Boxing vs. MMA: Which is more dangerous?

With the strides made in the sport of MMA over the last decade (more states allowing the sport, more main stream media coverage, etc.), it was surprising to a lot of fans that the Australian press corp recently maligned the sport as “barbaric.” This begs the question, just how injurious to it’s participants is MMA in comparison to its cousin, boxing? The answer should not surprise those fans who understand and appreciate MMA.In 2006, the American American Association of Neurological Surgeons estimated that about 90% of boxers end up sustaining brain damage, pointing out that a direct hit in the ring, to the head, is equivalent to being hit with a 12 pound wooden mallet travelling at around 20 miles per hour.

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Yikes! With that comparison in mind, it does not take a doctor to understand why 12 rounds of this type of activity could cause serious damage to a fighters noggin. This has not gone unnoticed by our elected officials as protections have been passed and boxing is highly regulated (for e.g.: The Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996, The Mohammed Ali Boxing Reform Act).

Now, compare the above to what happens in an MMA event. Rather than focusing on the only two areas of the body to inflict damage in a boxing match (head and body), the MMA fighter is free to focus on legs kicks, take downs, and the various submissions that result from manipulation of the limbs, joints and the neck. Couple this with the limited amount of time in which to fight (as compared to 12 rounds of boxing), and it becomes obvious that, although scarred and bloodied, an MMA fighter is much less likely to sustain permanent, debilitating brain damage as a result of fighting in the sport. 

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This opinion has been brought home as recently as this month when, on February 19, 2010, a 26 year old Japanese boxer, Hirokazu Yamaki, died after a boxing match due to brain damage.  Despite this, the Australian news reports attacked the UFC as being barbaric due to the presence of blood during UFC 110.

When one attains an intelligent understanding of the sport of MMA and it’s effect on the body, as compared to round after round of direct blows to the head seen in boxing, it becomes apparent that the more “barbaric” of the two sports is boxing. Unfortunately, because most cannot focus past the blood, ignorance often rules the day in the main stream media.