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Muay Thai vs. MMA — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 22, 2024
Muay Thai is a traditional Thai martial art focusing on striking using fists, elbows, knees, and shins. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) combines various fighting styles, including striking and grappling, in a versatile combat sport.
Muay Thai vs. MMA — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Muay Thai and MMA


Key Differences

Muay Thai, often called "The Art of Eight Limbs," emphasizes strikes using hands, elbows, knees, and shins. It's a stand-up combat sport deeply rooted in Thai culture. In contrast, MMA combines techniques from various martial arts, including Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and boxing, allowing both striking and grappling.
In Muay Thai, fighters wear shorts and gloves, and the matches are usually conducted in a ring. The sport focuses on stand-up striking techniques and clinching. MMA fighters, however, use a wider range of gear, including gloves designed for grappling, and compete in an enclosed cage, with fights involving ground fighting and submissions.
Training in Muay Thai involves mastering specific striking techniques and clinch work, emphasizing rhythm and flow in strikes. MMA training is more diverse, requiring proficiency in striking, grappling, submissions, and often strength and conditioning to handle the varied demands of the sport.
Muay Thai matches are scored based on striking technique, effectiveness, and aggression, with a strong cultural emphasis on respect and tradition. MMA scoring is more complex, considering striking, grappling control, takedowns, and effective aggression, with a focus on overall fighting skill.
The cultural aspect of Muay Thai includes traditional music, pre-fight dances (Wai Kru Ram Muay), and a deep respect for trainers and opponents. MMA lacks these cultural rituals, emphasizing a broader sportsmanship ethos and the blend of multiple martial arts cultures.

Comparison Chart

Fighting Style

Striking with fists, elbows, knees, shins
Combination of striking and grappling

Competition Venue



Shorts, gloves
Gloves for grappling, varying attire

Training Focus

Striking, clinch work
Diverse: striking, grappling, submissions

Cultural Elements

Traditional dances, music
Blend of various martial arts cultures

Compare with Definitions

Muay Thai

Known as The Art of Eight Limbs.
Muay Thai utilizes eight points of contact for striking.


Involves both striking and grappling.
Ground control is as important as striking in MMA.

Muay Thai

A Thai martial art focusing on striking.
He trained in Muay Thai to improve his kickboxing skills.


Fights take place in a cage.
The MMA match was intense, especially within the confines of the cage.

Muay Thai

Emphasizes stand-up combat and clinching.
Clinching techniques are a crucial part of Muay Thai.


Combines various fighting techniques.
MMA fighters train in multiple disciplines like jiu-jitsu and boxing.

Muay Thai

Incorporates cultural elements like Wai Kru.
The Wai Kru ceremony in Muay Thai shows respect for the sport's traditions.


Scores based on overall fighting skill.
Judging MMA fights involves assessing a range of combat skills.

Muay Thai

Utilizes rhythm and flow in strikes.
Muay Thai fighters focus on the rhythm of their movements.


Popularized by organizations like the UFC.
UFC is one of the leading promoters of MMA events worldwide.

Common Curiosities

Is grappling part of Muay Thai?

Muay Thai includes clinching, a form of stand-up grappling, but not ground grappling.

Are kicks allowed in Muay Thai?

Yes, kicks, especially using the shins, are a fundamental aspect of Muay Thai.

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a traditional Thai martial art focusing on stand-up striking using eight points of contact.

What types of martial arts are used in MMA?

MMA includes a range of martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, boxing, and Muay Thai.

Can MMA fighters use Muay Thai techniques?

Yes, many MMA fighters incorporate Muay Thai techniques, particularly in their striking.

What does MMA stand for?

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts, a combat sport combining various martial arts disciplines.

How long are Muay Thai matches?

Muay Thai matches are typically 3 to 5 rounds, each lasting 3 minutes.

How do MMA fighters train?

MMA fighters train in various disciplines, focusing on striking, grappling, strength, and conditioning.

What's the difference in scoring between Muay Thai and MMA?

Muay Thai scoring emphasizes effective striking and aggression, while MMA scoring considers a broader range of skills including striking, grappling, and control.

What gear is required for MMA?

MMA fighters wear specialized gloves, mouthguards, and appropriate athletic attire.

What are the rules in MMA fighting?

MMA rules vary by organization but generally include regulations on legal strikes, grappling techniques, and fouls.

Can someone transition from Muay Thai to MMA?

Yes, many Muay Thai practitioners transition to MMA, adding grappling skills to their repertoire.

Do Muay Thai fighters wear a uniform?

Muay Thai fighters typically wear shorts and no shirt, along with gloves.

Is Muay Thai effective for self-defense?

Yes, Muay Thai is effective for self-defense due to its focus on powerful striking and clinching.

Are there weight classes in Muay Thai?

Yes, Muay Thai competitions are divided into weight classes to ensure fair matchups.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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