If you want to succeed in the MMA, then you need to become an expert in more than one marital art. You need to have excellent striking ability while also being highly skilled if the fight goes to the ground. With that in mind, you’re probably wondering what different types of martial arts are used in MMA.
The reality is that any martial art can be used, but some are much more popular than others. Here, I’ll look at the main MMA fighting styles used and see which one you should be specializing in. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- What Martial Arts Are Used in MMA？
- Striking MMA Fighting Styles
- Grappling MMA Fighting Styles
What Martial Arts Are Used in MMA？
As I mentioned, the types of mixed martial arts used can be broadly split into two categories: striking and grappling. Firstly, I’ll look at the most commonly used striking marital arts before moving on to grappling.
Striking MMA Fighting Styles
You could be the best grappler in the world, but you need to know how to punch and how to avoid punches. If you have no boxing skills, then the fight will be over before you’ve ever had the chance to get to the ground.
Boxing will teach you how to develop accurate punches and quick combinations. Not only this, but boxing also teaches you to have excellent footwork and mobility to get yourself out of potential danger and also take advantage of your opponent’s weakness.
Even if you’re not a great puncher, boxing will show you how to slip, block, and parry punches. This allows a grappler the time and patience to avoid punishment until they can take control of the fight.
2. Muay Thai
While boxing is fantastic for mobility, Muay Thai is perfect for learning how to strike your opponent from any angle, with any body part. This is part of the reason it’s called the “Art of Eight Limbs,” as you’re taught to not only strike with your fists and feet but also your knees and elbows. Although, you need to be careful with elbow and knee strikes in MMA.
Muay Thai is also valuable for its clinch work. The Thai clinch allows you to control your opponent’s head, land powerful knee strikes, or set up takedowns. Conversely, it also gives you an understanding of how to avoid takedowns.
While less specialized than boxing, Muay Thai is a more violent fighting style that can get you comfortable with the rough and tumble of MMA.
Kickboxing is another great starting point for MMA. Here, you’ll get most of the advantages of boxing while also working on your kicking techniques. With this martial art, you can become a kicking specialist and either wear them down with low kicks or deliver spectacular roundhouse kick knockouts.
Opponents will always be worried about fighters who can deliver lightning-quick kicks. It allows for better distance control, especially against grapplers or clinch specialists. It won’t teach you the same level of punching skills as standard boxing, but it’s a great martial art to learn.
While karate is known as a self-defense martial art, it still has many principles that can be perfectly applied to MMA. Karate emphasizes speed and precision in strikes, and MMA fighters can adapt these skills to catch their opponents off-guard with rapid, accurate punches and kicks.
Karate also incorporates changes of angles and lateral movement, giving fighters a better understanding of how to attack from unexpected positions and evade strikes. Added to this, defensive maneuvers like blocks, evasions, and parries can help karate experts stay out of trouble and control a fight.
Similar to kickboxing, taekwondo is excellent for those looking to be kick specialists. But taekwondo has many more benefits than just its wide variety of kick techniques. It also teaches you to have an exceptional balance, which allows for devastating counter-striking.
Along with balance, taekwondo experts also need to have exceptionally fast footwork and agility. MMA fighters can adopt these principles to evade strikes and create angles for attacks. There is a reason it’s one of the most popular martial arts in the world.
Grappling MMA Fighting Styles
1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Many see this as the best martial art in MMA, and there have been many UFC champions who specialize in BJJ. That’s in large part because it focuses on ground fighting, submissions, and positional control.
BJJ practitioners excel at applying joint locks and chokeholds. If they take someone who only specializes in striking to the ground, the fight is usually over quite quickly. BJJ gives you exceptional control on the ground and allows you to get into dominant positions.
An expert in BJJ may look like they’re in a vulnerable position but can often escape from difficult spots with their guard work, reversals, and submission skills.
Wrestling is another common grappling martial art used in MMA. This will give you a great foundation for controlling your opponents and dictating the fight. Perhaps the most significant advantage of knowing wresting is with the takedowns, both taking your opponent to the ground and defending against them.
Along with that, it will also give you ground control, especially when maintaining the top position that can prevent your opponent from striking effectively. Finally, MMA fighters with wrestling backgrounds often have excellent conditioning, enabling them to maintain a high pace throughout the fight.
Judo, with its focus on throws, leverage, and balance, is another great grappling martial art to use in MMA. It’s those throws that judo is most famous for, and expert judo fighters can often take down their opponents with ease from clinching positions.
When in a clinch, judokas can control their opponent’s upper body and remain in control. Judo also teaches balance and footwork, which is not only important in avoiding takedowns but also in strikes. It’s these factors that allow them to dictate a fight.
4. Combat Sambo
Combat sambo has grown hugely in recent years, in no small part due to it being used by legendary Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov. It has become highly effective in MMA as it combines elements of many other martial arts, including judo, wrestling, and striking.
This gives sambo exponents a great skill set they can use in MMA, including takedowns, throws, ground control, submissions, and striking skills. This makes it one of the deadliest martial arts and is now commonly used in the UFC.
How to choose martial arts for MMA?
Most fighters will start with a martial art that complements their strengths. They’ll then work at other martial arts to address their weaknesses. Due to this, you are free to choose any martial art you want as they are all needed eventually. If I were to recommend just one of these types of mixed martial arts fighting styles, it would be BJJ.
Where should I start if I want to learn MMA?
You need to find a reputable MMA gym in your local area. Due to the growth of MMA, it would be easy to find one. If not, then find a gym for a specific martial art and then migrate to an MMA gym once you have a great foundation of skills.
Can you compete in MMA without training in a specific martial art?
This is a hard question to answer. While it’s possible to compete without training in a specific martial art, most fighters will back a background in at least one martial art and then adapt. Many MMA gyms will have a variety of classes that will focus on one specific martial art.
Are there any martial arts that are not commonly used in MMA?
Yes, plenty. The most obvious examples are the less violent martial arts such as Wing Chun, aikido, and tai chi. While that’s true, the likes of Wing Chun still have elements that can be used in MMA fights, but it’s less commonly used than many other martial arts.