What Martial Arts Disciplines Are Needed For MMA?

So you’re interested in Mixed Martial Arts? Maybe you have seen it on the TV from fight promotions such as the UFC or Bellator etc, and now you’re keen to learn more about this fast growing exciting sport. Unlike other combat sports such as boxing, where fighters are only allowed to throw punches as a form of their attack, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a combat sport that combines various fighting techniques from different disciplines, hence the term ‘mixed’ martial arts.

To be successful in MMA, fighters must have a well-rounded skill set that encompasses multiple martial arts. During the infancy of the sport, and with the birth of the UFC, tournaments were held pitting fighters from different disciplines in match-ups against each other with the intent of settling the debate of which martial art reigned supreme over the others.

As these fights played out over the years, some techniques excelled while others proved to be ineffective. This gave fighters the incentive to broaden their skill set and incorporate new techniques from other disciplines to fill any holes in their game. For example, a lot of boxers and kickboxers found themselves virtually helpless when taken to the ground by wrestlers and Jiu Jitsu guys, forcing them to work on takedown defense and the ground game if they wished to have future success in their matches.

This natural evolution molded the sport into what it is today, with modern day athletes training to be efficient in all aspects of combat and striving to be complete fighters. In this blog post, we will explore the main disciplines needed for MMA and why they are essential for success in the sport.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, commonly referred to as BJJ, is a ground-based martial art that focuses on grappling and submissions. It teaches fighters how to control opponents on the ground and submit them using joint locks and chokes. BJJ is crucial in MMA because it allows fighters to neutralize opponents with superior striking skills and provides a pathway to victory even when facing larger opponents. Part of the motivation to create the UFC was to showcase the power of Jiu Jitsu to the world.

Before the early 90’s, Jiu Jitsu was a fairly unknown martial art on a global level, being practiced mainly by small groups in Brazil, but then came Royce Gracie. A BJJ black belt and son of the legendary Helio Gracie, Royce displayed his Jiu Jitsu skills to the combat sports world in 1993, winning the first ever Ultimate Fighting Championships tournament at UFC 1. He then went on to win the tournament again at UFC 2 & UFC 4, proving that Jiu Jitsu was a dominant force in the world of martial arts.


Boxing is a striking discipline that emphasizes punches and footwork. It teaches fighters how to effectively use their fists and move around the ring. While MMA allows for a broader range of strikes, boxing is still a fundamental skill in MMA. It helps fighters develop their punching technique, head movement, and overall striking accuracy.


Wrestling is a combat sport that focuses on takedowns, throws, and controlling opponents on the ground. It teaches fighters how to dictate the pace of a fight and dominate their opponents through superior positioning and control. Wrestling is essential in MMA because it enables fighters to dictate where the fight takes place, whether it’s standing or on the ground.

Like Jiu Jitsu, wrestling proved to be a dominant skill in the early days of the UFC, with fighters like Randy Couture (who had his first fight in the UFC at age 36) defeating many young up and coming prospects using his superior wrestling ability. Even with modern day athletes having a more well rounded skill set than MMA fighters of the past, wrestling still proves to be a force to be reckoned with.

One only has to look to the successes of athletes coming out of The Russian mountains of Dagestan, where wrestling is a heavy focus for martial arts. Former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, along with his brothers Umar and Usman share a combined unbeaten record of 63-0 in MMA, all thanks to the superiority of wrestling.


Kickboxing combines elements of boxing and various kicking techniques. It focuses on strikes using both the hands and legs. Kickboxing is valuable in MMA as it allows fighters to utilize a wider range of strikes, including kicks, knees, and spinning techniques. It enhances a fighter’s versatility and unpredictability in the striking department.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs,” is a striking discipline similar to kickboxing in that that utilizes punches and kicks. However in Muay Thai, fighters can also attack opponents using knees and elbows. It emphasizes powerful strikes and clinching techniques. Muay Thai is highly effective in MMA as it provides fighters with a diverse range of striking options and enhances their ability to generate knockout power.


Judo is a martial art that emphasizes throws and takedowns. It teaches fighters how to use an opponent’s momentum against them and take them down to the ground. While Judo is traditionally practiced in a martial arts uniform and focuses heavily on gripping the clothing of your opponent to perform techniques, it has shown to still be highly effective for MMA. Ronda Rousey, an Olympic medalist, put Judo back on the map in the MMA world when she became the first ever women’s bantamweight champion in the UFC, as well as winning championships in other MMA organizations.

Conditioning and Strength Training

While not a specific martial art, conditioning and strength training are crucial disciplines for MMA fighters. MMA requires a high level of cardiovascular endurance, strength, and agility. Fighters must engage in regular conditioning and strength training to improve their overall fitness, power, and durability inside the cage.


In conclusion, the main disciplines needed for MMA include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, judo, and conditioning/strength training. By mastering these disciplines, fighters can develop a well-rounded skill set that allows them to excel in all aspects of the sport. Whether it’s on the ground or standing, a comprehensive understanding of these disciplines is essential for success in MMA.

There are other notable disciplines that have proven to be effective for MMA yet are not so regularly utilised. Karate being one for example, many high level mixed martial artists from a karate background have incorporated the art into their fighting style to find success in the cage. Some noteworthy names would be: Lyoto Machida, Michael ‘Venom’ Page, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson & former UFC two-division champion Georges St Pierre.

If you’re thinking of taking up MMA, or any of the disciplines discussed in this article, you’ll need to get yourself the right gear. Click here to find all the high quality gear and equipment you’ll need to start your martial arts journey.


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