Difference Between Muay Thai, Boxing, and MMA

Difference Between Muay Thai, Boxing, and MMA

What Is Muay Thai?

It is fast becoming one of the most beloved combat sport in the world. Muay Thai is a form of contact sport that is combative. It is a form of self-defense sport involving martial arts that comes from Thailand. It should not be confused with kickboxing. The two share some similarities but are different combative sports.

In Muay Thai, every move you make will require you to rotate your hip as you extend a kick to your opponent. Your opponent is allowed to grab your leg mid-kick as a form of defense. You are allowed to also kick below the waistline. A Muay Thai fighter is known to use eight points of their body to attack their opponent making the sport brutal. They include hands, elbows, knees, and tibias).

Muay Thai discipline has been in existence for centuries but no written record exists pinpointing the exact time. Most of these records were destroyed during ancient times of war. The discipline was mostly employed by warriors on the battlefield and it wasn’t until the reign of King Prachao Sua that it was practiced as a sport.

Muay Thai is divided into luk mai and the mae mai. Both men and women take part in Muay Thai on a competitive and recreational level. The most sort after rings for this sport are found in Thailand and see participants from all over the world travel there annually.   Like other combative sports, the rate of injuries in Muay Thai is high especially among beginners whose bodies are yet to be conditioned.

Most beginners suffer from soft tissue injuries caused by repetitive blows to softer parts of your body. It takes time for your body to get used to being constantly hit. Muay Thai fighters wear no padding and some a few protective gear which include gloves and groin cups. Other forms of injuries include sprains, fractures, and strains. Fractures normally occur on carpal bones, ribs, nose and metacarpals.

What Is Boxing?

Boxing is more than just a fistfight. It is one of the most popular combat sport worldwide. Most nations on earth participate in boxing championships and it is even an Olympic sport. Famous boxers like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson are legends in the sport. The rise of boxing as a fitness trend has seen the industry grow in lips and strides as well. Both men and women are straying from the norm of just going to the gym and are now participating in boxing as a way to exercise and strengthen their bodies.

Boxing has been around for centuries. It is one of the world’s oldest sport. It requires two opponents who are in a ring punching each other but guided by set rules. It’s not just throwing punches left, right and center.  Boxing fights last anywhere from three to twelve rounds with each round lasting three minutes for men and two minutes for women.

Anyone can get started in boxing. There are numerous gyms dedicated to boxing available countrywide. You just have to choose one and get started. Boxing requires players to wear some protective gear. This includes headgear, gloves, and mouthguard. There is some specialized equipment too that boxers use to train which include punching bag, skipping rope, and sparring bags too.

Boxing, like any other competitive sport, has rules that boxers must adhere to failure to which they will be disqualified. The most common rules include the presence of a referee at all times in the ring during the competition, opponents must wear the required protective gear throughout the match, no wrestling each other, no punching below the waist, no knocking an opponent when they are knocked-out, no assisting a knocked-down opponent once they are down until time is up among others.

Boxing matches always have the presence of three judges whose job is to score the match and assign players points. These points are based on the punches, defense, knockdowns, and hugging involved. Judges assign a winner in case no opponent is knocked-out and the number of rounds that had been set has passed.

What Is MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)

By now, you may have heard the term Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and wondered what is it. This is a full-contact combative sport played in a ring by two opponents. It involves training in some different combative sports including Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Judo among others. The two opponents facing each other in a ring normally weigh the same. MMA as a sport the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the organization that sets up fights and sponsors fighters.

Mixed Martial Arts involves two opponents striking each other while standing up and even when down on the ground. MMA rounds last for five minutes each and there are normally three rounds per match. This is slightly different from a championship match which has five rounds. MMA rules fall under the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (URMMA).  The rules dictate everything about the sport from the size of the ring, how opponents wrap their hand for protection, how the judgment is be passed among others.

MMA fighters are categorized according to their weight in what is referred to as UFC Weight Classes. MMA fights are monitored by three judges sited outside the ring/cage. They judge each MMA technique used by the opponents and award points according to the guideline of the 10-Point Must System.

Difference Between Muay Thai, Boxing, and MMA

 Yes, they are combative, contact sports, but they couldn’t be more different. The techniques, rules, governing organizations, participants and even protective gear differs among the three sports. You should know which one interests you the most of them.

1. Number of Limbs Used

Muay Thai fighters are known to use eight limbs to fight and that is why it is popularly known as the Art of Eight Limbs. Opponents can use punches, elbows, knees, and kicks on each other. MMA fighters use four limbs which include punches and kicks. A boxer, on the other hand, can only use punches against an opponent. Using any other limb may lead to loss of points or disqualification.

2. Protective Gear

The gloves worn by Muay Thai fighters are heavily padded at the front to help you defend against blows and kicks from your opponent. Muay Thai fighters wear shin guards for ample protection from swift kicks. Boxing gloves are padded for effective absorption of impact but not as heavily as those of Muay Thai. Boxers do not wear shin guards because boxing does not involve kicks.

MMA fighters wear gloves that have open fingers due to the acceptance of grappling in the fight to compel your opponent to submission. They also wear shin guards to protect their shins from the kicks of their opponents.

3. Main Take Down Tactic

In boxing, the jab is the most effective way to attack your opponent and you can only take them down by a knock-out punch. In Muay Thai, the main weapon against your opponent is a long-range swift kick delivered with precision and power. You are at an advantage if you are tall and fast because you can deliver fast and effective kicks. MMA fighting has no specific takedown technique. You can punch, kick or tap out using set submission moves dictated by the sport guidelines.

4. Location Differences

Boxing takes part in a ring. It must be designed as per the set rules and meet measurements. MMA fights take place in cages which are necessary to protect the opponents as they wrestle and grapple each other. Muay Thai fight can take place in both rings and cages.

5. Number of Rounds and Timing of Each Round

There is a difference in the number of rounds in the three sports and the duration of each round. MMA title fights are known to go for five rounds each lasting a maximum of five minutes. Boxing championships go for twelve rounds each lasting three minutes. Muay Thai matches last for five rounds each being three minutes long.

6. Difference in Movement

Muay Thai fighters are known to stand in one position and deliver as many blows, punches, and kicks without having to move. Boxers have to make small movements to regroup while throwing punches. Foot movement is very important in boxing. MMA fighters make use of the whole cage and are seen as all over the place without taking many stances. Standing still as an MMA fighter will see you have a very short fight.


Though the three sports are all combative and involve contact among opponents, they are also very different. It is hard for players who are conditioned in one sport for example MMA to participate successfully in the other (Boxing or Muay Thai). This is what happened to Corner McGregor who is a conditioned MMA fighter. He was not able to perform when it came to boxing against Floyd Mayweather who is a professional boxer.  The rules and guidelines for each are different as well.

Before deciding which one you want to participate in, either as a way to keep fit or professionally, get to know them well. All three have similarities but another difference is the protective gear you will wear in the ring. They also take part in different locations some being fought in the ring and others in a cage.