The Challenge of Transitioning From MMA to Boxing

David Smith 8 Min Read
The Challenge of Transitioning From MMA to Boxing

Figure 1 Years of training put a traditional boxer at an advantage

Everyone wants to be a boxer these days. OK, that might not exactly be the case, but there are some high-profile names that look to make the move into the ring. YouTube stars and internet personalities, such as Logan Paul and KSI, have been making boxing headlines in recent years and there has always been an attraction to those who make their living from the sport.

The best UFC betting sites obviously concentrate on mixed martial arts, but many of the names you will see there will have contemplated the riches and plaudits of the boxing ring as an alternative to the UFC octagon. But even the best boxing UFC fighters seem to struggle when they try to make the transition.

Why can’t many UFC fighters become just as successful in the boxing game? We’re going to look at what kind of challenges might face MMA stars looking to broaden their repertoire, as well as whether it is easier to make the move the other way.

The Challenge of Transitioning From MMA to Boxing

Boxing Skills

Francis Ngannou is a recent heavyweight champion of UFC that has long been regarded as one of the best boxers in the organization. This meant that his fighting skills largely concentrated on traditional boxing punches rather than some other styles utilized in MMA. But even a hard puncher such as Ngannou could find life in the boxing ring tough.

With such a high profile in professional fighting, Ngannou was able to broker a fight with the legendary Tyson Fury. But lesser UFC fighters will not be able to seamlessly move into the higher level of boxing. Just because you can punch well in MMA, doesn’t mean that you will automatically be successful in the boxing ring. That is something that Ngannou may find out sooner, rather than later.


Although all MMA fighters need to know when to defend and when to attack, there is an advantage for those who are able to click into a frenzied attack state and completely dominate their opponent. But in boxing, that kind of switch is not as prized as there is the need for more discipline.

We have all seen boxing bouts where the two fighters are really going for it. But it is more often that there is a steady build-up of trading punches and defending, waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. MMA fighters may have the discipline to be able to do that if they made the move to boxing – but it would take a while for them to get used to resisting the urge to go for an all-out attack.

More Fights

A top UFC fighter might have two or three bouts a year at most. But an amateur boxer might find themselves fighting 20 to 30 times a year. Obviously, that number would decrease as the boxer climbed his way up the rankings but that is a lot of time for them to hone the art that an MMA fighter would need to catch up on.

Those extra fights at a younger age would also mean that a boxer could improve both their attack and defense. Even the top UFC punchers may only concentrate on the offensive side of the art, allowing less innately talented boxers to perfect their craft. Having to fight so many times to get to the big bouts also creates a hunger and desire that might just not be there for an MMA fighter.

Longer Fights

It is not just the number of fights that make a difference between MMA fighters and boxers. Boxing bouts last a longer time as well. A boxing bout is usually 10 or 12 rounds of three minutes, while an MMA fight can last around 17 to 29 minutes. Not all fights go the distance in either discipline, but there is the potential for a more exhausting time in the boxing ring.

Using only fists to punch can also be more tiring for a boxer. An MMA fighter is also allowed to grapple and hold. Even being held on the floor is not a relaxing time, of course, but it is a chance to preserve some energy in a way that just doesn’t happen in a boxing ring.

Specialist Fighters

As we mentioned, any MMA fighter who wants to make the transition to boxing would need to resist the urge to use the full attack arsenal at their disposal. But they would more than likely be coming up against an opponent who has only known just using their fists and punching power. In other words, they would have specialized in punching.

Figure 1 Years of training put a traditional boxer at an advantage

Even an MMA fighter who is known for their punching power will soon discover that a specialist boxer has more impressive skills than they are used to. That is why it is not impossible for a former MMA fighter to beat a boxer – but it does take a while for them to perfect their new discipline.

Figure 2 MMA fighters may feel restricted just being able to use their fists

Boxing to MMA?

So, if making the transition from MMA to boxing is difficult, is it is just as tough making the move the other way? The constant head movement that any good boxer perfects over the years is a great advantage in the octagon. Some mixed martial arts don’t really train users in the same way, so being able to avoid the punches and kicks is a great start.

Figure 2 MMA fighters may feel restricted just being able to use their fists

But boxers should not become complacent, thinking that they have the skills to be able to make it in MMA, simply because of a background in the more traditional sport. Any boxer would need to mix it up with some of the other MMA disciplines if they have any chance to be successful.

The lesson to be learned is that making the transition in either direction is not as straightforward as might be imagined. Years of devoted training will usually better a newcomer with skills in a few limited areas.

David Smith is personal writer for The Cineb from 2 years
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