Why MMA/UFC Fighters Suck at Boxing

Why is it that our favourite MMA & UFC fighters are transitioning to boxing and getting their asses kicked by pumped up YouTubers? Former world champion cage fighters are stepping out of the octagon and into the squared circle for some big paydays, putting their legacy on the line against influencers and bodybuilders, and they’re not doing so well. Let’s dive into some of the reasons why our favourite MMA fighters suck at boxing.

MMA and Boxing are Not the Same Disciplines

MMA and boxing are not the same. MMA fighters are multi-disciplined, and despite some fighters being exceptional kickboxers or preferring to box, they still don’t exclusively train in boxing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, professional (and even amateur level fighters like Jake Paul) boxers are specialists, they have one discipline which they practice to no end, and they excel in that one area.

MMA trains boxing, kicking, grappling, and wrestling. Boxing takes its pugilistic fundamentals and builds upon one discipline with footwork, evasive head movement, guard-play, and many, many more intricacies. Put it this way, if you represented an MMA fighter and a boxer as bar charts, and displayed their disciplines, you’d see two wildly different results.

The boxer doesn’t have to focus on kicking or wrestling because — obviously — they’re a boxer. This is the same for MMA fighters and their disciplines. If I’m 1600 ELO generalist in Chess, Checkers, and Othello, I’m never going to beat a 2300 ELO Chess specialist. Your favorite MMA fighter probably isn’t a specialist and won’t beat a boxer at their craft.

The Key Stylistic Differences in MMA & Boxing

MMA striking doesn’t translate well to specialist sports. In MMA, fighters have to consider takedowns, so their hands hang low to protect their hips as well as their body and face. This doesn’t translate well to boxing since hands need to be up to defend the chin, but for MMA fighters it quickly becomes second nature to have their guard lower for defensive purposes.

MMA fighters typically have a tighter more squared stance to defend takedowns and to be in position to block kicks and kick back. They also rarely use evasive head movement or pivots because of the susceptibility to headkicks, knees, and grappling exchanges. This doesn’t translate well to boxing because those attributes are a prerequisite for having success in the boxing ring.

There are many more nuances between the two sports, but this would quickly turn into a book.

Face It, Your Favourite MMA Fighter Was Cherry Picked by a Rich Influencer

Like a lot of disciplines in life, even boxing can be pay-to-win. What most people don’t acknowledge before they denigrate fighters like Jake Paul and KSI, is that these kids are multi-millionaires with all the time in the world. They are getting the best gyms, money, coaches, nutrition, sports psychology — and god knows what else — that money can buy. This is why they’re mopping the floor with your favourite MMA fighters, as well as one other factor.

An unblemished record in boxing is a fast-track to money and stardom. So a risk-free approach to résumé building is employed with a lot of these influencer-types. 36 year-old Ben Askren had some of the most abhorrent striking in MMA history, 39 year-old Tyron Woodley was woefully outsized, and 47 year-old Anderson Silva was well beyond his fighting prime. You’ll likely never see an in-prime MMA fighter accepted to take one of these fights (barring Fury vs. Ngannou).

This article was created for my Dad, who couldn’t grasp why MMA fighters sucked so hard at boxing. I hope you liked this, Dad!

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Mathew Riddle