Does MMA Include Muay Thai?


Muay Thai is arguably the most popular striking and stand-up-based martial arts out there. Its popularity is due to the variety of techniques as well as the versatility it has compared to other striking and stand-up-based martial arts.

Does MMA Include Muay Thai?

Virtually all Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters train in Muay Thai due to the several ways it can strike as well as the clinching aspect of it. Therefore, many MMA fighters with a Muay Thai background have attained the title champion, highlighting how effective the skill is.

This article will cover the role of Muay Thai in MMA, how Muay Thai is compared to a grappling martial art, such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as well as if Muay Thai plays a crucial aspect in MMA training.

Is Muay Thai Useful for MMA?

Muay Thai is considered one of the most popular and arguably most effective stand-up martial arts out there. One of the reasons that Muay Thai is an essential aspect of MMA training is the extensive tools and techniques they use as well as the training they go through. 

Compared to other stand-up-based martial arts that would usually use two to four parts of the human body, such as two hands for boxing or two hands and legs for kickboxing, Muay Thai uses eight limbs, which include:

  • Two fists
  • Two Legs
  • Two Knees
  • Two Elbows

Secondly, Muay Thai fighters are known for their power kicks. Any of the kicks targeted on the legs, mid-section, or head are lethal. Several instances where a fighter of Muay Thai background kicks his opponent and breaks his arm, were in an attempt to guard himself against the power kicks.

In addition to Muay Thai’s power kicks, Muay Thai fighters practice clinching extensively. While they use their boxing skills as well as infamously hard kicks on their opponent, the clinching aspect would assist a Muay Thai fighter to get close enough to throw devastating elbow and knee blows.

Clinching, in particular, would aid extensively in MMA. Since MMA has a significant focus on grappling, clinching would significantly assist in some aspects, especially when a fighter has to transition from standing up to the ground or the other way around.

And finally, the training regime and competitions in Muay Thai are just as difficult as MMA fighters. Many Muay Thai fighters who train in Thailand sometimes train up to three times a day and sometimes train a specific regime from one session to another.

For example, in the morning, Muay Thai fighters would focus solely on their kicks. This would include kicking the heavy bag 1000 times, followed by reactive training by blocking kicks with the shin. And then another session would just focus solely on sparring sessions.

Many MMA athletes come from a wide variety of striking and stand-up-based martial arts, not just Muay Thai. This would include:

  • Boxing
  • Dutch Kickboxing
  • Karate
  • Tae Kwon Do
  • Sanda

However, comparing the aforementioned martial arts above to Muay Thai, the rest do not provide much of what Muay Thai does. Therefore, Muay Thai’s wide range of techniques would allow an MMA fighter to have many extensive tools to use during their fights.


Which Is Better: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai?

The argument on which is better, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) or Muay Thai, continues to be a heated debate stemming from whether stand-up martial arts are better than grappling martial arts (or the other way around). 

Muay Thai supporters argue that well-trained Muay Thai fighters will knock out BJJ practitioners, while BJJ practitioners argue that they can quickly put Muay Thai fighters into submission.

A Muay Thai fighter has virtually no experience when it comes to fighting on the ground. If a Muay Thai fighter is taken down to the ground, the Muay Thai fighter is basically helpless. 

The only way for the Muay Thai fighter to have a fighting chance of winning against someone who attempts to bring them to the ground is to get back up again immediately. However, the chances of escaping may be small as well, especially if he has not been submitted yet.

On the other hand, BJJ practitioners would only have untrained punches and kicks within their striking toolkits. For a BJJ practitioner to go against a well-trained Muay Thai fighter would prove incredibly dangerous. In addition, BJJ practitioners would likely have a body that is not conditioned to withstand powerful blows.

In terms of street fighting, most MMA fighters would argue that BJJ provides better chances in a street fight than Muay Thai would. Several factors lead up to this.

Statistically, 73 percent of fights in the street go to the ground unintentionally, while 55 percent of people would initiate a takedown. Seeing the statistics, BJJ would most likely be more effective in terms of street fights.

In addition, more UFC champions come from a grappling (Wrestling and BJJ) background compared to stand-up-based UFC champions. In 2018, there are at least 28 wrestlers and 17 BJJ practitioners who have achieved the title UFC champion, while there are only 25 UFC champions who came from a stand up-based martial art background, which includes: 

  • 12 Boxers
  • 6 Kickboxers
  • 4 Muay Thai
  • 2 Tae Kwon Do
  • 1 Karate

Although many UFC analysts and experts, including martial artists and UFC commentator Joe Rogan, stated that wrestling is the best base for MMA, BJJ is as close to wrestling compared to Muay Thai as it is a grappling martial art. 

Therefore, based on the number of UFC champions with a grappling-based martial art background throughout history, having a solid BJJ foundation would be better.

Should You Do Muay Thai or MMA?

This would depend on the type of fighting style you prefer or the type of fighter you want. You can solely focus on becoming one of the best stand-up fighters out there by just focusing on Muay Thai. Many other martial art practitioners even seek fighters who only train in Muay Thai as they are known to be deadly in striking situations.

Below are several Muay Thai fighters that are well-known not only in the Muay Thai community but within the MMA as well as other martial arts circles. These fighters include:

  • John Wayne “The Gunslinger” Parr
  • Ramon “The Diamond” Dekkers
  • Saenchai
  • Artem “The Lion” Levin
  • Simon “The One” Marcus
  • Buakaw Por Pramuk

All of the mentioned individuals above have practically attained the reputation of the best Muay Thai fighter throughout history. Even MMA champions would seek guidance in their striking skills from these great Muay Thai fighters.

However, in terms of overall effectiveness, MMA attains the win. Pursuing MMA training will provide you all the skills and tools needed to be a complete fighter. The three different aspects that an MMA fighter would master include:

  • Striking (e.g., Muay Thai, Boxing, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing)
  • Stand Up Grappling (e.g., Muay Thai Clinching, Sambo, Greco-Roman Wrestling)
  • Ground Fighting (e.g., Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Catch Wrestling, Shootfighting)

As an MMA fighter, despite not having the same striking skills as a Muay Thai fighter, you would have another wider variety of tools and techniques to utilize in going against a sole Muay Thai fighter. This would most likely begin by trading and playing short and cautious strikes against the Muay Thai fighter and then wrestle and submit him when least expected.

Conclusion – Muay Thai Plays a Vital Role in MMA

Muay Thai continues to become the most popular striking-based martial art in MMA. This is due to more variety of tools and techniques a striker can utilize than other striking and stand-up-based martial arts. 

Although many would still choose a grappling-based martial over striking-based ones of efficiency, Muay Thai is still as important a tool to have as wrestling or BJJ is.

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