why isnt lethwei used in mma

why isnt lethwei used in mma

Lethwei, also known as Burmese bare-knuckle boxing, is a traditional martial art that originated in Myanmar. It is a highly intense and brutal combat sport that allows the use of punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes. While mixed martial arts (MMA) has gained immense popularity worldwide, it is surprising that lethwei has not been widely adopted in the MMA scene. In this article, we will explore various reasons why lethwei isn’t used in MMA.

Lack of Global Exposure

why isnt lethwei used in mma

One of the main reasons why lethwei isn’t used in MMA is its limited global exposure. Unlike other martial arts such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Muay Thai, lethwei is relatively unknown outside of Myanmar. The lack of international tournaments and fighters representing lethwei hinders its integration into the MMA world.

Additionally, lethwei’s ruleset, which allows headbutts and clinching, may not align with the rules and regulations of MMA organizations such as the UFC. This disparity in rules makes it difficult for lethwei fighters to transition into MMA and compete on a global scale.

Limited Training Facilities

Another factor that hinders the integration of lethwei into MMA is the limited availability of training facilities. Lethwei requires specialized training and equipment, such as a traditional Burmese punch bag called a “Maung-Maung.” These training facilities are not as readily available as standard MMA gyms, making it challenging for fighters to develop their lethwei skills alongside other MMA disciplines.

Furthermore, the scarcity of qualified lethwei trainers and coaches outside of Myanmar makes it difficult for aspiring MMA fighters to receive proper guidance and instruction in this particular martial art.

Injury Risks

Lethwei’s brutal nature and lack of protective gear pose significant injury risks for fighters. In traditional lethwei matches, fighters compete bare-knuckled, without gloves or hand wraps. This increases the likelihood of hand and facial injuries, which may deter MMA fighters who prioritize their long-term health and career longevity.

Moreover, the inclusion of headbutts in lethwei further escalates the risk of concussions and other head injuries. MMA organizations prioritize fighter safety, and the allowance of headbutts in lethwei conflicts with these safety standards.

Strategic Differences

Lethwei’s rule set and fighting strategies differ significantly from those of MMA. In lethwei, fighters are not allowed to grapple or take the fight to the ground. This limitation restricts the range of techniques that lethwei fighters can employ in MMA, where ground fighting and grappling play a crucial role.

Additionally, lethwei’s emphasis on continuous forward pressure and aggressive striking may not align with the more diverse and strategic approach adopted by many MMA fighters. The lack of versatility in lethwei techniques may limit its effectiveness in the dynamic and multifaceted world of MMA.

Lack of Promotional Efforts

The absence of significant promotional efforts for lethwei is another reason why it isn’t used in MMA. MMA organizations and promoters focus on popular martial arts with established fan bases, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and boxing. The lack of marketing and exposure for lethwei prevents it from gaining traction and recognition within the MMA community.

Furthermore, the language barrier and limited media coverage of lethwei events outside of Myanmar contribute to its lack of visibility and integration into the global MMA scene.


While lethwei is a fascinating and intense martial art, several factors contribute to its limited use in MMA. The lack of global exposure, limited training facilities, injury risks, strategic differences, and inadequate promotional efforts all play a role in hindering the integration of lethwei into the MMA world. However, as MMA continues to evolve and diversify, there may be opportunities for lethwei to gain more recognition and find its place in the sport.

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