MMA and Krav Maga

MMA and Krav Maga are in many respects very similar. We share the same fighting stance and footwork, the same punches, knees, kicks and elbows as well as the same blocks, parries, distancing and head movement in our stand up game.

Krav Maga uses the same clinch you will see in MMA, the single and double tie. Krav Maga trains the same takedowns and takedown counters.

On the ground Krav Maga is much more similar to MMA than say BJJ. Although BJJ uses the same ground positions as we do in Krav Maga, we also use strikes when fighting on the floor much more like MMA.

In our Krav Maga classes when we spar we will fight using MMA rules.

So what are the main differences between Krav Maga and MMA then? MMA vs Krav Maga

As a Krav Maga instructor with an MMA background (I competed multiple times in MMA in ’01 and ’02) the first thing that really drew my attention to Krav Maga was that when I was working on the doors I suddenly realised that although for the ring MMA is a complete system, for the street there are some major and very significant differences that I needed to train.

When faced with someone in the cage or on the mats you have both trained in the same system – everyone who trains in MMA these days has a complete game its not like early UFC days when it was a wrestler vs a boxer. You are both the same weight class, the same style (near enough) the same height (near enough)  and you are both there and you are both up for it! There are elements of pressure and danger but there are also elements of safety and sportsmanship.

Speaking from personal experience (which is the great, of course you can also learn second hand and also draw knowledge from statistics etc) I found that the things I was most concerned about, and happened most often to me on the doors were:

  • haymakers
  • sucker punches
  • threats with weapons
  • controlling and restraining
  • multiple opponents
  • grabs, pushes and pulls
  • dealing with verbal eg threats
  • standing chokes such as headlocks and guillotines
  • takedowns – attempts at grappling
  • using the fence
  • de-escalating fights
  • dealing with larger people, 3 weights classes above me
  • dealing with people much smaller (a different set of problems)
  • dealing with different genders
  • having to respond in a legal and socially acceptable way – in the ring you can just choke the other guy out. In the real world if you choke out everyone you argue with you’ll have a long line of bodies behind you 😉

Although I needed the mechanics from MMA there was much more to it than going one on one with a specific set of agreed rules. All of the things above changed the situation dramatically.

And so for me, Krav Maga was able to bridge that gap between the sport mechanics of MMA and the real life problems that I was facing on the street.

MMA is by far the most relevant sport to Krav Maga in that it has stand up, clinch and ground and allows for most strikes including punches, knees, kicks and elbows.

Street attacks – unfair fighting

One avenue in which MMA and Krav Maga are very different are the actual format of an attack. In MMA you are pitted against your opponent in an equally balanced fight. Whereas in a street attack you will find many varying factors that you wont in the ring such as having someone larger, stronger, or by being outnumbered or against someone with a weapon.

Technique Selection 

The techniques which we use in Krav Maga tend to be the most functional that are available. We do train takedowns, but the ones we use are ones geared for opponents of varying sizes for example. Some takedowns work well on someone the same size as you but don’t work so well when the attacker has a 6 stone advantage.


Now here’s a topic which will never be trained in MMA. Completely illegal to use in MMA however, many a street thug will not hesitate to grab a weapon. In the UK each year 90,000 people are glassed or bottled. So for us, that’s an area we want to train in. Of course, for the MMA fighter, this would be a pointless waste of time as its not going to happen in an authorised competition.

“Take What is Useful, Discard What is Useless” – Bruce Lee

In Krav Maga we are not a martial art per se and and such we are free to take and use whatever we like, very similar to MMA its about taking what works and throwing away what doesn’t. However, of course we need to take into consideration the many aspects that differ between the ring and the street.

As a qualified bodyguard and experienced doorman I can tell you that there are many differences between street and sport. And also many similarities. MMA is an essential foundation for any system, as a fighter you must be able to fight in all ranges. For the Krav Maga pratitioner this not only means stand up, clinch, and ground but we must also be able to deal with weapons, multiple attackers, restraining techniques and de-escalation methods. As well as being able to defend against common street attacks (different yet again to MMA eg headbutts, groin strikes, sucker punches, headlocks etc)