The Best Martial Arts for MMA

There are more than 170 recognised martial arts globally with millions of regular participants, but they vary in popularity across the countries. France has almost 600,000 registered judo players – or judoka, in the UK over 200,000 people regularly partake in some form of martial arts activity and in Germany, jiu-jitsu has become so popular that it has developed into its own form of martial art. Each player will extol the virtues of their chosen art being the best. However, the only way of finding out is in the one arena in which they all come together, MMA or mixed martial arts.

It was once thought that bringing players together from these different arts was almost a token gesture, purely seen as a showcase of their talent, than a serious bout, however, since the early nineties MMA has grown into a sport all of its own. With each discipline displayed providing its potential routes to victory, it’s a sport where fans of so many disciplines can appreciate the techniques on show. So, it’s not difficult to understand with such a broad appeal that MMA has become the third most popular sport globally.

But which of the martial arts is the most effective when it comes to conquering the world of MMA? It’s a difficult question as winners so far have come from so many different disciplines, from wrestling, kickboxing and boxing to the relatively new art of sambo, too. But there are some which stand out above the rest as being the most effective.


If a fighter is a good striker, then taekwondo is potentially the perfect art to master in MMA. Although, it leads to a possible downfall as the stance is one that is very open and could be prone to attack. However, its effectiveness has been demonstrated by one of the sport’s greatest fighters, Anderson Silva, who started his career in taekwondo before moving into the MMA arena. Silva has since translated his skills into boxing too, winning his latest bout and proving his chosen art’s all-around credentials.

Muay Thai

This martial art is one that requires strength, balance, endurance and coordination and it’s one that has proven to be very effective in MMA. There 13 exponents of the Thai-based art who have got to the very top of the sport. Striking with the knees, elbows, holding and throwing punches are all part of Muay Thai. It’s almost perfect to bring into mixed martial arts and one of the best fighters in the sport is one of the finest exponents. Jon Jones is devastating at his best, mixing up flying elbows, quick kicks and strength in the grapple making him the man that people want to beat. But, with just one defeat in almost 30 bouts, it’s proving to be a hard task. Jones is mentioned in a Bwin Sports MMA infographic as being one-half of one of the most-eagerly awaited UFC fights of the year, against Israel Adesanya. That hasn’t happened yet, but when it does, you’ll see Muay Thai coming up against the kickboxing style of the Nigerian fighter. With the power from Jones allied to his speed and abilities in holding and grappling learned from Muay Thai, it will give him an excellent opportunity to beat the smaller opponent.


As an art form that evolved from judo, jiu-jitsu has been very successful in MMA. It’s a more defence-focused style of fighting that emphasises holding and submission techniques rather than striking. Some of the less explosive fighters prefer this style to negate the heavy hitting, striking-based opponents. It was no better highlighted by Nate Diaz when he defeated Conor McGregor back in 2016. Diaz overcame the Irish fighter despite not being able to match his punching power by bringing his opponent to the ground, forcing him to submit to a rear naked choke.

These are three of the most popular arts used in MMA, but this continues to be an evolving sport, where a combination of the styles are utilised for victory. Much like Higa Seitoku discovered, the ultimate skill of any martial art is based on a general principle of technique to control your opponent.

© 2021, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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