Boxing vs MMA – Which Is Better In A Street Fight?

I think the vast majority of combat sports specialists will agree that Mixed Martial Arts is the purest form of unarmed combat. However, street fighting isn’t a fair or regulated match. It’s sporadic, unexpected, and often occurs in awkward situations.

I’d also like to make it clear that there is no better method of self-defense than walking away from an altercation that can be avoided. Morgues are full of egos. You shouldn’t fight unless you absolutely have to. There is simply too much risk involved.

That being said, Mixed Martial Arts is undoubtedly purer and therefore favorable for general fighting. This is simply because it encompasses more elements of unarmed combat and can prepare you for a larger variety of situations.

So, if you’re overall goal is to become a complete fighter then Mixed Martial Arts is the obvious choice. However, if you want to learn a martial art purely for self-defense, then learning a single discipline very well is a great alternative.

Why MMA Isn’t the Obvious Choice

A lot of people are going to disagree but I don’t think MMA is always the obvious choice if you’re looking for a method of self-defense on the street. MMA encompasses various martial arts and methods, so it takes an incredibly long time to become a competent Mixed Martial Artist. While it takes an equally long time to achieve an elite level in boxing, it is much easier to become moderately competent in boxing as it is limited to one form of striking. MMA includes but isn’t limited to the following Martial Arts:

  • Muay Thai
  • Kickboxing
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • Brazillian Jiu Jitsu
  • Capoeira
  • Judo
  • Karate
  • Taekwondo
  • Sambo

In the vast majority of street fights, people rely on punches, elbows, and headbutts. It’s rare to see someone incorporate kicks, wrestling, or Ju-Jitsu in street fights, and for good reasons. There are different risks associated with these disciplines when street fighting.

The Issue With Wrestling & BJJ On the Streets

Ju-Jitsu is an incredibly powerful martial art and can allow you to defend yourself and subdue your opponent without striking.  

However, using Ju-Jitsu in a street fight comes with a certain level of risk. If you were to bring the fight to the ground, it could become more dangerous. The other person involved in the altercation could be carrying a weapon that they could easily use when wrestling on the ground. The other major threat is that when you are on the ground, you’re not in a good position to run.

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This severely comprises your position because in altercations as you always need to be able to run because you cannot predict what happens next. There are literally endless possibilities of things that could occur, so you need to be in the best possible situation to protect yourself, whether that is through fighting or running.

The Issue With Kicking In the Streets

Another example is Muay Thai or Kickboxing. Both of them are formidable martial arts and are excellent forms of self-defense. However, when you are out in public, your kicking ability may be compromised. For instance, if you’re wearing jeans or if you’re in a tight space, kicking becomes practically redundant. In the right situation, kicking is a devastating form of self-defense. However, sophisticated strikes require lots of freedom of movement and often aren’t accessible in street altercations.  

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We’re not saying that MMA is less effective than boxing in a street fight because that simply isn’t the case. However, we wouldn’t say that it’s the definite route to take for someone who wants to be able to defend themselves in the street. There are lots of other martial arts like boxing that are much quicker to learn and nearly as useful in street altercations.

Why Boxing Is Useful In Street Fights

Boxing is effective in street fights because it’s simple and fast. While it can’t prepare you for every situation that you could encounter, boxing broadly covers a lot of the situations that may occur on the street. It also allows you to maintain distance between yourself and your assailant.

The devastating functionality of boxing is even reflected in Mixed Martial Arts itself, with it producing the most world champions behind wrestling and BJJ. Both of which we’ve established aren’t always ideal for street fighting. Listed below are the number of UFC champions from various Martial Arts via All of these fighters are proficient in a variety of disciplines, but they have been organized by their base or the martial art they originate from:

Martial ArtNumber of World UFC Champions
Wrestling 37
Brazilian Jui-Jitsu36
Boxing 23
Muay Thai13
Karate 7

Advantages of MMA in Street Fighting

A wider variety of strikes allows you to defend yourself in more scenarios

MMA undoubtedly has more creative striking because the range is much broader than the conventional boxing range. You may be more comfortable using elbows or knees in close quarters if you’ve trained in MMA. While a boxer may struggle to land effective punches from compromised positions.

More dangerous strikes

A strong kick is much harder than a strong punch, this is an undeniable truth. Providing that you actually have the mobility and space to throw a powerful kick, it can cause devastating results. A body kick or a leg kick can immediately render someone defenseless. The sheer power generated by a properly thrown kick is far greater than a conventional punch.


