What Are The Best Martial Arts For MMA?

By Logan •  Updated: 01/17/22 •  4 min read

As the name suggests, to be successful in mixed martial arts, you will need to train yourself in a range of martial arts. But with so many different forms of combat available and limited time to excel at them all, which ones should you focus on to get better at MMA?

This article will highlight 5 of the best martial arts to learn for MMA training and explain what makes each so effective during a contest.

What Are The Best Martial Arts For MMA?

1. Wrestling

Wrestlers are currently dominating modern MMA. There are several recent UFC champions who come from a wrestling background, including Brock Lesnar, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Daniel Cormier.

The basis of wrestling is groundwork, but wrestlers excel in taking opponents down and defending against incoming takedowns. If an opponent isn’t confident on the ground, a strong wrestler can catch them off guard by taking them down and getting to work on the mat.

Takedowns and cage control are crucial factors for judges when scoring MMA bouts, and wrestling focuses heavily on both.

The main disadvantage to wrestling is the lack of striking practice, so wrestlers migrating to MMA need to learn striking disciplines.

2. Brazilian Jui-Jitsu (BJJ)

In the early days of the UFC, BJJ practitioners were dominant and are still winning championships today. The first UFC tournament was won by BJJ legend Royce Gracie who won the final with a rear naked choke submission.

Like wrestling, BJJ focuses on ground techniques and grappling. Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is well known for promoting the principle that a smaller person can defend themself against somebody much bigger and stronger with proper training, balance, and submission techniques.

If the fight goes to the ground and your opponent has better jiu-jitsu than you, you are in for an extremely tough ride.

3. Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, is an entirely different martial art from the previous entries. Muay Thai focuses primarily on striking attacks using punches, knees, kicks, and elbows.

Not only are Thai boxers excellent strikers, but they also tend to be seriously well-conditioned athletes due to the levels of balance, endurance, strength, and coordination Muay Thai demands.

Of course, Thai boxers will not be proficient in any kind of groundwork so they will need to learn a martial art to deploy when the fight hits the mat. Muay Thai paired with BJJ or wrestling is a deadly combination if a fighter can become highly skilled in both aspects.

4. Boxing

Boxing is the most popular combat sport globally due to the thrilling public spectacle of 2 athletes going at it with nothing but their fists. However, a fighter will struggle to get on boxing ability alone in MMA.

Boxing is an excellent base for striking and general conditioning for transitioning into MMA. An athlete from a boxing background will tend to have the technique to carry explosive punching power, which can make them very dangerous.

The downside to boxing is not only the lack of groundwork, but defensive work in a boxing match also differs significantly from that used in MMA due to the more extensive range of strikes allowed in MMA.

5. Karate

The Japanese martial art of karate is one of the lesser-used martial arts in MMA despite its popularity worldwide.

Karate experts tend to be very precise with their strikes, even if they often lack the power of a boxer. When used in combination with other martial arts, fighters can use karate effectively in MMA.

However, other martial art forms lend themself more favorably to MMA, which is why you don’t find too many champions who choose karate as their foundation.

Final Thoughts

Learning, Wrestling, BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing and/or Karate will give you a head start when it comes to MMA. all of these martial arts have elements in MMA and the ones you excel at will help to define your fighting style.


Hi, I've been an avid MMA fan all my life. I've been training in martial arts for the last 5 years and wanted to share some of the tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way to help to aspiring martial artists get started.

Keep Reading