Which Martial Art Should I Learn First For MMA?

By Logan •  Updated: 11/27/21 •  8 min read

Mixed Martial Arts, also known as MMA, is a combat sport that consists of multiple disciplines. There are many types of martial arts that people can learn for this sport including boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu. The main question that people often have about which martial art to learn first is whether they should choose one that will help them with their striking or grappling.

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide which martial art they should learn first for mixed martial arts. Some people believe that you need to be proficient in grappling because it will help you stand up and defend yourself against taller opponents. Other people feel that you should first learn striking techniques, because they are the most important skills for this type of fighting. Despite what opinion you have on this subject, one thing is certain: there are many options to choose from!

There is a long list of martial arts that are popular for MMA, but it is important to remember your goals. If you want to be a professional fighter, you should learn boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling. Boxing and Muay Thai have been proven as being effective styles for MMA because they can help with takedowns. Wrestling will also help with takedowns and gives you a wider arsenal of moves to work with on the ground.

Which Martial Art For MMA

What Is MMA?

Mixed martial arts, or MMA, is a combat sport in which a fighter uses a mixture of martial arts styles to win a fight. It has been criticized by some for being too violent and barbaric. However, some consider it to be the most complex and demanding sport in the world, both physically and mentally.

MMA is a full-contact combat sport that combines the techniques of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Judo, Boxing, Kickboxing, Karate, Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts. There are many martial arts that are used but the three main forms of mixed martial arts: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, and Wrestling. The first two are the most popular of the three with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu being the most prevalent.

This relatively new sport has become increasingly popular over the years because of its emphasis on mixed styles and it’s quick pace.The fighting disciplines are all part of MMA because they require a mix of physical fitness and skill to compete with an opponent.

The ultimate guide to MMA discusses the sport in more detail.

How To Pick A Martial Art For MMA

Martial arts has been a popular form of self-defense for centuries. Recently, martial arts has become an integral part of mixed martial arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The various styles of martial arts serve different purposes and people should choose the style according to their needs.

Martial arts is a broad term used to describe the collective disciplines of combat-based skills that have been developed for use in self-defense, sport, and the military. The most popular martial arts for MMA are wrestling, judo, boxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, and Sambo. There are hundreds of different martial arts practiced around the world but there is no one “best” style of martial art for Mixed Martial Arts.

The key is to find one that is appropriate for your skillset and physical makeup. There are so many different types of martial arts to choose from, but you can’t just pick one at random. It’s important to find the right fit for your physical needs and personality type.

When picking a martial art to start with for MMA there are three main considerations:

How Easy Is It To Learn?

Nobody wants to start a martial art by learning the most difficult techniques first. If you are a complete beginner you will want to start with the easier martial arts and work your way up. Here are the 3 easiest martial arts to learn that will be useful for MMA.


Boxing is one of the easiest martial arts to learn, anyone can practice boxing without any equipment. It only uses hand striking for attacks and the stance is easy to pick up.

Boxing is a great introduction to MMA fighting and will give you a taster for one on one combat.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a great martial art for MMA as there are a lot of transferable striking techniques. It is known as the ultimate striking martial art and you will use kicks, punches, knees and elbows to defeat your opponent. You will also pick up some clinching techniques too, all of which are great skills to transfer to MMA fighting.

Jiu Jitsu

Jiu Jitsu or BJJ is by far the most useful martial art to learn for MMA and most MMA fights use a lot of BJJ. 

Unfortunately it’s not as easy to pick up as boxing or muay thai because it involves a lot of submission holds and ground work. It isn’t as intuitive as other martial arts. However if your goal is to get into MMA then learning BJJ is a great place to start.

Personal Goals

Another important consideration of picking a martial art to start with for MMA is your personal goals. In other words, what do you want from it?

Do you want to up your fitness, learn self-defense or self-discipline? The martial art you choose should align with your personal goals.

Boxing and Muay Thai are more fitness orientated and good for self defense. Jiu Jitsu is also good for self defense and core strength.

Have a research of the martial arts you are interested in and pick one that you feel you will get the most out of and will take you towards your goals.

Your Ability

Finally you also need to consider your ability,such as your age, weight and height. What is your pain tolerance, are you afraid of being hit?

You want to pick a martial art that you are comfortable with and so you can give it your all.

Top 5 Types Of Martial Arts For MMA

To help you pick which martial art to learn first for MMA here is a list of the top five, pick the one from these that best suit your personal preferences from the list above. I’ve picked these 5 martial arts because they have the most UFC champions from them compared to other martial arts.

Which Martial Art For MMA

1. Wrestling

Wrestling is an Olympic sport that is also an exhibition-style combat sport. Wrestlers compete for points by trying to throw their opponent to the ground or pushing them out of a “circle” on the wrestling mat. Wrestlers are expected to show good sportsmanship throughout the match. The winner is decided when one wrestler either submits, is pushed outside of the ring, or is thrown to the ground three times.

Learning wrestling with give you all the grappling techniques needed for MMA and build up your core strength.

2. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, also known as BJJ, is a martial art that focuses on grappling. It was created in the early 1900s by a Japanese soldier named Maeda who taught a school of “gentle way” in Brazil.

It is a grappling martial arts that teaches a student how to defend themselves without the use of weapons. The art takes years for a student to master and perfect. It has been shown that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the most effective forms of self-defense in the world.

3. Boxing

Boxing is an ancient combat sport that involves two opponents fighting each other on the ground with their fists, though there are other ways to inflict damage. The person who has the most points at the end of a fight wins. The objective is to knock the opponent out, but not to hit them so hard that they fall down.

Boxing is great for MMA as it will increase your hand eye coordination and get you fitness levels up.

4. Kickboxing

Kickboxing is a sport that was created in Japan in the 1950s, and has since grown to be a sport used by many for fitness and self-defense. This sport is a combination of boxing and martial arts, incorporating punches, kicks, knees, elbows and grappling techniques. 

One of the most interesting aspects of this sport is its ‘anything goes’ rule which allows participants to use any type of technique they want when fighting their opponent. Much like MMA.

Which Martial Art For MMA

5. Muay Thai

Muay Thai, also known as “Thai Boxing,” is a martial art that originated in Thailand. Muay Thai is a martial art that is characterized by its use of both stand-up striking and grappling. It is also known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it employs every part of the body as a potential weapon.

Because Muay Thai incorporates striking and clinch techniques it’s great to incorporate into MMA.

Final Thoughts

Picking a martial art to learn first with the aspiration of becoming an MMA fighter is a tough decision. You will want to pick a martial art that is suited to you. The top five martial arts for MMA are wrestling, BJJ, boxing, kickboxing and muay thai.


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.

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