Is Krav Maga Allowed in the UFC? (Yes and No)


You’ve heard that Krav Maga is probably the deadliest and most effective form of self-defense in the world. But the most successful MMA fighters rarely train in Krav Maga, so is Krav Maga allowed in the UFC?

Here’s what I discovered:

Krav Maga is not officially banned in the UFC, but many of its deadliest and most common techniques are banned, which is why it is not widely practiced by MMA fighters.

At first glance, Krav Maga and the styles we see employed in the UFC are simply forms of fighting.

Truth be told, they actually differ in the sense that UFC is entertainment. Fighting, here, is enacted as a sport, with strict rules about what is allowed and disallowed.

While Krav Maga, on the other hand, is designed for real-life altercations! It’s a self-defense system where the goal is to incapacitate or destroy an opponent as soon as possible. This might even mean crippling them!

In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into why Krav Maga is not used in the UFC.

Are there any UFC champions who know Krav Maga?

Karolina Kowalkiewicz is one of the few UFC fighters who has trained in Krav Maga. However, since Krav Maga borrows techniques from Muay Thai, Boxing, and other arts, many Krav Maga moves are seen in MMA fights. But they were learned from the original martial art that created them. Not Krav Maga.

It’s possible, even conceivable that there are other champions who know Krav Maga. After all, the kind of fighters who became champions is often the curious type who would naturally learn about any style that’s effective.

Since KM is a combination of techniques drawn from many styles, some champions, in a manner of speaking, already know KM.

But, based on my research, apart from Karolina, there’s hardly any champion with a KM background.

She’s a Polish fighter who trained in KM before she started her UFC career. She’s had 12 fights, lost 6. She’s currently 35, and she started learning KM when she was 16 in order to protect herself.

Now, do you think a Krav Maga fighter can beat up an MMA fighter?

Check out my take in a recent article of mine. I get into specifics on both styles and some specific fighters and give you my pick for which would win.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What Krav Maga techniques are banned in the UFC?

The Krav Maga techniques banned in the UFC include groin kicks, eye-gouging, breaking fingers, and head-butting.

You’ll agree that these are not techniques that should be employed in an entertaining sportive event.

Krav Maga (KM) is in line with what Bruce Lee hoped to achieve with Jeet Kune Do. The idea that a fighter should not be rigid and restricted to any fighting style.

As Lee famously said:

“Be Water, My Friend.
Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow or it can crash.
Be water, my friend.”

Lee grew tired of the choreographed and telegraphed movements in Wing Chun, the style of Kung Fu he grew up practicing.

He knew that a true warrior would not be locked into specific movements and rituals, but instead would adapt quickly to the situation at hand and just flow from movement to movement.

A fighter should learn and incorporate as many effective techniques as possible, no matter the style. Effectiveness is the main criterion, not adherence to the dictates of style.

KM is a combination of effective techniques found in a variety of styles. But, as I explained in the intro, some are simply too deadly and cannot be categorized as a sport.

There’s hardly anyone that can remain standing and fighting when they’re kicked in the groin or have had their eyes-gouged! It’s not simply lethal; it’s almost criminal.

In fact, at a point, the late Senator John McCain was reported to have described the UFC as “ human cockfighting.” What do you think he would have made of Krav Maga?

If you thought the three techniques I mentioned earlier are the only ones, think again.

Here are 3 more:

  • Palm strikes to the nose
  • Blows to the throat
  • Kicks to the temple

The last technique is most likely to render an assailant unconscious!

Yeah. KM is deadly. That’s the honest truth. And that, folks, is why we’re not likely to see it anytime soon in the UFC.

But can a KM dude win in a contest with a Kenpo fighter? Find out in a recent article of mine. I get into not only who would win but also how Kenpo differs from other forms of Karate.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What Krav Maga moves are allowed in the UFC?

One of the Krav Maga techniques allowed in the UFC is a “gripping release” move. Other moves that are allowed, which are largely defensive instead of offensive, include escapes, blocks, strikes, and choke defenses.

I’ll explain how the gripping release works in a bit.

So, rest assured, there are techniques you could use in the UFC. Even in the UFC, there are situations where your intention is not to hurt your opponent, but perhaps it’s to break free from their hold.

One of the techniques is a defensive and offensive move you could employ when someone grabs you.

