Boxing is a good base for Mixed Martial Arts but it isn’t the best. It is simply one facet of the game and the way its implemented is completely different in the two sports due to the fundamental differences between them. That being said, boxing is an essential skill in MMA and is greatly beneficial to nearly all fighters.
One of the main differences between Boxing and MMA is the size of gloves used. In Professional Boxing, the gloves are typically 8-12 ounces and have a lot of surface area. This means that boxers can use them to block, parry, and deflect oncoming punches. Floyd Mayweather Jr is a perfect example of this, he uses the shoulder roll to block punches coming from all angles. The surface area of the gloves allows him to catch every incoming shot.
However, In MMA, the gloves are only 4 ounces and are fingerless due to the grappling elements of MMA. This means that a lot of the sophisticated blocks, rolls, and parries that are used throughout boxing are simply redundant in Mixed Martial Arts.
So while boxing is an incredibly useful skill to have as a Mixed Martial Artist, it isn’t the best base. The difference in gloves, permissible strikes, and the fundamental nature of the sports make them more different than alike. This is why its incredibly difficult for high-level boxers to transition into MMA and vice versa.
Distance Management In Boxing Compared To MMA
The distance in striking exchanges is probably the biggest disparity between striking in Boxing and MMA. In pure boxing, you can only use your hands and you can only strike above the waist. The essentially means that both fighters have to be closer in order to hit each other. However, in MMA, kicks are also part of the equation. Legs are typically a much longer limb than the arms and can therefore reach you before a punch can. This means being entirely dependent on boxing can often be detrimental in the cage.
This difference in distance completely changes the dynamic in regards to striking as there are much more elements that you need to focus on. On top of this, MMA fighters have to be wary of takedowns as well as knees and elbows in the clinch. This results in fighters often being further apart and having to worry about several more elements than boxers.
All of this essentially means that traditional boxing doesn’t translate directly to MMA as many people think. It is undoubtedly a useful skill within the cage but it is only one facet of the game. In order to be proficient in MMA you have master all the facets of hand-to-hand combat. This is why there haven’t been many boxers who’ve successfully transitioned over to MMA. While they would have a clear advantage in the punching department, most boxers simply wouldn’t be able to deal with all the other elements of Mixed Martial Arts or learn how to defend against them. Especially in a relatively short time period.
How Can Boxing Be Implemented In MMA
Boxing is best implemented as a raw skill than an actual discipline in MMA. Lots of the sophisticated boxing doesn’t translate particularly well into MMA because of the reasons previously mentioned. Simpler punches and combinations are usually more effective in Mixed Martial Arts. A lot of the slips, catches, and rolls used by the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Pernell Whitaker would simply be redundant in Mixed Martial Arts as they would leave you more susceptible to other forms of attack.
Despite his recent losses in MMA, Conor McGregor is still the best example of this during his featherweight campaign. McGregor used lots of clever kicks and strange movement to lure his opponents into becoming confused and stationary. He then often used a clean and simple left hand that he’d learned from boxing to finish them.
Boxing vs MMA Rules
There is a large difference between the rule set in Boxing and MMA. I think people often make the assumption that because they both punch that the skills required are relatively similar but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Listed Below are some of the most relevant rules for both Boxing and MMA.
- Strikes are only permissible above the waist
- No wrestling
- No elbows or use of forearms
- Referee intervines after knockdown
- 8-10 ounce gloves
- 3 minute rounds
- Strikes permissible to all areas of the body aside from back of the head, groin, and spine
- 4 ounce gloves
- Punches, kicks, elbows, knees, and wrestling are all permissible
- 5 minute rounds
Best Boxers in MMA
- Conor McGregor – Despite his recent losses in the cage, McGregor remains the best pure boxer we’ve seen inside the octagon. Most notably in his championship fight with Eddie Alvarez in 2016, McGregor knocked Alvarez down several times with brilliant poise and precision. McGregor also did remarkably well against Floyd Mayweather despite being stopped in the 10th round. While there was frankly a huge disparity in skill level, McGregor was able to land a couple of good shots.
- Petr Yan – Despite his controversial losses to Aljamain Sterling, many people still believe Petr Yan to be the rightful UFC bantamweight champion. Yan’s striking is second to none, he is a Muay Thai fighter and has a good understanding of boxing. All of his punches are crisp and powerful with excellent form.
- Jorge Masvidal – Masvidal’s resurgence in 2019 got him a lot of attention and people quickly discovered how good his striking was combined with a new mentality. He KO’d Darren Till with a brilliant left hand using stance switching to land the blow.
- Max Holloway – What Max Holloway lacks lacks in punching power, he more than makes up for in output. His fight against Calvin Kattar showed that he has some of the best technical boxing in the UFC. Holloway has good head movement, set-ups his punches well, and has unbelievable endurance.
- Israel Adesanya – Adesanya has shown beautiful boxing in fights in the UFC. Most notably against Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. Israel finished both of these top contenders with punches in close range.
- Dustin Poirier – Poirier’s wins over Holloway and McGregor have solidified him as one of the best boxers in MMA. Particularly his second bout with McGregor in which he KO’d him in the second round. Despite not having the same level of pure boxing as McGregor, Poirier was able to implement a lot punches into his gameplan. This combined with low kicks and takedowns resulted in a definitive win for Dustin.
To conclude, boxing is an excellent base for Mixed Martial Arts. Punches are incredibly useful within the cage and boxing is an essential skill for nearly all MMA fighters. That being said it probably isn’t the best base to start from. While we’ve seen the likes of Conor McGregor and Jorge Masvidal be incredibly effective with their boxing in MMA, they have both often come unstuck against high level wresters.
Hence why some of the most dominant fighters in MMA like Khabib Nurmagamedov, Kamuru Usman, and Colby Covington have a background in wrestling. But regardless, boxing is an excellent sport to practice for mixed martial arts but if you intend on competing then sports like Muay Thai and Kickboxing may be more effective as they utilise kicks and incorporated punches that are used at that range.