Fusion Of Forms: Integrating Muay Thai And BJJ For MMA Success

The days of one-dimensional fighters having great success in mixed martial arts are long gone. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu alone was enough to allow Royce Gracie to win three of the first four early mixed martial arts tournaments, but the sport has evolved a lot since then.

Strikers have now learned how to grapple, while grapplers have learned how to strike. You must be a complete fighter to enjoy even the slightest bit of success in mixed martial arts these days.

Two martial arts that have been around since the start of MMA and continue to play prominent roles are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai. It’s not much of a surprise, given that BJJ is widely considered to be the most effective grappling-based martial art, while just as many people believe Muay Thai is the most effective striking-based martial art.

This article will explore why BJJ and Muay Thai should be a significant part of your training routine if you plan to compete as a mixed martial artist.


Understanding Why Cross-Training Muay Thai And BJJ Is The Best Base For Mixed Martial Arts

Modern mixed martial arts is the evolution of Vale Tudo and no-hold-barred tournaments that pit martial artists from different styles against each other to determine which style reigned supreme.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emerged as the winner of that experiment, as members of the Gracie family dominated the sport’s early days. Eventually, wrestlers like Kazushi Sakuraba realized BJJ players wouldn’t be so scary if they couldn’t get them to the canvas. Anti-Jiu Jitsu was born, which eventually evolved into the sprawl and brawl style popularized by fighters like Chuck Liddell.

The sprawl and brawl era ended when Muay Thai specialists like Anderson Silva burst on the scene. His striking prowess was way ahead of his peers, who mostly trained in boxing for their striking. When fights hit the canvas, Silva used his BJJ to either get back to his feet or tap his opponent out. For years, no one had any answers for Silva’s BJJ and Muay Thai skills.

That became the blueprint that many other champions in MMA, like ONE Championship‘s Flyweight MMA World Champion Demetrious Johnson, have followed to great success.

Some of the reasons to combine Muay Thai and BJJ training for mixed martial arts include:


1) Covers Virtually Every Scenario You Could Find Yourself Inside A Cage

Many MMA fighters choose Muay Thai as their main striking base because it allows participants to use more parts of their bodies as weapons than other striking-based martial arts like boxing, karate, or kickboxing. Its rules align with mixed martial arts rules since fighters can use their fists, legs, knees, and elbows as weapons.

Other striking-based martial arts, like boxing, tend to be much more restrictive on what is legal and what is not.

Muay Thai’s focus on clinch fighting is also unusual for a striking-based martial art. The norm in striking-based martial arts is typically to break fighters up when they clinch. On the contrary, Muay Thai teaches many strikes, trips, and throws from the position. This also aligns with the rules of mixed martial arts.

BJJ training gives you all the tools you need to fight on the ground. Sure, your takedowns likely won’t be as good as a hardcore wrestler’s, but you won’t need to take opponents to the ground when your Muay Thai game is high-level.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will teach you how to submit opponents on the ground, reverse disadvantageous positions, and get back to your feet. It also covers enough throws and trips to take most opponents you face down.


2) Makes It Easier To Cross-Train Other Martial Arts

Once you have some years of BJJ and Muay Thai training under your belt, it’s easy to transition to other martial arts like Wrestling, Boxing, or Judo. While BJJ and Muay Thai are excellent forms to cross-train for MMA, the best fighters train in as many different styles as possible.

For example, while Muay Thai is widely viewed as the most versatile striking style, it doesn’t teach head movement and footwork to the extent boxing does. Anderson Silva’s cross-training boxing early on in his career probably had a lot more to do with the matrix-like head movement he used to mesmerize crowds than his Muay Thai training. That’s one advantage boxing has over Muay Thai.

Likewise, you might want to cross-train wrestling or Judo if you prefer taking fights to the ground and submitting opponents.


3) Lots Of Opportunities To Gain Experience

Another cool thing about learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai is that you rarely have to look far to find amateur competitions, especially if you’re in a major city. Other martial arts, like wrestling, don’t have many opportunities for beginners to compete besides as an extracurricular activity at schools.


Drawbacks Of Only Learning BJJ And Muay Thai

While Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are arguably the best martial arts to combine for MMA, there are some disadvantages to only sticking to the two. These include:

  • BJJ is somewhat lacking regarding takedowns and throws, so it’s often best to add wrestling or Judo to your training if you intend to take opponents down.
  • Muay Thai doesn’t cover head movement and footwork to the extent boxing does.
  • Muay Thai uses a limited number of techniques. You might want to train styles like Taekwondo if you plan to win crowds over with some flashy strikes.
  • BJJ training doesn’t prioritize takedown defense to the extent wrestling does. It’s generally easier to take a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player down than an equally experienced wrestler. Since the rules of modern MMA favor takedowns, opponents can take you down to score points and steal rounds if you don’t work on your takedown defense.


The Effectiveness Of Learning BJJ And Muay Thai In Modern MMA

Don’t just take our word for it that BJJ and Muay Thai are two of the most valuable skill sets to have in mixed martial arts. Examples of fighters who have combined both to great success inside the cage include:


1) Anderson Silva

Silva was one of the first fighters to showcase how deadly the combination of Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be inside the cage. The former UFC middleweight champion still holds the record for the most successful consecutive title defenses in mixed martial arts history.


2) Demetrious Johnson

Our list wouldn’t be complete without the “Mighty Mouse.” No one mixes up BJJ and wrestling like Johnson does. His Muay Thai skills were on full display when he finished Adriano Moraes with a flying knee, and his German-suplex to armbar finish of Ray Borg is arguably the most impressive submission in mixed martial arts history.

Johnson’s Muay Thai is so good he even survived a round with Muay Thai legend Rodtang Jitmuangnon during a special-rules fight before submitting him in the second round. He now has the honor of being the longest reigning flyweight champion in UFC and ONE Champion history.


3) Christian Lee

Lee started training in BJJ and Muay Thai during childhood, and he has added other styles, like wrestling, to his training routine over the years. His Muay Thai skills have scored him impressive finishes, like his 29-second knockout of David Meak, while his BJJ skills have held up against seasoned grapplers like Shinya Aoki.



MMA fighters should be comfortable standing up and on the ground. Muay Thai and BJJ are widely viewed as the best combat styles in their respective arenas, making them a popular choice with aspiring mixed martial artists. Learning both styles prepares you for about 95 percent of the scenarios in which you might find yourself inside a cage.


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