Krav Maga vs. Mixed Martial Arts

Mixed martial arts is a modern and popular combat sport. It takes inspiration from a number of martial arts and self-defense systems, putting them under an umbrella of rules to encourage fair and competitive spectator fights. One of the self-defense systems it borrows from is Krav Maga.

There is a fair amount of technique originating from Krav Maga to be found in MMA. But what you won’t find are the eye gouges, groin kicks, or other strikes too brutal for competition setting, but necessary in a survival situation.

Today we’re comparing Krav Maga Vs. MMA. We’ll take at the history of each system and weigh the pros and cons of dedicating yourself to the practice of each. If you’re here to compare fighting with Krav Maga and MMA, you found the right place.

History Of Krav Maga

Krav Maga was developed on the streets of Bratislava, Slovakia , by Imi Lichtenfeld to help defend Jewish neighborhoods from fascists in central Europe.

In the buildup to World War II, Imi began to organize bands of fighters in Jewish neighborhoods. Drawing on his years of experience fighting, wrestling, and surviving, he taught them what he knew to be most effective under lawless and brutal conditions of the Bratislava Ghettos.

After Israel’s founding in 1948, Imi became the chief instructor at the Israeli Defense Force School of School of Combat Fitness. There, his Krav Maga fighting system was taught to Israel’s most elite military troops. Over the decades, his system of brutal, decisive, and intuitive actions has been adopted by militaries around the world.

Krav Maga defense against a rifle.

History Of Modern Mixed Martial Arts

Combat sports that mix grappling and striking trace their histories back several millennia with disciplines like Pankration in ancient Greece and China’s Leitai. However, modern MMA is derived from mixed-style competitions in the early 1900s. Often held in Europe or Asia, there was no unified rule set. Each promotion or event would instead establish their own agreed upon rules. During this period, competitions were considered more spectacle than sport.

This began to change in the 1980s as competitions became popular on television, notably in the United States.

These first, rough MMA events would see the use of a competitor’s martial art up against his opponents, which could be wildly different. At this time, practitioners of Krav Maga were grouped in with MMA fighters, and others practicing Karate, Kung Fu, Kuk Sul Won, and many other styles in a no-holds-barred or few-holds-barred contests. With the codification of the sport under the Universal Rules of Mixed Martial Arts by the California State Athletic Association in 2000, the sport gained both legitimacy and structure.

By that time, MMA had begun to emerge as a discipline in and of itself, rather than style-versus-style competitions. It was no longer Krav Maga vs. other MMA styles, but something entirely new. Names like Gracie, Rutten, Couture, and Liddell had etched their names on the sport with their mixe of expert level striking and grappling. The result today is a diverse style inspired by dozens of disciplines.

How Are Krav Maga And MMA Similar?

Both MMA and Krav Maga pull techniques from, and practice against other combat disciplines. This allows you to prepare a variety of attacks. Both emphasize a well-rounded skill set that stretches beyond striking or grappling to encompass many combat situations. When comparing strikes and throws in Krav Maga vs MMA at a basic level, the two may seem very similar.

How Are Krav Maga And MMA Different?

The best self-defense classes

Make no mistake: MMA is designed as a sport. While the move set is designed to incapacitate opponents, the goal is to do so without serious injury. Modern Krav Maga is intended to keep you alive in actual emergency situations by any means necessary.

This philosophy leads to a different training style and movesets than sport fighting.


Most MMA competitions usually do not rely on weapons. The few that do start opponents on even footing, equally armed and armored. Krav Maga weapons drills are designed to give their practitioners the ability to work from a disadvantageous position against an armed opponent and survive. This is a powerful method of preparing for real-world self-defense scenarios, and is a prime example of what Krav Maga vs MMA training prepares you for.

Rules, Rules, Rules

Sports need rules to maintain fairness and limit injury. Assailants in the real world don’t play fair. While certain moves and holds, such as groin strikes or fishhooking, are forbidden in MMA, Krav Maga has one rule: survive.

Small Differences, Big Problem

While MMA may pull from different styles, it has become a style all its own. A fighter using techniques their opponent is not familiar with has a huge advantage. A good example of this is Lyoto Machida’s Karate-point-fighting style on his run to the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship. It lasted until opponents began to specifically train and prepare for his techniques.

One difference in Krav Maga vs MMA is that Krav Maga provides training for a greater variety of threats. You will be better prepared to defend against unfamiliar styles after training with Krav Maga.

The Bottom Line

While both disciplines can give you useful self-defense skills, MMA and Krav Maga are not designed equally for self-defense. Real fights happen in alleys and outside bars, not in cages. In a real survival situation, you can bet that your attacker has not trained to fight just like you. MMA has its place as a sport, but can quickly fall short of the tactics that may be required for real-world survival.

Train Hard

You may be comparing Krav Maga vs MMA, but you may not have to choose. Many techniques you learn in Krav Maga work in MMA, and may just give you an advantage. To find out how training in real-world fighting can help your MMA aspirations, call or visit a Krav Maga Worldwide location today.