, but these injuries pale in comparison to permanent brain damage.
Those are some of the main differences between these two sports, so I hope that makes some sense. Now please do me a favor - don't start any arguments about who would win in a fight, the boxer or mixed martial artist. As you now know, they are two completely different sports, and the argument is just a waste of time.
William Barnes is a huge MMA fan. When he's not watching the latest UFC event, he is probably writing for The MMA Fan Guide, an MMA site by fans, for fans.