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Professional boxing has gone through quite a journey. It’s been around for about 100 years which makes it much older than MMA which has only been around for almost the last 30 years.
As boxing fades into the background, the popularity of MMA is rising. This begs the natural question, why? In an attempt to answer this question let’s look into 10 reasons why MMA is better than boxing.
1. MMA Is Not One Dimensional
You see it all the time in boxing. The same pattern of punches over and over again. Jabs, hooks, crosses, uppercuts, etc. A boxer has very limited options when it comes to securing a victory. If he can get good at those, he can just rinse and repeat. Sure. he will need to modify his game plan a bit here and there but when you tune in to a boxing match, expect to see the same thing, over and over.
In boxing, you’ll either punch to the head or the body to damage your opponent and win. This makes it a very predictable sequence of events. Sure, there is also the complexity of head movement and footwork, but these are found in MMA as well in a more developed state.
In MMA, the fighter has to incorporate stance, posture, and head movement to not only protect themselves from punches but also kicks, knees, elbows, and takedowns.
Boxers are trained to go up against other boxers. So their styles are also developed in a vacuum. Boxers don’t have to adapt their boxing to counter a kick or look out for an incoming takedown. As a result, this hamstrings the self-defense aspect of the art and highlights the sport aspect.
MMA, on the other hand, is different. If you’re a fighter looking to bring a specific style into the arena, it has to be adapted for any situation. A jiu-jitsu fighter or wrestler now has to shoot in for a takedown while looking out for an incoming punch.
This is great because it allows their specific discipline to evolve as well! All of a sudden, you have a better version of wrestling. Not just wrestlers against wrestlers. MMA lends itself to every style of fighting and acts as an evolutionary force, not only making better fighters but making martial arts better as a whole.
2. MMA Has A Deeper Talent Pool
The talent pool in MMA is much deeper than that of boxing. You see belts switching much more frequently in MMA and rankings being shifted dynamically every single card. Every division is stacked and you don’t know who will climb through the rankings and be the next champion.
Boxing is a little staler in this regard. It’s a sport that’s focused on records. A boxer with a record of 90-0 is praised for such a feat and these records are often inflated due to them fighting every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
In MMA, you’ll see some of the most talented fighters and Hall of Famers with a stack of losses on their record. That’s because they’re fighting the right people. People who can expose their stylistic weaknesses. You either win or improve.
As a result, the fighter improves on those weaknesses and comes back even stronger. There’s also something attractive about that kind of vulnerability. We gravitate more towards champions we can relate to.
3. MMA Is Evolving
What’s more exciting than watching something grow and develop? For the past few decades that MMA has been around, we’ve seen new techniques and disciplines enter the sport, old techniques refined or go extinct, and entire divisions introduced into the sport.
Additionally, if you’re an MMA fan, there’s lots more to come. The sport is still going through a plethora of changes and improving rapidly. Who doesn’t want to be a part of history?
4. MMA Is Not Corrupt
Even if you’re not a huge boxing fan, you’ve seen the narrative far too often in Television and movies. A boxer is set up for a fight and receives a payout under the table to lose their bout. The world of boxing is often riddled with corruption and its hard to watch when you don’t know if your favorite boxer was paid to take a fall or if he really lost on account of his skill.
The transparency of the big MMA organization like UFC is definitely one thing that tilts the favor towards MMA. If something doesn’t go right, the organization mirrors the same frustration as the everyday, casual fan. This is because the fans are the lifeblood of MMA.
Boxing has an inverted sense of this. The ranks are controlled by a few, elite billionaires without the casual fan in mind. This corrupts the integrity of boxing further, and all of a sudden the fights are about money and not representative of who the best fighter is.
5. MMA Is More Conducive To A Real-World Scenario
Picture this, you’re in the club minding your own business and a drunk stranger comes up to you and starts shoving you. Backed up against and wall and nowhere to run, you’re out of options. He throws a right hook, and chaos ensues.
Now, if you’re like me, you wouldn’t hold back from doing what needs to be done to take this guy out. You’d maybe throw a straight right, or you could shoot in for a double leg. The possibilities are endless.
This is where boxing fails. If you’re only trained in boxing, you won’t have a 100% carry over into the real world. MMA, on the other hand, will prepare you for almost any situation. If you’re trained in a ground-based martial art such as Wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as soon as you take your attacker down, you’ve taken him into deep water, and you’re the shark.
