Home Pro Boxing Boxing vs. Mixed Martial Arts: Which is More Dangerous?

Boxing vs. Mixed Martial Arts: Which is More Dangerous?


Recently there has been an increase in the debating of whether the sport of boxing or mixed martial arts (MMA) is more dangerous to the participants.  While both fall under the category of combat sports, there are clear differentiations that need to be made when attempting to distinguish which may be causing the fighter more bodily damage.

The basis of boxing is the use of ones hands for the purposes of delivering blows to the opponents head or body.  This is in sharp contrast to MMA’s style of fighting which includes punches, kicks, knees, chokes, and various other means of attacking the opposition.  Add the fact that these attacks may be targeted at just about anywhere on other fighter’s body, save the back of the head and groin region, and one might think the danger-meter would spike far past that of traditional boxing.

The differences between the two sports are glaring when watching live, but the damage done is much more difficult to measure.  Sure each has the tendency to produce bloodied faces and bruised or broken ribs, but the real damage may be to that of the brain.  Concussion are a real hot topic in sports right now, and rightfully so, but recent research has been showing the danger is not just from the full-blown knockouts as once thought.  The cumulative damage to the brain sustained over a fighter’s career may have just as much impact on their long term health as concussions diagnoses.

So which is safer in the mind of the reader of this article?  Twelve rounds of sustained blows to the head that often end in an already concussed fighter receiving one final blow taking them to the canvas?  Or perhaps MMA’s three five minute rounds are safer due to the limited time, and allowance of alternative areas to the head for attack.  It is the opinion of the author that while MMA may seem brutal in all senses of the word, and much more so than boxing, that the long-term damage appears to be less.  It should be noted that research should be and likely is being conducted to support this notion, but as of now is just a humble opinion from someone who has been both a boxer and an MMA fighter over his athletic career.  This observation can be supported by the observation that many MAA fighters continue to compete well into their 40’s, and that few retired MMA fighters show signs of permanent brain damage stemming from concussions or the summative concussive issues already mentioned.  Future research is needed to provide supportive evidence for this subject matter, but the debate is sure to continue until conclusions can be drawn either way.

Republished with permission by Cory D. Schierberl, MS, CSCS, TSAC-F.

Mr. Cory Schierberl is the Acting Director of Continuing Education at USSA, and he can be reached at cschierberl@ussa.edu. 



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