BJJ Vs MMA - Which One is Better and Why?

BJJ is an integral part of modern MMA and in some way, you can’t expect to succeed in cage fighting without, at least, basic BJJ skills. But, what would happen if we separate them and match BJJ vs MMA against each other? Have you ever asked yourself which one is better when it comes self-defense or who would win in a street fight?

BJJ is, perhaps, the best grappling martial art you can train in. It will teach you all about how to take the opponent down and use ground fighting techniques to submit them. MMA, on the other side, is more versatile as it prepares you to fight in standup, clinch, or on the ground. Each fighter has all-around skills as they know how to strike, grapple, and apply various chokes and joint locks.

Keep reading this article to find out all the differences between BJJ and MMA, how do they compare in various aspects, and which one is better for you.

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BJJ vs MMA - What are the main differences? 

BJJ and MMA are two separate fighting styles that apart from grappling, do not share much else in common. Here is a brief look at how they differ from one another:

Emphasis and techniques

BJJ is a fighting style that focuses only on grappling and ground fighting. Since each fight begins on the feet, you will learn how to use trips and throws to advance to the ground. The emphasis is on ground fighting and securing a dominant position from which you can apply various chokes and joint locks. Some senior students might learn the basics of striking, but this depends on the school.

MMA is a mix of techniques from various martial art put into one style of fighting which makes it very versatile. Every fighter must know how to strike on the feet, grapple, and fight on the ground to cover all aspects of the sport. They can achieve this by training between the following four martial arts:

  • Muay Thai (Standup; Clinch)
  • Boxing (Standup)
  • BJJ (Ground Fighting)
  • Wrestling (Clinch; Ground fighting)


History and place of origins

Founded in the 1920s in Brazil, BJJ has its origins in Judo. The famous Gracie family used Judo as a base to develop their own fighting style that puts more emphasis on ground fighting. It became really popular with the birth of modern MMA in the early 90s. At the time, Royce Gracie took part in many style vs. style matchups in the early UFC events. He stayed undefeated and proved that BJJ is better than other fighting styles of that time.

The earliest records of MMA date all the way back to ancient Greece and the sport called “Pankration”. Although brutal, Pankration was very similar to modern MMA that arrived in the mid-80s. The first-ever promotion was “Shooto”, founded in 1986 in Japan. However, most people are taking the foundation of UFC in 1993 to be the exact birth of modern MMA.


There are two forms of BJJ called Gi and No-Gi that differ a lot. In a “Gi”, fighters must wear a cotton jacket that looks a lot like a Judogi, and pants. As its name suggests, “no-gi” doesn’t include this type of uniform as fighters only wear shorts, a t-shirt, or a rashguard.

Due to the lack of rules in the early days, MMA fighters could wear a gi, kimono, or even boxing gloves. But according to the modern “Unified Rules of MMA”, all fighters must wear shorts, a mouthpiece, and a pair of 4 OZ open finger gloves.

Jiu-Jitsu Sparring

BJJ vs MMA – which one is better for self-defense?

BJJ vs MMA has been one of the most heated debates for many years now when it comes to self-defense. Even though MMA is more versatile, many people think BJJ is better. This is mainly because MMA is often seen as a sport while the concept of BJJ was built with self-defense in mind. But, there is a lot more to it.

Although it focuses on the sport, the concept of MMA is close to ideal for street fighting. It prepares you for most types of scenarios you may face on the streets. You will know how to fight standing, in the clinch or if the fight hits the ground. Street fights are chaotic and it’s important to be versatile and have weapons to use no matter where the fight takes place. And this is what MMA will teach you.

The biggest issue with MMA is that it won’t teach you how to use or defend against dirty tactics. Even though these strikes land now and due to the nature of the sport, you won’t learn or practice eye-gouging or groin strikes in training. But on the other side, BJJ also won’t teach you these tactics.

BJJ is a famous style when it comes to self-defense mainly because it has built its strong reputation on the streets of Brazil. It is the only style in the world that allows you to beat the heavier, taller, and stronger opponent. The focus is on technic and leverage rather than relying on sheer power as most people do. This is crucial for self-defense as there are no weight classes on the streets.

The best thing about BJJ is that it teaches you how to quickly take the opponent down to the ground where most average people don’t know how to fight. We can all throw a punch, but most of us don’t know how to defend a takedown or defend against chokes or joint locks on the ground. In some way, a person who gets taken down by a skilled BJJ fighter has 0% chance of winning a fight or even surviving. And this fact makes BJJ great for self-defense.

MMA BJJ takedown

Can a BJJ fighter beat an MMA fighter in a street fight?

BJJ fighters certainly have the weapons and tools to beat MMA fighters in a real fight. But, they would have a really hard time dealing with them on the feet or even in the grappling exchanges. And, this also depends on what type of fight we are talking about?