Barring the obvious offenses like groin shots and eye pokes, MMA has much more fluid carry over into the real world. In the real world, anything goes and this is why MMA will serve you better if you’re looking to get into a sport or hobby.
6. Shorter Rounds In MMA
No one wants to watch a boring fight. With 12, 3 minute rounds. A lot of energy conservation is happening in boxing. At any given point in the fight, most fighters are not putting the pedal to the metal, looking to finish, and that’s the problem.
Boxing is focused on playing it safe. MMA, on the other hand, is a bit different. It puts this equation on its head and offers longer round times and fewer total rounds. While fighting smart and safe is promoted, a standard MMA fight offers 3, 5-minute rounds. This gives the fighters a lot more liberty to show us their best.
Often times, fighters come prepared to go 5, 7 or even 10 rounds. It’s a winning situation for everyone involved. Shorter fights drastically reduce injury which means your favorite fighter can jump back into the cage in a matter of months.
The fans also win because fights are much more exciting. Explosive techniques are used far more often without the fighter needing to worry about a depleted gas tank.
7. Fewer Organizations In MMA
If you have a busy life, you don’t want too much more on your plate. Boxing is a four-course meal with appetizers and dessert. There are far too many organizations to follow.
With the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBF and more it can get messy. Each organization has its own champion and there’s even champions with multiple titles from varying organizations. This creates a lot of confusion and even the average boxing fan doesn’t know who the best is anymore. Being a champion doesn’t hold the same merit as being a champion of the world.
Although MMA isn’t much different, it does a much better job of unification. UFC is the premier MMA organization around the world. Being a UFC champion is akin to being the best fighter in your division.
A few copycat organizations have popped up over the years, like Strikeforce and Bellator, but the UFC has a pretty good hold on retaining the best fighters there are. Also, there’s not a whole lot of debate when it comes to naming the best fighters in each division.
8. Better Matchmaking
In MMA, there’s very little ducking or dodging, if any at all. If a fighter is injured for a prolonged period of time, an interim belt is created to appease the crowd’s appetite and if the champion continues to remain absent without a good reason, a new champion is crowned.
To prove you’re the best, you have to beat the best. Boxing, on the other hand, is more focused on padding up records. They will give an up and coming fighter a few easy fights and build him up. These mismatches create boring fights. I can watch a lot of the undercard fights during an MMA event and find many exciting fights.
The UFC’s process is very streamlined. There are very few people who call the shots and make the matches. Unless boxing employs this system, it’ll be left in the dirt.
9. Fewer Weight Divisions
There are 17 known weight classes in boxing today. Throw in all the boxing organizations as well and that’s a lot of champions. No casual fan can keep track of all that. Narrower weight classes also create the problem of fighters jumping between weight classes.
At first, it sounds strange, but if a fighter can be in three different weight classes and still perform at the same (or a similar level), it makes the other two divisions redundant. The fans get the same level of talent being displayed across multiple weight classes and this bloats the organization.
Have fewer divisions centralizes the talent and motivates great fighters to go up against other great fighters because there’s a belt on the line. Again, this is a winning situation for the fans as it breeds a higher level of fighter.
10. Head Injuries
It doesn’t take an expert to know that taking repeated blows to the head isn’t exactly the most ideal outcome. While head injuries are also prevalent in MMA, the interference of other styles dilutes this factor. A lot of retired boxers slur their speech and need subtitles to get through an interview.
The proof is in the pudding. The frenetic pace of MMA and shorter rounds also promote one-punch knockouts which are arguably much safer than repeated blows. Add in the chokes, takedowns, clinching, and other aspects of MMA and you pretty much have a no brainer. Although MMA isn’t the safest sport out there, I think it blows boxing out of the water in this regard.
MMA is here to stay and with each passing day, it enjoys new success based on what it’s doing right. Boxing won’t disappear anytime soon, but we can safely say MMA is taking over as the premier sport of choice in the combat sports world.
Boxing still has tremendous potential to grow if it tears a page out of MMA’s playbook and implements changes that will put it back on a healthy track. Likewise, MMA can benefit from the history of boxing and avoid the mistakes it’s made in the past.