Muay Thai or Boxing, Which it’s Better For MMA?

Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that allows competitors to use a range of techniques and fighting systems at their disposal, but if you’re a beginner, you might be wondering where exactly to begin with training.

Two of the most popular parts of MMA are Muay Thai and boxing, both considered unique forms of combat sport, and both with something special to offer a fighter.

If you’ve been introduced to MMA recently, you probably already know a bit about these individually, but how about their differences? Is Muay Thai or boxing better for MMA?

For an MMA fighter, it’s helpful to be proficient in more than just one fighting style, and Muay Thai and boxing both have something to offer. Muay Thai is more focused on using all limbs, whereas boxing is about the punch, so it depends on what you want for your practice.

When you’re trying to determine your top pick for an MMA specialty, it can be hard finding one that suits, especially with so many thrilling skills on offer.

We’ve weighed up the differences of two of the most popular styles of combat, Muay Thai and boxing, so you’ll have a clearer idea of which one should be your base for training.

Differences Between Muay Thai vs Boxing

Most MMA champions will be proficient in many styles of fighting, but they all had to start somewhere learning just one form of martial arts or combat first.

If you’re weighing up between Muay Thai and boxing as your first foray into the world of MMA, here are the main ways in which they differ.


The rules of these styles of boxing differ significantly, as there’s a lot more allowed in a bout of Muay Thai than the other, and it can seem a lot bloodier at the end.

Boxing has strict regulations about where you can hit and the type of hit, whereas Muay Thai allows fighters to do as much damage as possible in more areas of the body, and with using more of their limbs to deliver the blows.

Limb Use

As discussed earlier, Muay Thai makes use of eight limbs in battle: two arms, two legs, two elbows, and two knees, so there’s a lot of opportunity for damage, as well as the opportunity to get hurt.

In boxing, you’re only allowed to use your two hands, so all of your power must come from the punch alone, but that punch can be devastating if your opponent knows how to do it well.

Depending on whether you want an all-over approach or want to focus on just one area of power is up to you, and will point you in the direction of your preferential style.


The techniques used in these styles of fighting differ, with boxing teaching someone how to use effective footwork and also deliver devastating punches.

Muay Thai favors other limbs more than the fists, so it’s common to see elbows and knees being used instead.

Approach to Fighting

Boxing is a lot about dodging, weaving and blocking what your opponent is doing and hoping that in the process, you’ll tire him out and be able to deliver a more devastating blow.

In Muay Thai, fighters will be in close quarters and not afraid to trade shots, with minimal running around and using footwork to avoid the other. Although both are combat sports, the approach to fighting is very different, and one of these styles likely appeals to you more than the other.

Ease of learning

If you’re wondering which of the two is easier for an absolute beginner to learn, it depends again on what you want to learn.

For guarding and being able to defend yourself, boxing is the best option for ease, and if you want to become proficient at striking and using all of your limbs to do so, Muay Thai might be better.

However, because there are more appendages at use here, you can expect a longer learning experience than with boxing.


In terms of which of these combat sports is best for fitness, there’s no clear winner as you’ll see benefits from either.

Both boxing and Muay Thai deliver both an aerobic and anaerobic workout and you’ll be constantly moving around the ring and working out your muscles.

You should be reasonably fit to attempt either of these at a serious level, so you might want to add in some cardio and strength training to get you ready for training.

The Most Useful Base for Training

One of the biggest debates around mixed martial arts training is which form of combat to have at the base of your skillset.

When you’re a newcomer to the sport, you’ll probably want to focus on just one style of fighting first, and although Muay Thai and boxing are two of the most popular for participants, they might not be ideal for beginners.

According to experts, wrestling is the most effective base for learning mixed martial arts, and not either of these forms of boxing. With a wrestling background, you’ll be able to get the fight onto the ground, and from there, you can avoid being hit by even the most proficient striker.

Learning how to wrestle and forming some basic moves to have in your arsenal won’t take long at all, but it’s a must-have if you want to take your MMA skills to the next level.

With the abilities learned here, you’ll then be able to put your Muay Thai and boxing skills into action, as you’ll have the backup of wrestling to give you the advantage.

The Versatility of MMA

The Versatility of MMA

As you can see, there are good and bad points on offer by both Muay Thai and boxing, making it hard to determine a clear winner. However, with something as versatile as mixed martial arts, there’s no need to choose just one, which is evident in the name itself.

A good MMA fighter will have more than one capability, so even if they perform better in a certain style of combat, they’ll never rely on this alone to get them through.

You could start with whichever of these two methods appeal to you both, but it’s helpful to have techniques from many forms of fighting to be truly successful.

Mixed martial arts tournaments and contests are always pairing fighters up with different skills, and that’s part of what makes the sport so thrilling to compete in.

You’ll always be able to try out a new technique and have to think on your feet to come up with a way to defeat your opponent, so having many techniques available is essential.

Learning the basics of both Muay Thai and boxing will serve you well in the cage and keep your opponent guessing, so the best option for success is to train hard and become proficient in both.

By starting with the one that’s best aligned to your goals as a fighter you’ll find it easier to stay motivated, so consider which one sounds like you most.

Related Questions

Muay Thai and boxing are just two parts of what makes up the versatile sport that is MMA. Mixed martial arts comprise of many different schools, systems, and techniques, which is what makes a match so fascinating to watch.

We’ve answered some frequently asked questions about the unique fighting style to help give you further insight into how it’s executed.

Is Muay Thai Good for Self Defense?

A lot of Muay Thai is about guarding against kicks, and usually from a proficient fighter, which won’t always be the case in a self-defense situation.

Although you will learn valuable skills like how to fight back and stay guard, there might be other forms of martial arts that are better for people wanting to learn how to defend themselves on the street.

Is Boxing Effective in a Street Fight?

Although you should do your best to avoid street fights and physical altercations, having some skills in boxing can be helpful in this situation.

With boxing training, you’ll learn how to guard against an attack, but also to deliver a powerful and precise blow that may be able to knock out your opponent in one hit.

Can a Boxer Beat a Martial Artist?

Although boxing is technically a form of martial art, someone trained in boxing will have a very different fighting style to a fighter with a background in jiu-jitsu or karate.

A boxer might be able to punch harder and with enough serious force to knock someone out, but those with other martial arts skills may have other forms of attack that can be just as devastating.

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