Difference between Sambo and MMA

Key difference: A key difference between Sambo and MMA is that Sambo is one form of martial arts that originated in Russia, while MMA involves many types of martial arts belonging to various countries of the world.

Sambo is an acronym for SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, which is the Russian for “self-defense without weapons”. Played as a combat sport across the world and in Russia, its country of origin, Sambo is also a form of martial art. It was devised in the first half of the 1920’s by the Soviet Red Army, in order to enrich their hand-to-hand combat techniques. Sambo is influenced by other forms of martial arts as well, such as Wrestling, Judo, Folk style wrestling, etc. Sambo gained recognition in the year 1938, when it was declared an official sport by the USSR All-Union Sports Committee. Although it isn’t an Olympic sport, Sambo has its fair share of supporters for this cause and a decent fan following as well.

The sport is regulated by its apex authority, which is the FIAS (The International Federation of Amateur Sambo). Basically, there are three main styles of Sambo at present. The first is called as Sport Sambo, which is pretty much alike Olympic Freestyle Wrestling or Judo. Combat Sambo is the second variant of Sambo. This type was developed for the military. This form is exactly similar to the modern MMA, i.e. the Mixed Martial Arts. The third and the final format of Sambo is known as Freestyle Sambo. This format was developed by the ASA (American Sambo Association) in 2004. Though it doesn’t permit striking, but choke holds and other forms of submission are allowed in Freestyle Sambo.

MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts. As the name suggests MMA comprises the blend of many martial art forms such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, etc. The origin of MMA dates back to the eras of the Greeks and the Romans. The sport of MMA also has its roots in the Greco-Roman style of wrestling. In the 20th century, the credit of popularizing the multiple martial arts concept goes to Bruce Lee, the Chinese martial artist/actor, of Enter the Dragon fame. As of today, MMA is a popular combat sport that is followed and practiced all over the world.

It is basically a full contact sport that involves two opponents fighting against each other, under the supervision of a referee. Like any other sport, this sport too has rules of its own, which when not adhered to, can attract penalties or punishments for foul play. With a blend of striking and grappling techniques, this sport is supposed to be played while standing and being on the ground as well. The objective of MMA is to knockout one’s opponent, for which the “no mercy” style of MMA is very popular. MMA is also known as cage fighting or ultimate fighting, as the players are required to go at each other in a cage, in a no holds barred fashion. The sport is gaining constant popularity through mediums like pay-per-view and professional wrestling.

Comparison between Sambo and MMA:




Acronym for

SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya

Mixed Martial Arts

Country of origin


N/A, the concept of practicing multiple martial art forms as one, passed over between several countries and eventually across the world

Time of origin

Early 1920s

Said to be the Greco-Roman era





Similar to Wrestling and Judo

Full contact

Olympic Sport



Apex authority

FIAS (The International Federation of Amateur Sambo)

IMMAF (The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation)

Image Courtesy: jiujiubjj.com, wildgeesema.com

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