MMA vs UFC – 5 Key Differences

minute/s reading time

One challenge that most laymen and sport lovers face is telling the difference between MMA and the UFC. The UFC is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in the world today, so it is little surprising when people use the both terms interchangeably like they connote the same meaning. Fact is the MMA and the UFC are very different, and should not be mistaken. 

The UFC is an acronym for the Ultimate Fighting Champions while the MMA is an acronym for Mixed Martial Arts. The MMA is a sport that is fought in the UFC which is the organizational body saddled with the responsibility of organizing fights for the MMA.

Prior to the innovations by the UFC and its introduction of new features into the organization of the MMA, an example is the introduction of the mixed fight by a boxer Mohammed Ali and Antonio Inoki the MMA fights were not as popular and entertaining as we have today. It is little a surprising, therefore, that all over the news, the name UFC has tended to overshadow the usage of MMA. 

So, the big question will be, what is the difference between the MMA and the UFC? Also, why do people tend to confuse the two terms? Let’s find out below:

1. Location

A major difference between the both of them is the location where the sport takes place. Like I pointed out earlier in the introduction, the MMA is a series of fighting games, each of these games are fought in a specific location when the fighting is strictly for entertainment. 

For most of the MMA sports, they are fought in an open arena, notably a ring, with the spectators encircling them to get a better view of the action. While the UFC competition is fought in an octagon shaped cage. 

2. Rules Of The Game

The rules of the game are quite different in MMA and in the UFC. In MMA (except boxing), the majority of the games are fought by combatants and the outcome of the match is determined by the referees, that is, it is the referees that determine how long the match will last and obviously declares the winner. While in the UFC tournaments, the game will come to an abrupt end if one fighter knocks out his opponent, although, the judgment on who won the game is left entirely to the judges scorecard. This has happened numerous times in the history of the UFC.

3. The Use Of Gloves

Most of the fighting sports that are categorized under the MMA are fought with the bare fist. Like in the case of kung-Fu, taekwondo, karate and the rest are fought with the bare fist; the only exception will be in the case of boxing. 

On the other hand, UFC games make use of gloves as a basic prerequisite by the players to shield their knuckles from hurting.

4. Penalties 

The UFC is very notorious for its no holds barred fights. While this can be very exciting, even to the most civilized of us, it is a very distinguishing factor from the other combatant sporting organizations like the NBA and FIFA who embrace very modern civil rules that are fought in the purest form of civility. 

5. Global Status

Most martial arts sports like karate, taekwondo, boxing and some others have training center’s in most countries of the world. Nationals of these countries have embraced these sports and now have championship tournaments in them. From being sports that were used basically for exercises, they have now become means of livelihood and stardom. 

The Ultimate Fighting Championship on the other hand is only held in Las Vegas.

Some UFC fights have turned out to become very bloody and life threatening. Knee kicks are now accepted in the UFC fights, while in the MMA such behaviors can lead to a reduction in point or the outright disqualification of the player. There were three rules that could lead to the disqualification of a UFC fighter and that is biting of any part of the body of an opponent, groin strikes are an absolute taboo, and eye-gouging of an opponent.

The MMA is a set of fighting sports that include but is not limited to the regular wrestling, Judo, taekwondo, boxing, karate, Chinese Kung Fu. A closer look at the sports will help in appreciating the dynamics of MMA. While the UFC is an organizational body that organizes fights for MMA. 

  • Wrestling: Professional wrestling is an art that involves various fighters that are involved in a series of scripted fighting. It is believed that the process and the final outcome of these matches are predetermined by the organizers.

Wrestling matches are quite interesting to watch, as a great deal of acrobatics is involved. The flexibility and skill of the fighters are very interesting and intriguing to watch, they also incorporate other skills like the super kicks, spins, spear attacks, powerful punches, and head attacks and sometimes, they make use of weapons.

Wrestling matches typically take place in a ring in the full glare of spectators who cheer and chant victory songs for their preferred fighter. Wrestling is basically divided into different types like the women’s division, the inter gender division, and the midget form of wrestling.

  • Karate: This is a type of fighting that originated in Japan, surprising as this may sound, this type of fighting originated in the city of Okinawa. 

The fight is usually carried out with the bare hands and swift kicks, no weapons are needed in the course of the fight. Karate usually involves some sparring and fist tussle. From the colors on the belts of the practitioners, you can tell their rank and experience.

  • Kung-Fu: This ancient sport can be said to have developed in the ancient city of China around the 4th century and ever since, it has continued to flourish and gain popularity. The Chinese Kung-Fu was made popular by the famous actor Jet-Li, he exposed the ideas behind the kung-Fu. 

Unlike the Taekwondo and karate variant of fighting, in Kung-Fu, the use of weapons is allowed. Such weapons should include the use of sticks, iron bars and other weapons that could be thrown at an opponent.

Kung-Fu is taught to children from a very tender age and can be used by adults to exercise. Kung-Fu and acrobatics go hand in hand and can be used as a great form of exercise.

  • Taekwondo: This sport developed in Korea. The most distinguishing factor in the taekwondo practice is that it places emphasis on the use of the feet. Fighters in the taekwondo game pride themselves in the swift and calculated movement of their legs.

Like in the Karate fights, the more experienced fighters are distinguished by the color of belts they wear. This sport has become globally accepted.

  • Boxing: Boxing is a very physical sport that involves two combatants. The rules and organization of boxing is quite different from the other fighting sports. In this sport, the players wear some protective gadgets like hand gloves and helmets.

The main activity in this sport is carried out with the fist. The combatants throw punches at each other for a specified period of time until the whistle goes off, or a player is badly injured.

There are a lot of financial gains that can be achieved from fighting in these sports, but the greater value may come from engaging in contests like those that are organized by the UFC for fighters from different classes.  

From the foregoing, it is clear that there is a huge difference between the MMA and the UFC, the UFC as a promotion body that organizes tournaments periodically for MMA fighters. During these tournaments, various fighters that fight in the MMA are given a unique opportunity to show their craft to a larger public.

The UFC is the most popular combat sport organizational body in the world, during their competition; various fighters display their prowess and skill under various categories of fighting and weight divisions. 

The MMA name has become increasingly popular too, that lately people tend to generally refer to all combat fighting as being the Mixed Martial Arts. 

If the observer focuses on the location of the fights, while MMA favors the use of rings and open arena, the UFC fights are carried out mainly in the cage, precisely an octagon shaped cage. Also, the timing of the games, how many rounds are permitted for each game is a decisive factor, for one, the UFC games last a minimum of three minutes, unless there is a case of a severe injury and building in telling apart one game from another.

Even though there are different types of fighting games that are all grouped as MMA, these sports are governed by a similar ideology that makes grouping them together easier. The UFC, on the other hand, is almost devoid of rules, almost all techniques are allowed and fighters can make use of any that they deem necessary in an attempt to subdue their opponent and achieve victory.

Origin fighter

Origin Fighter is a blog for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to learn about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Wrestling, Boxing, Health & Nutrition, Performance and more. Origin Fighter also provides information on how to train smarter with resources such as workout plans and diets tailored for your goals.

About the Author

I am a huge fan of both BJJ and MMA. Jiu-jitsu is my biggest passion, and I’ve been training it for more than 5 years. I have recently been promoted to a purple belt. In this blog, I will be giving you tips on how to improve and how to choose the best BJJ equipment! Learn More