What’s the Difference Between Boxing and MMA?

When Conor McGregor faced Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match, he was in for a world of trouble. His body wanted to fight as he fought in the UFC, but all he could do was punch. As a result, Mayweather easily beat him. McGregor’s skills didn’t translate well because boxing is just too different compared to MMA. Here’s a look at just how distinct the two sports are.

Boxing and MMA’s different combat rules

The biggest difference between the two sports is what’s allowed and what isn’t. In boxing, you can only use punches and you can only hit above the belt. In MMA, almost anything is fair game. 

It’s not just punches and kicks either, MMA skills like wrestling and jiu-jitsu can overwhelm a boxer. For example, when a former heavyweight boxing champion, James Toney, tried his hand in the UFC, he was easily wrestled and submitted by Randy Couture, the UFC heavyweight champion.

This difference in what’s allowed changes how a competitor fights, too. As The Irish Times explains, boxers can stand with their hands near their head, while MMA fighters can’t do this. 

If you put your hands up, then a wrestler can grab on your legs easily and take you down. Your hands need to be closer to your legs to stop it from happening in MMA. This exactly how Khabib Nurmagomedov was able to land a massive right hand on McGregor in their fight.

Furthermore, boxing has a three-knockdown rule, while MMA doesn’t. A knockdown in boxing is when a boxer falls down or takes a knee. If they’re knocked down three times in a fight, then they lose. In MMA, if you get knocked down, the fight won’t stop until the referee says so. 

Other MMA and boxing rules

View this post on Instagram

Caption this

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

Another big difference between the two is the location. Boxing happens in a ring whereas the UFC fights in a cage. The cage is necessary for grappling and wrestling as it can help or hurt fighters in those situations. The boxing ring however, mainly serves as a way to keep the fight in one area. 

According to The Irish Times, another difference between the two sports involves the rounds and rest period. In a boxing title fight, there are 12 three-minute rounds with a minute of rest between each round. This means there can be up to 36 minutes of action in a boxing title fight.

In the UFC, a title fight will last for five five-minute rounds with a minute of rest between each round. This means there can be 25 minutes of fighting in a UFC title fight. 

View this post on Instagram

#MCM Mayweather Crushes McGregor.

A post shared by Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather) on

Furthermore, another big difference involves gloves. MMA gloves are smaller and more flexible than boxing gloves. This allows MMA fighters to wrestle with them. Boxing gloves are massive, and their size is actually used for some defensive techniques. And of course, there are weight classes. In men’s boxing, there are so many weight classes — 17 to be precise. In the UFC, there are only eight men’s divisions.

The lingo

Boxing is a martial art, so UFC fighters will learn boxing and they’ll use boxing lingo and terminology for this skill. However, every other word used in MMA will be foreign to boxers. 

For example, some common MMA terms that just don’t exist in boxing include rear-naked, choke, ground-and-pound, and double leg. A rear-naked choke is a common type of submission. Ground-and-pound is when a fighter beats up another fighter while they’re on the ground. A double leg is a wrestling technique used to take someone down. 

Some boxing terms aren’t used in MMA. For example, the Philly Shell, a defensive technique that uses the size of boxing gloves to help protect a boxer, simply can’t work in MMA.