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Boxing vs. MMA: 11 Differences (Fighting Styles, Rules,…)

Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) may be two popular combat sports, but several differences separate them, turning them into two quite different combat sports. While Boxing has been around since ancient times, MMA only became popular within the last century. 

Boxing uses thicker gloves, while the gloves worn by MMA fighters are much thinner. MMA rounds are longer, but there are fewer rounds than in Boxing. Boxing involves striking while standing up, while MMA involves kickboxing techniques, grappling, and strikes from either the arms or legs. 

Boxing and MMA are like night and day: they share some core similarities, but the nuances that define them make them very different upon deeper inspection. Let’s dive in to discover more differences. 

These are 11 differences between Boxing and MMA:

1. Boxing is More Dangerous Than MMA.

Blood and broken bones are typically seen more in MMA fighting than in Boxing, making it appear that MMA is the more dangerous sport. However, Boxing injuries are less visible but can be more damaging over the long term. Severe concussions and upper body nerve injuries are more common in Boxing than in MMA. With that being said, permanent damage, no matter how many precautions are taken, can happens with both sports. 

2. Boxers Have More Protective Gear.

The gloves used in Boxing are much thicker and more padded than the gloves used in MMA. While boxers can only strike with their fists, MMA fighters use wrestling moves as part of their fighting styles. MMA gloves are thinner so that fighters can grab their opponent quickly, or grab the ropes in self-defense. Boxing gloves are also thicker because they are used to defend their heads from damaging blows.

Boxers also wear special shoes that protect their ankles while in the ring. Usually, MMA fighters don’t use special shoes or other gear, because it would just get in the way of fighting. 

3. Boxing Only Allows Punches Above the Belt.

In a Boxing ring, the fighting consists of punching and blocking above the belt. Boxing rules explicitly state that no other moves are allowed. When a boxer is down, the fight stops until he or she is back up again. 

On the other hand, almost everything is legal in MMA, including wrestling and jiu-jitsu moves, kickBoxing, clinches, and grapples. If a fighter goes down, that doesn’t necessarily stop the fighting. As a result, it is more common to see blood on either fighter during an MMA match compared to Boxing matches.

4. MMA Rounds Last Longer.

Boxing rounds last three minutes each, with a minute of recovery time before the next round. While amateur bouts have three to six rounds, professional sessions have twelve rounds. Without counting breaks, a Boxing match will last 36 minutes unless an opponent is unable to continue. 

MMA rounds, however, last a maximum of five minutes each. A fight will typically have between three to five rounds, depending on the type of fight, as well as the organizer. Therefore, without considering the one-minute breaks, an MMA fight will last between 15 to 25 minutes. 

5. MMA Focuses on All Fighting Situations.

Boxers train in gyms or clubs, with specialized gear, such as helmets, mouthguards, and sparring bags. The training focus for fighters is on spacing, timing, and reading their opponent, which are great for a stand-up sport. Boxers also train their hands and prepare for stand-up situations only, and will work on their footwork and reaction speeds. 

MMA fighters train for all types of fighting situations, including wrestling on the ground. So much that it’s often compared to street fighting on some levels.

6. Professionals Earn Different Amounts.

The pay scales for both combat sports are all over the place. However, if we compare some of the highest earners in each sport, Boxing will come out ahead by a considerable difference. For instance, former Boxing star, Floy Mayweather, has made about $1.7 billion (Yes! With a ‘B’) during his career. While Conor McGregor, who fought on some of the highest-selling UFC events, has earned about $250 million

So, how much do the average boxers make per fight? On the low end, they can expect to earn in the low four digits per fight. At that level, many boxers only fight around 4-6 times per year, so their yearly salary is pretty low (when compared to the high earners).

When it comes to the MMA, a fighter’s pay depends on if they are in the UFC or not. An MMA fighter not in the UFC can expect to make much less while than someone that fights in the UFC. Also, for both combat sports, the pay depends on the endorsements and sponsorships

7. When the Fight Ends.

The match ends in Boxing when an opponent is knocked out and unable to continue after the ten-count. Or, if they both last for the full twelve rounds, then the boxer who delivered the most punches (and gets the most points) wins the fight. MMA fights, however, end when the referee says it ends (even if the fighter might be able to continue). An MMA fighter can win by a knockout, a technical knockout, submission, or by total points.

8. Boxing Ring & The Cage. 

Boxing happens in a square ring with ropes to prevent spectators from getting too close, keeping them inside the ring during the fight, or keeping the match in one place. On the other hand, MMA fights are held in a cage, which is necessary for wrestling and grappling during a match. The cage will either hurt or help them as they continue the fight. 

9. They Offer Different Self-Defense Techniques.

Both Boxing and MMA skills can help in self-defense situations. But in a street fight, the MMA style trains a person for on-the-ground fighting, while Boxing is much more useful in a stand-up fight. If the fight gets worse or gets to the ground, a person will need to rely on MMA skills. 

10. MMA Hits Might Come from Any Angle.

Where and how a fighter is allowed to hit is entirely different in Boxing or MMA fights. While in Boxing, strikes (punches) are limited to the upper body; in MMA, hits might come from most parts of the body. 

MMA fighters need to be constantly aware of where the next attack will come from. On the contrary, Boxers are only tuned into attacks at the upper level and are not prepared for lower-level attacks. However, not needing to prepare for lower-level attacks means that a boxer can fine-tune their reaction speed to any blows at the upper body level.

11. Boxing Is More Ingrained in Popular Culture History.

For instance, people who grew up with “Rocky” and other Boxing movies have more connection with Boxing than with MMA fighting. Because MMA is still relatively new compared to Boxing, MMA has yet to be cemented in popular culture.

MMA is not a casual fan sport. People either love it or hate it, and the fighters play to the crowd, hoping to engage the fans. MMA fans may like Boxing because of it being in popular culture for many years. They often are drawn in due to the aggressiveness of the sport. For MMA fans, the draw is the cage fighting and hyper-aggressive style.


While Boxing has a long history, MMA fighting is here to stay – love it or hate it. Comparing Boxing to MMA is much like comparing oranges to cucumbers. They are both technically produce but are very different in terms of taste, texture, color, and growing conditions. 

Boxing is quite different from MMA. They are both combat sports, but everything from the gear used to the length of the rounds couldn’t be further apart. Fans of both sports appreciate each for their unique contribution to combat sports.