If the fight is in the open, then BJJ fighters don’t have many chances of beating a well-rounded MMA fighter. This is because MMA fighters will use footwork to keep the distance from which they can do damage with kicks and long punches. BJJ fighters would have a hard time closing the distance and taking the fight to the ground. It would be a pretty one-sided fight.

But the tables start to turn around when we are talking about a fight in a small space like a room, elevator, or bar. This is where MMA fighters don’t have a space to move which allows BJJ fighters to quickly get a hold of them and use leverage to take them down. Even though MMA fighters know how to defend against takedowns, skilled grapplers have more tricks up in their sleeves.

In our opinion, it would be very hard for any grappler to beat an MMA fighter in a fight. Sure, they can beat them under grappling rules. But modern MMA fighters are too good in every aspect of fighting and we can’t expect that someone can beat them using only one skill. They simply have more weapons in their arsenal.

Why BJJ is so important in modern MMA?

BJJ has been a key part of modern MMA since the first UFC events back in the early 90s. It is so important that we can even say you can’t succeed or achieve anything in MMA without BJJ skills. Sooner or later, the lack of grappling will backfire on you. To understand why this is so, we have to start with the early UFC events.

The early days of the UFC were basically street-fighting events. There were no time limits, weight classes, or even gloves. We saw many style vs. style matchups in which BJJ emerged as the best. Royce Gracie dominated the early UFC scene, and he beat many fighters from other arts like boxing, wrestling, or Judo.

Soon, other fighters, notably the ones with a striking base, have realized they must cross-train and learn BJJ skills. It became obvious that you can’t survive an MMA match without grappling skills and being one-dimensional fighter.

Not a single other grappling art will teach better ground fighting skills. BJJ fighters are masters in taking you down, securing a dominant position, and submitting the opponent using chokes and joint locks. And above all, it matches well against other martial arts like Muay Thai or wrestling.

For instance, wrestlers have better takedowns on paper. But they would be in trouble once the fight hits the ground. BJJ fighters would start attacking from their back with various moves like triangle chokes or armbars.

mma fighter

BJJ vs MMA - which one is harder to learn?

Becoming an expert in any fighting style is very hard. It asks for a lot of hard work, sacrifice, injuries, and years of learning, and BJJ and MMA are no different. If you thought you can get the black belt or become an expert in one year, go and search for something else.

BJJ is so complex that is often seen as a “human chess match”. The learning process is slow as there are hundreds of techniques and positions you need to master. Not to bring up that you will eat a lot of humble pies. But on the other side, it is very, very fun to train and each class will put a huge smile on your face.

If you commit yourself to BJJ, expect to earn a black belt after around 10 years of training, which is a lot.

MMA, on the other side, might be even harder. As said earlier, it is a mix of techniques from various martial arts put into one style of fighting. Or in other words, you must become an expert in at least three fighting styles to cover all the aspects of the sport. Each week, you will take wrestling, Muay Thai, boxing, and BJJ classes which make MMA training very dynamic.

Even though it is hard, the best thing about MMA training is that it can’t become boring. In other arts like Muay Thai, classes all look the same and can get boring over time. But there is so much to learn in MMA and this mix of grappling and striking will always keep your mind busy.

It takes around 4–5 years of hard MMA training before you can start competing as a pro-fighter.

Muay Thai Kick

BJJ vs MMA - which one is better for you?

BJJ and MMA are two separate martial arts that differ a lot in various aspects. Since there are so many differences, deciding which one is better for you should not be that hard. Here is our last opinion that might help you make the right decision.

BJJ is for people who are in love with grappling and want to learn the best ground fighting skills. Hands down, not a single martial art out there will teach you better grappling skills. Training is hard and includes a lot of sparring, but that’s what makes it fun to train. Even though it doesn’t teach striking, it is great for self-defense and you can easily shift to MMA later.

MMA is for you if you want to develop all-around skills and master multiple fighting styles. You will learn how to strike, grapple, and fight in the clinch or on the ground which is great for self-defense. Like in BJJ, training in multiple fighting styles all the time is very hard, but on the other side, can’t get boring.

The best thing about both of these fighting styles is that it’s never too late to start training. We can often see 60 or 70-year-olds rolling around in BJJ classes and having the time of their lives. The same stands for MMA where you don’t have to be young or in shape to start with the classes.




I'm Timmy and I'm the chief-editor and co-founder of Jiu-Jitsu Street. You'll usually find me on the mats and also cross-training Muay Thai. Besides martial arts I'm also into functional fitness and all things health. Jiu-Jitsu Street was created to provide useful information for BJJ beginners and seasoned practitioners alike to help you on your journey and love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Oss!

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Jiu-Jitsu Street is a community of fun loving and hard rolling BJJ enthusiasts. Born out of our passion for the gentle art, we have decided to create this blog and help you on your journey. Let’s grow and learn together on this never-ending journey. Oss!

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