Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is a combat sport that incorporates different fighting styles. In the past several decades, MMA has gained global popularity because it allows spectators to see how various martial arts work outside of their own contexts.

Watching the bouts also lets you witness some of the best fighters in the world compete in exciting matches where their unique blends of training are put to the test. But MMA would have no basis without the groundwork laid by individual martial arts.

Here, we’ll go over what martial arts are used in MMA and the contributions that they make to it.


If you’ve ever seen one of Conor McGregor’s matches, you know just how devastating boxing can be in MMA. Since each fight starts with both competitors in a standing position, boxing helps them to set up their initial defensive guard and offensive maneuvers.

With its emphasis on footwork, dodging, and finding openings, boxing allows fighters to become successful in striking, which is a fundamental part of MMA. To knock out an opponent, a fighter must be able to land solid hits, and boxing provides this type of proficiency.

Muay Thai

Unlike boxing, Muay Thai also makes use of elbows, knees, and shins in addition to fists. For this reason, people often refer to it as the “Art of Eight Limbs.” As MMA is fluid, Muay Thai comes in handy in situations where boxing might not be ideal.

The most notable example of this is when combatants are in a clinch. In this position, both fighters are gripping each other while standing. Since the proximity is so close, it’s difficult to throw a regular punch.

But with the knee and elbow techniques of Muay Thai, they can continue to cause damage rather than create an opening for their opponent to rest.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

MMA isn’t all about just striking, though. Grappling is integral in many fights, and a skilled grappler can quickly turn a contest around in their favor.

Whereas with striking, a combatant seeks to cause direct damage to their foe, slowing them down so that they can’t hit back hard enough or knocking them out entirely, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has an entirely different approach.

A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner will seek to get their opponent on the ground and submit them with a chokehold or joint lock.

A chokehold will deprive the opponent of air, while a joint lock gives the user the power to break or dislocate their opponent’s limb (though in a fight it acts more as a checkmate move rather than a way to cause serious harm).

Once a competitor is caught in either of these submissions, the fight is almost always over. Either the fighter who is caught will tap out or the referee will end the match.

The beauty of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that a skilled person can defeat someone larger and stronger than them. Many fighters have demonstrated this throughout the history of the art—from its founders to present-day practitioners.


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