What’s the difference between MMA and UFC?

July 13, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; UFC octagon ring girl Arianny Celeste during UFC Fight
July 13, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; UFC octagon ring girl Arianny Celeste during UFC Fight / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

How is MMA and UFC different?

Some people are not aware of the difference between MMA (mixed martial arts) and UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), and that's ok! There's no such thing as a stupid question.

MMA is an athletic competition combining striking and grappling, incorporating several martial arts. The UFC is an organization that promotes MMA fights and is the MMA leader. 

The best way to explain it is like this: MMA is a sport, like football. UFC is the organization, like NFL.

Many martial arts comprise MMA. Below is a list and summary of them. Traditionally some of these disciplines require equipment or gear not used in MMA. These are in no particular order or ranking. 

  • Wrestling: including greco-roman, freestyle, and folkstyle (college wrestling)
  • Boxing
  • Kickboxing: boxing, kicks, knees, and clinch striking, no ground fighting
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu: grappling, ground fighting, and submission holds
  • Judo: throws and pinning positions
  • Muay Thai: similar to kickboxing but allowing elbows and extended clinch fighting
  • Sambo: similar to judo, jiu-jitsu and wrestling developed by the Soviet Red Army

While the UFC incorporates these martial arts there are different rule sets, equipment, and the fighting apparatus. 

First, the UFC fights in a fenced-in Octagon, a unique setting for fighters used to a boxing ring or wrestling mat. Fighters use the cage for control and extended clinch fighting. During grappling, the fence comes into play for positioning and getting up. Unfortunately, fighters also for stopping takedowns and leverage. 

Secondly, the UFC fights are three, five-minute rounds. Championship and most main event fights are five five-minute rounds. As in boxing, a fighter can stop his opponent by KO, TKO. The fight can end in submission inside the distance as well. The 10-9 round scoring system is in play if the fight goes the distance. 

The glove size is another point of difference for the UFC. The fighters wear four-ounce gloves with openings for their fingers, allowing for grappling and wrestling. These gloves are much lighter than the 10-ounce gloves used in boxing but also allow for many illegal eye pokes (accidental or otherwise).

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Finally, the UFC fight in weight classes now, unlike when they first started in 1993. The men fight from flyweight (125 pounds) to heavyweight (265-pound limit). The women fight in strawweight (115 pounds) to featherweight (145 pounds).