Pankration vs MMA: Differences & Fighting Comparison

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In the ancient Olympic Games, the sport of Pankration (meaning ‘all force’) was introduced. It was a mix of boxing and wrestling styles. These sports evolved into what is now known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). But of Pankration vs MMA, who wins?

For a long time, the mixed martial arts community was torn over which sport is superior. Some people say that pankration should be considered as a main event for UFC events while others claim that MMA is better than any ancient fighting style.

The argument has been ongoing since 1996 when Royce Gracie competed in his first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with no rules and took home the winner’s belt in just 3 minutes and 8 seconds.

What is Pankration?

Pankration was one of the original Olympic events. It’s an intense form of combat that combines different elements of fighting such as boxing, wrestling, and kicking. Pankration fighters are allowed to use any technique they want so long as it isn’t illegal against their opponent.

It’s one of the oldest martial arts around and heavily influences what we know as modern MMA.

A modern day MMA fighter might not be able to compete with a pankration fighter because MMA fighters have more rules than pankrations.

Why did Pankration die out?

Whilst no one knows for sure, it has been said that Pankration likely died out due to the mixed combat elements of the sport being spread out and separated over time. The Boxing element of the sport being adopted by the English, whilst the Greeks preference stayed with Wrestling.

English Boxing vs Greek Wrestling

In recent years, mixed martial arts has become the leader in ultimate combat sports whereby inspiration and techniques are taken from any and all forms of fighting.

Original Pankration as an Olympic sport may have died out, but the core of fighting techniques spread across standing and on the ground are still a common part of MMA.

Pankration is still honoured in sport tournaments, with some slight adjustments.

Does Pankration still exist?

Whilst Pankration is originally a sport entered into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC, a modern-day version of Pankration does still exist. Today, Pankration competition occurs in the World Combat Games and promotions like Modern Fighting Pankration with adjustments to the rules.

What were the rules for Pankration?

Pankration was a lethal sport performed by the Greeks. Almost everything was allowed in the sport, except for using your teeth, eye pokes, or “low blows”. Otherwise, the fighters could use any technique. Though there was a preference between boxing and wrestling styles.

Pankration Wrestling

Pankratiasts would often use two forms of wrestling to win against the opponent. The standing version would allow you to win if you forced your opponent to touch the ground 3 times with their hands. A similar rule is often practiced to this day in modern wrestling practice.

The ground version would be winning by submitting your opponent. Which is very similar to the modern mixed martial arts. The main aim of Pankration was to force the opponent into submission and the sport was centered around this goal.

It didn’t stop the sport from having knockouts occur, though. The sport also had leg kicks and body kicks as a big part of fatiguing the opponent.

How does Pankration fair up against MMA?

Every mixed martial artist has a different background, and as such, they prefer different fighting styles. Some like to box, some use karate, but at the end of the day, there are only two real disciplines that can be used in mixed martial arts: striking and grappling.

Every fighter will have their own preference for which one they would rather do more than the other; however, when it comes down to it all you need to know is which discipline is better against your opponent’s preferred style.

I’ve also compared Pankration Vs Kung Fu in another article.

Pankration has a lot of similarities to modern MMA. Both include striking with fists and leg kicks as well as being strongly influenced by grappling and wrestling.

The ground submissions are very similar across both sports. This was the main aim of Pankration and many MMA fighters are most successful as well with submitting their opponent.

The differences seem to be, though, that MMA has a much stronger presence with, particularly head striking. As mixed martial arts has grown it has become clear that an easier win for the accurate few is to go for head strikes and get the knockout.

With influences from many different martial arts used in modern MMA the potential for knockouts could be far greater than Pankration from Ancient Greece.


Ancient Pankration and modern-day MMA have a lot of similarities. Whilst Pankration was focused on ground submissions to force the opponent to give up, in modern fighting a lot more focus is put on knockout techniques.

Like with all martial arts, there are merits to many of them as a base for MMA. Pankration’s heavy wrestling has influenced much of the practice by some of the greatest MMA fighters of this generation – so it’s definitely not something to snuff about.

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