Bodybuilding vs MMA: Which Fighter wins?

January 8, 2024 |

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Bodybuilding and MMA are sports that require great dedication and willpower to succeed.

If two respective competitors were to fight, the MMA athlete would win hands down. If the competition were solely strength-based, the bodybuilder would win.

But that’s not all.

Conor McGregor made more than $180 Million in 2021 [1]. In the same Big Ramy, the current Mr. Olympia made more than $400 000 [2]. This is a massive difference, but which one is the better sport?

That raises the question of which one trains harder? Why is the one paid so much more? In the following 5 – 10 minutes, I’ll be answering all those questions and more.

Is MMA Better than Bodybuilding?

mma kickboxing

The term better is hard to digest since there I no actual measurement for it. It would all come down to opinions from person to person. As most things are, it will mean more to others than specific people. With that being said, let’s see if we can answer this.

Neither is better than the other. However, if you’re looking to make money, the Octagon is the way to go.

MMA fighters make gobs more money than bodybuilders, and despite the countless headshots, it could be the healthier and safer route.

Choosing a sport comes down to passion. MMA would be better for you if you have a passion for outsmarting your opponent and the rush of a fight. Bodybuilding will make more sense if you want to be the biggest person in the room.

Can Bodybuilders Fight MMA?

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Jurassic Park.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you always should. Would you even want to fight a 300lbs monster with absolutely no fat on its body?

The reality is that a bodybuilder could fight MMA, yes. Whether they would be any good remains to be seen. MMA requires a lot more than just strength, which is the main good factor the bodybuilder has to offer.

One MMA fighter named Mariusz Pudzianowski was originally a strongman competitor but is indeed built like a bodybuilder. He currently has a 16-7-0 record in the MMA, proving that strength and physique-based athletes can compete in MMA.

Are Bodybuilders Good Fighters?

bodybuilder weight

Fighting requires a lot from the human being. It does not just require immense physical activity but also brainpower to notice flaws in your opponent and how to use those flaws to get the upper hand in a fight.

Bodybuilders would typically not make excellent fighters. They would make fantastic brutes, but that’s about it. Bodybuilders are bulky and muscular but not incredibly fast or dynamic. These are traits that could be the deciding factor in a match.

Another thing to consider is fitness.

Bodybuilders may have great aerobic capacity due to cardio training, but their anaerobic capacity isn’t nearly that of an MMA fighter. That means the bodybuilder would run out of juice before the fight starts – not that kind of juice.

Should MMA Fighters Build Muscle?

The definition of muscle is contractile tissue on the body that serves a purpose either by involuntary or voluntary contraction. The heart beats involuntary, but your biceps only contract once you activate them.

MMA should build muscle so that they can be stronger in the cage. Having more muscle is rarely a drawback, and having slightly more in a fight means you could overpower your opponent more easily.

Having too much muscle can be bad for MMA as mobility, fitness, and even speed can be negatively affected by having too much bulk. That being said, having too much fat isn’t great for fighting either.

Do Bodybuilders Punch Harder?

The hardest recorded punch in history was measured at 129,161 units, coming at the hands of Francis Ngannou in 2017 [3]. This is as much force as a small family car. Imagine a Corolla the size of a fist hitting you in the face. Lovely.

You would think their punches would be considerably more brutal due to all the bench pressing that bodybuilders do. The reality is that MMA fighters have a much harder punch.

If you train at something day and night, you get good at something.

Another thing to consider is that their form is going to be a lot better than that of the bodybuilder. Knowing how to hit is just as crucial as throwing out a powerful punch.

Are Bodybuilders Strong?

If you spend any time on the fitness part of the internet, the words of Ronnie Coleman have been engraved into your life. Maybe light weights ain’t nothing but a peanut.

Not all, but most bodybuilders are incredibly strong.

Depending on their training style, they could be impressively strong. Athletes like Phil Heath are not that strong due to the high volume training style, but here are some incredibly strong bodybuilders.

Ronnie Coleman had an 800lbs squat, Dallas McCarver had an 845-lb deadlift, and Jordan Peters had a 20-rep 1760lbs leg press. These men are incredibly strong because that was what was needed from them to become as muscular.

Can Bodybuilders Do Pull-ups?

Pull-ups are used by most athletes ranging from calisthenics to shot-putters. They require a significant amount of strength, particularly back and bicep strength.

Bodybuilders regularly do pull-ups in their training.

They will typically do them on the back or pull workout days, but that does not mean all bodybuilders do them. Bodybuilders will tend to use exercises that they can progress on easily; pull-ups can be tricky to track progress on.

Most bodybuilders will opt for pulldowns instead because it is very easy to bend your strict form or use too much motion with pull-ups. These can be measured with greater ease.

Can Bodybuilders Run?

The most common exercise we are exposed to as kids is running, and without even thinking about it, we run around a lot when we play with friends.

Running is also a great exercise as it strengthens the legs and the cardiovascular system.

While it may not look like bodybuilders can run, indeed, bodybuilders can indeed run. It might look hilarious to any bystanders, and they certainly won’t like it, but they can do so. However, you’re unlikely to see a real bodybuilder ever run, as it does not fit their training and physique goals.

Is Bodybuilding Good for MMA?

Bodybuilding is classified as building the body to be a work of art with massive yet actual dimensions, great flow and proportions, and absurdly low body fat levels. This does not translate to MMA at all.

Would training with weights be suitable for an MMA fighter? Yes.

Doing bodybuilding? No.

The two do not share any properties when it comes to training or diet, and therefore one would not be great for the other.

Who is Stronger: Bodybuilder or MMA Fighter?

If you have ever met a bodybuilder, you know they’re pretty large human beings. You also know that you might have been frightened, but you should be more frightened of the MMA fighter. But which one of them is stronger?

Let’s compare two of the most prominent names in each sport: Ronnie Coleman vs. Conner McGregor.


Ronnie Coleman

Conor McGregor

Bodyweight 300 lbs 155 lbs
Bench 495 lbs (for five reps) 250 – 300 lbs
Deadlift 800 lbs 350 – 400 lbs
Squat 800 lbs (for reps) 280 – 350 lbs
Bicep Size 24 inches 16 inches
Quad Size 36 inches 21 inches

As you can see, not only is Ronnie twice the man Conor is, physically, he is easily twice as strong – possibly more.

Final Thoughts

So, what is the difference between bodybuilding and MMA? Bodybuilders strive for size and symmetry, while fighters must be able to perform a wide variety of skills. MMA fighters need more functional strength, while bodybuilders are concerned with looking good.

Bodybuilding is all about self-improvement, while MMA is about defeating an opponent. To become good in both, you must have to go through a ton of practice and training. That’s where they intersect.

In the end, both sports require discipline and hard work. Which one would you rather participate in?

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