The MMA and Boxing community can never settle the debate as to who is equipped better to compete in the other’s respective sports. The reality is, it’s unlikely that either sportsman can just walk into the other and succeed. They may be more equipped than say a ball player, because they’re both fighters, but in order to succeed in the other psort, they will have to do the same things as other fighters in those sports, and that’s start from the bottom, and work your way up in order to master the craft.
One boxer that’s made the airwaves lately is Ryan Garcia. He mentioned in the Podcast with Ben Askren that he will be retiring boxing at 26 in order to pursue MMA. Not just do a crossover fight like James Toney, or Conor McGregor have done, but he wants to take MMA seriously, expand his grappling game, and work his way up the ranks.
That however, is a lot easier said than done.
Challenges of Transitioning
Boxer’s by far have the superior striking to MMA fighters, even if you include kicks. However, the challenge is combining all other aspects of MMa for offense and defense.
The first thing boxer’s have to train for is to get adjusted to kicks coming at them. Now this is something they can learn pretty quickly for kicks coming to the head or body, because the reflexes are already there. The real learning curve comes in blocking leg kicks, as even MMA fighters struggle with this. If you see Conor McGregor’s last fight, he lost due to getting the leg kicked out from under him, so if it could happen to a vet like Conor, it can happen to Ryan much easier.
The next biggest challenge is grappling. Not only are all MMA fighters have the ability to grapple, but some are world class grapplers in their respective sports. Meaning they’ve been grappling for as long as Ryan has been boxing. There are gold medallist wrestlers, olympians, and black belts, all waiting to take him down to the ground and this isn’t something he will be able to learn to defend in one training camp.
New Kind of Endurance
Wrestlers are some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet, but when you throw them in a boxing ring, they get tired. Same thing happens to boxers when they wrestle. It’s not that they don’t have endurance, it’s that they don’t have endurance for that particular activity. This is because when the rhythms and movements change, your body and mind get taxed differently. So Ryan can’t come in thinking he will just be able to use his boxing endurance.
One of the biggest challenges is going to be the defense. As mentioned earlier, he will have more to worry about than punches coming at him. He will have to look out for kicks, takedowns, clinch fights, submissions, elbows, and knees. That is a lot to think about and a lot to learn to defend.
Advantages of Transitioning
Now while he will have a ton to learn, he’s also not coming in empty handed, let’s analyze his advantages.
All boxers do is strike all day, because of that they get to learn every nuance and angle of the striking game. THey are much more skilled strikers, and most importantly, much faster and stronger than most MMA fighters when it comes to striking. This is because for every takedown or submission that an MMA fighter has to practice, and boxer throws that many more punches. The hand speed and punching power advantage will by far go to Ryan in the cage.
Boxers also fight for longer periods of time, and because of that, they have to develop more of a chess mindset, whereas in MMA, time is limited and you’re forced to create more of a checkers mindset. This is where Ryan will have another advantage, especially in the striking realm.
One huge advantage Ryan is coming into the cage with is that he is still young. Unlike other boxers who tried MMA, Ryan is far from over the hill. The boxers that went into MMA before shouldn’t have been able to compete. Ryan however, at 26, will be in peak physical shape, and will still be young and limber enough to learn new things.
This may not be a physical advantage, but it will definitely be a financial and a mental one. Ryan Garcia is a superstar that transcends just fight sports, and this will help him have a larger aura, more confidence, and bigger checks.
What History Has Taught Us
The one thing combat sports history has taught us is that these two sports are vastly different. An MMA fighter has as much of a chance as beating a boxer in the ring, as a boxer has a chance of beating an MMA fighter in the cage. We’ve saw boxers seldom win an MMA, we’ve saw MMA fighters only win against unranked fighters, and the only time we saw successful transitions like Holly Holm, is when they left their sport for good, and took on the next sport full time.
What Ryan Has to Do
If Ryan can do that, leave boxing completely behind, then he can definitely be a problem for MMA fighters because of the boxing skills that he brings into the cage. What he will have to do however, is become an animal with his grappling skills.
What he really has to do is not be enticed by super fights, and start with unranked fighters, fighting guys that are not at the elite level of MMA, and working his way up.
The Excitement is There
The excitement from both MMA and Boxing fans is there. Crossover fights always garner attention, and if Ryan can show that he is dedicated to the sport of MMA, he will be able to pull in more eyeballs from the hardcore fans, and not just the casuals.
If done right, Ryan can make history happen to be a champion in two sports at the same time.
What do you think about Ryans transition?