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Which Is Best For Self Defense - MMA Or Boxing?

Robert Green
Published: September 6, 2021
Updated: September 6, 2021

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The best fighting style for self-defense is MMA, due to its versatility and wide range of techniques. Many fighters learn boxing techniques within MMA, so not only will you receive boxing training, but you will also receive training in various other combat styles.

This will help you develop an adaptable fighting style to overcome several different scenarios, since self-defense is usually needed in unpredictable situations. Learning a wide range of fighting styles will result in you being able to survive a fight in tight spaces as well as when you are further away from your attacker. 

While MMA may have more advantages over boxing, it is still important to choose a fighting style that works for your body type and situation. Therefore, the answer to the question of whether MMA or boxing is best for self-defense may depend on your individual needs. 

Here is how the two disciplines match up, to help you determine which style is best for you.

person in blue mask and black and purple suit

What Is MMA?

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is not a single discipline of fighting, but rather a mix of various combat styles used in combination. MMA fighters learn a variety of martial arts and don’t need to learn specific disciplines to enter the ring and win fights. 

Not all MMA fighters follow the same path when learning how to fight. Each fighter will have strengths in different disciplines and their success is determined by the ability to develop a strong offense while reacting to the unpredictable offense of their opponent. 

Fighters develop these skills by learning the best techniques from multiple martial arts and blending them to create a smooth fighting style. 

MMA has become a popular sport to watch because of its diverse nature. Spectators are given a show of multiple combat styles and this creates an unpredictable match.

The biggest advantage of learning MMA is the diverse fighting styles you will develop, which include both stand-up fighting, which is how most street fights start, and you will learn how to grapple and clinch on the ground. This is helpful if your assailant manages to knock you down.

If you are not ready to learn MMA, you can begin by learning boxing as these techniques can be used in the MMA ring. Title-winning fighters, such as Conor McGregor have strong control over boxing techniques with the ability to effectively use them during an MMA fight.

The Tale Of The Tape

Here are the pros and cons when determining whether MMA is the right option for you.


  • A diverse fighting style
  • Techniques for stand-up and ground grappling
  • Trained to withstand heavy blows


  • Takes years to learn
  • Need a diverse background in other combat styles

What Is Boxing?

Boxing is a fighting style with a strong focus on striking techniques as well as defensive tactics and smart footwork. While mastering the art of boxing may take years to complete, learning the basics can help you during an unexpected street fight.

Boxers learn to deliver powerful blows that can knock out an opponent in the ring. Using these techniques in the street without gloves can do even more damage to your assailant. Even delivering a powerful punch that temporarily subdues your opponent can give you enough time to escape.

Fighters will learn three main elements in boxing, which include punching, footwork, and defensive techniques. The main punches are the jab, the uppercut, the cross, and the hook. There are several stances to learn as well as footwork sequences to help evade your assailant's strikes. 

When starting boxing, you will be required to obtain equipment for training. This includes boxing gloves which are between 12 and 16 ounces, hand wraps, boxing shoes, and other protective gear. 

Beginners can purchase additional equipment to train at home, such as punching bags and skipping ropes, to improve their strength and fitness levels.

A Snapshot Of Boxing

Here are the pros and cons of learning to box as a self-defense method.


  • Boxers focus on defensive moves to protect themselves
  • You learn fast and effective striking moves
  • You have a better chance when faced with two assailants


  • You won’t become confident in ground grappling techniques
  • You may not be able to handle hard blows without protective gear

Why Is MMA Better Than Boxing For Self-Defense?

MMA is better than boxing for self-defense as it ultimately offers an all-around fighting style. The discipline will give you multiple techniques to learn which can surprise assailants in the street. MMA is also a great way to learn stand-up fighting as well as ground grappling.

While many people can become expert fighters when they are participating in it as a sport, the rules are very different in the street. Since there are none. This removes any protection you have, such as MMA gloves and protective rules.

Becoming a competent MMA fighter allows you to prepare for unexpected attacks and to generate a wealth of knowledge of multiple styles of combat. 

However, boxing techniques will still be effective in a streetfight as you will have a good grip on footwork techniques to evade your attackers. You will need to be mindful of the lack of protective gear and clinching and grappling moves.

The Verdict

Any type of combat or martial arts training will help you in the event of being attacked on the streets. While certain disciplines are more effective in certain situations, it all still depends on how you are attacked. 

Gaining extensive knowledge of various techniques may be your best chance of survival along with the ability to withstand multiple heavy blows during the fight. The main thing to remember in a streetfight or self-defense scenario is that there are no rules. 

This results in the need for you to be prepared for the unexpected and to fight unexpectedly. Knowing powerful techniques can help you subdue your attacker long enough to make your escape. This should be your main aim during self-defense.

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