Smart fighters always try to maintain some distance when defending themselves (and only attack when they see a good opportunity).

Let’s look at two simple related techniques. I chose both because you’ll need them a lot and they’re effective.

So an opponent grabs your arm.

When a wrist is grabbed, there’s almost always a weak point, a gap, or a space between the opponent’s thumb and the rest of their fingers.

This is an opening for the “gripping release” technique. Instead of simply trying to snatch your hand away in an arbitrary manner, there’s a way to this “scientifically”.

  • Lean in, and move your hand swiftly backward toward you through that gap. It’s simple and yet effective. It works because there’s a gap.
  • And, they’ll probably be taken off-guard because what they’d naturally expect is that your reaction would be to move away.
  • But, lean in, and bring back your arm through that opening. And pivot in the direction of your arm that’s been released from the grip.
  • If they move toward you, use your free hand to punch them in the face. While they’re trying to retain the grip, a punch connects with their face, and your other hand is freed.

Is KM something you could teach yourself at home?  Or, is it too complicated? Yes, you can teach yourself. (At least the facets that don’t require having a partner to practice).

I shared actionable tips in a recent article of mine. Just click that link.

Who is the dirtiest fighter in the UFC?

Jon “Bones” Jones is the dirtiest fighter in the UFC. He’s a dirty fighter because he consistently employs three techniques that give him an unfair advantage over his opponents.

In addition to this, he’s been tested positive for drugs on at least three occasions.

And he was disqualified and banned for some time. The drugs include anabolic steroids, cocaine, and he’s been stripped of his title at least 3 times.

Having shared the above, I must share the fact that even if he were to rid himself of the “dirty” techniques and stay away from drugs, for good, Jones is an excellent fighter and athlete.

But what are the techniques I mentioned? They are:

  • The Muay Thai eye-poke
  • Elbow strikes
  • Oblique kicks
  • “Ground and pound”

One could argue that elbow strikes are as effective as groin strikes. When executed well, they’re almost always a surprise. And Jones uses it a lot. The way he does it is a masterclass.

Just at the very moment when it seems as if he’s breaking away from a clinch… as if he’s about to flee, with his back to his opponent… just as they’re reaching out to grab him, he turns and swiftly and powerfully connects his elbow to their face (Ouch!).

What martial arts are most common in the UFC?

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, and Taekwondo are the most common styles in the UFC. And BJJ is the most common art among MMA champions.

That being said, one of the best of the best, Travis Fulton, is primarily trained in wrestling and American Kenpo Karate. But of course, Rickson Gracie, the man who put MMA on the map, and has no official losses, is a 9th-degree red belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

All UFC fighters are skilled in more than one style of fighting, and most contests are naturally won by employing a couple of techniques from various styles.

But, there’s a pattern that we see in most fights. And, it’s not contrived in any way: Most fights start with both parties standing up, so they use strikes, punches, and kicks.

Some of the deadliest fighters only use the aforementioned as an “entry” strategy.

They’re almost always on the lookout for an opportunity to take their opponent down, control them, maul them, and finally submit them.

This recurs a lot in the pattern we see in Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov’s fights.

It’s an efficient and highly effective approach that requires being able to strike, kick, punch very well, and which then shifts and places more emphasis on the grappling arts to wrap up the contest. This is the pattern “The Eagle” used to crush Conor Mc Gregor, one of the deadliest strikers in the world.

The Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida fight is also a classic example of this approach. By the way, Lyoto Machida is a Karate black belt.

So what do you think will happen in a contest between a Krav Maga practitioner and Kung Fu master? I explored both styles in a recent article of mine. Kung Fu, of course, is Bruce Lee’s original style. So surely he could easily defend any Krav Maga attack?

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Conclusion

You’ve probably thought to yourself: if Krav Maga is what it’s cracked up to be, why is it not allowed in the UFC?

In the article, we looked at some of its deadly techniques, the “soft” ones that are “allowed.” We also looked at who is the dirtiest fighter in the UFC and whether some UFC champs had a background in Krav Maga.

We wrapped things up by looking at the fighting styles used a lot in the UFC.


Photos that require attribution:

krav maga epo test II-32 by leopoldo de castro and Barboza vs. Gaethje by Jordan Staub are licensed under CC2.0 and were combined, cropped, with a text overlay added

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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