What is the difference between MMA and UFC?

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UFC is not MMA, and MMA is not UFC. Sure the fighting and some rules may be similar, but there are stark distinctions and even Thai news sites explaining the differences between the two. 

Ultimate Fighting Championship and Mixed Martial Arts are often interlinked. If you are a new sports fan, you would say, “I love watching UFC,” and argue with your friend who loves watching MMA. This shouldn’t be the case. 

Here are the differences between the two and why you should stop using one term to substitute for the other.

UFC and MMA: The Difference

Mixed Martial Arts is the sport, while UFC is the company name that holds MMA competitions. Think of the UFC as NBA and MMA as basketball. 

Most people confuse the two since UFC has made such a mark in the sport. UFC is based in Las Vegas and organizes matches pitting MMA fighters against each other. 

MMA incorporates different techniques from the distinct disciplines under it. You have Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, and Wrestling under one roof. UFC allows borrowing the fighting techniques from different disciplines with rules to regulate them. 

Judges and regresses are also part of the legislation team that has enabled the UFC to be the gold standard for mixed martial arts. UFC has become like Photoshop; a term people use to denote airbrushing a photo. But in real sense, Photoshop is a brand name.

The Evolution of MMA

Mixed Martial Arts or cage fighting is a contact-based sport employing different combat techniques such as wrestling, grappling and striking, boxing and ground fighting.

The sport’s origin is shrouded in mystery as some allude to Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki’s fight. Inoki was a wrestler and Ali a boxer. The two competed in a mixed rules match.

However, MMA started earlier than that. The ancient Greeks participated in the early versions of MMA, calling it pankration. Since then, the sport has evolved to what it is today. 

The Vale Tudo organization was a forerunner in showcasing MMA, focusing on Jiu-Jitsu, but it was only famous in Brazil. It was only until 1993 when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) launched and made the first MMA offerings available to the United States fanbase.

The games featured Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, and wrestling. Rules back then were wildly varied. An example is Petr Yan, who was disqualified after dishing out an illegal knee against Aljamain Sterling in their bantamweight title contention in UFC 259. 

Today the UFC has a unified set of rules that regulate MMA. The sport and franchise work hand in hand to continue popularizing the sport among sports fans.

The Evolution of UFC

UFC premiered in 1993 with credits going to Art Davie, Rorion Gracie, and Robert Meyrowitz. The initial game offerings varied as UFC allowed different forms of MMA to determine which one was the best. 

The rubrics were vague, with only three rules: no eye-gouging, no biting, and no groin striking. It was only until 2001 that the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts became the regulations governing MMA and UFC.

Initially, the UFC had no rounds, and players would fight until one submits, the team throws in the towel, or gets knocked out. Five-minute rounds change depending on fighting situations such as player submission, exhaustion, or disqualification.

The new rules made UFC ‘cleaner’ and are a fan-favorite enterprise among MMA lovers. UFC has been home to notable talents such as Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey, and Conor McGregor. Other MMA promoters include:

  • Bellator MMA
  • Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB)
  • ONE Championship
  • Fight Nights Global

How to Win At MMA?

Like other forms of contact-based combat sports, MMA relies on the beating you give your opponent to judge the winner. However, the rules and game-winning situations are a bit different. Here are the main ways you can win at MMA:

  • A submission occurs when the other player is down and out and can no longer fight. In such a case, the penned-down player will tap the mat or the opponent’s body to signal giving up.
  • Knockout is the act of dealing blows to your opponent until they are unconscious. Knockouts are highly effective winning methods in UFC.
  • Technical knockout is when one of the players is unable to defend themselves. The referee will stop the match, and a doctor will rule if it was indeed a technical KO.
  • Disqualification happens if a fighter performs repetitive illegal moves after warnings (usually three). The referee will disqualify the disobedient player and hand the win to the infringed player.
  • Judges’ decision plays a crucial role when the players have completed all the rounds and evenly match. The judges use unique metrics to determine the winner.


UFC has become a brand name due to the quality of MMA fighters it attracts. It is possible to interchangeably use the two talking points in day-to-day conversations with novice MMA fans. 

But by now, you know the differences between MMA and UFC. So next when you walk up next to Conor McGregor, do not ask him if he trains UFC. He trains MMA but plays in the UFC. Get it?

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Includes collaborations of the MMASucka Team, guest posts from non-LWOS and MMASucka writers, and sponsored posts.

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