In some instances, you may not be stay on your feet. There are rare instances where you can’t walk away and you’re in a confined space. In these instances, grappling and jiu-jitsu are massively helpful. While it isn’t ideal to be in close quarters with someone who wants to hurt you, boxing basically becomes redundant if someone gets ahold of you.

Multiple methods of subduing your opponent

Being prepared for most situations is always a good thing and MMA encompasses many more methods of self-defense.

Grappling/Ju-Jitsu can prevent too severe damage from occurring

When using boxing for self-defense, you run the risk of causing someone serious harm. They can get knocked out and their head may hit the concrete causing further complications. That is why you should always run after you’ve created some space. However, grappling will allow you to subdue your opponent in a safer manner, but there are still other risks involved with grappling as we mentioned earlier.

Practice in smaller gloves with less wrist support

MMA gloves are only 4oz which means it helps you gain practice striking with little to no support on the wrist and hands which in turn will make your technique more appropriate to the style of punching that would be employed in a street fight. A lot of the fancy boxing punches simply wouldn’t work in the absence of the big padded gloves.

Disadvantages of MMA in Street Fighting

Fighting on the ground can make you more vulnerable on the street

As we mentioned earlier, being on the ground is never a good idea during altercations in public. This is because you always want to be able to run and when you’re on the floor grappling with someone, you won’t be able to do that.

Kicks may not be accessible

Kicks are brutal but in a tight bar, pub, or alleyway, they can be compromised. Since they require freedom of movement, it’s probably not advisable to throw a kick unless you’re absolutely sure that you have the space and sure footing.

Takes longer to learn

This is probably the biggest disadvantage to learning MMA over Boxing. It takes so much longer to reach a good level because there is so much more to learn. However, it is undeniably more rounded and useful in a street fight.

Advantages of Boxing in Street Fighting

Keeps the fight on the feet

Boxing will keep you on your feet which is integral in any altercation because as soon as you find a window to run and escape the situation, you should take it. Boxing also helps you generate explosive movement which is good for sprinting and therefore escaping these situations with your health intact which is the most important thing.

Allows you to maintain distance

Distance management is a key component in boxing and it can prove to be very useful in altercations. The understanding range allows you to maintain a healthy distance between you and your opponent which will help keep you out of danger, even if a punch hasn’t been thrown yet.

Easier to learn

Becoming an elite boxer is just as, if not harder, than becoming an elite MMA fighter. However, you can learn the fundamentals of boxing relatively quickly.

Easier to implement

Since there is much less to think about, boxing is easier to implement in real-life altercations. Frankly, the only strike you really need to learn well is the straight cross.

Disadvantages of Boxing in Street Fighting

Only one method to subdue your opponent

If you find yourself in a situation where you are forced to fight, boxing only allows you to subdue your opponent with one method. Which is a knockout. There are a lot of dangers involved in a knockout as you’re rendering your opponent unconscious with blunt trauma to the head. Usually, someone will back down once they know that whoever, they’re fighting has martial arts experience. However, sometimes this isn’t the case and people won’t back down because of their egos.

Not as versatile

If you find yourself pressed right next to someone who wants to hurt you boxing isn’t going to be massively helpful. Martial arts like Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and Sambo will much better prepare you in the clinch for this type of fighting.

Useless on the ground

Boxing is quite honestly, useless on the ground. In boxing, you’re taught to generate power through your legs, hips, and arms. However, this technique doesn’t translate well to the ground. If you want to learn effective ground strikes, take up MMA.

Hand Injuries

Since they are your primary weapon in boxing, hand injuries are very common. However, since boxers use big padded gloves in practice, they may not be accustomed to punching without the added protection and support. This means that you can hurt yourself if you don’t use the technique that is suitable for punching with no gloves. Punching without gloves can also often cause bruising and cuts on your hands.


My conclusion to this topic is quite simple. MMA is better if you want to be as competitive as possible when it comes to self-defense on the street. However, boxing is a great alternative and you can still use it to protect yourself in many situations. This means it is a good option for someone who doesn’t want to learn every martial art just so they can protect themselves.

I may be slightly biased as I come from a boxing background but we’d like to hear everyone else’s thoughts on this subject so feel free to comment below.

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