Reach in Boxing and UFC (MMA): How Is It Measured?

Reach in Boxing and UFC (MMA): How Is It Measured?

Although most superficial observers don’t notice it, reach is extremely important in combat sports. Reach is important in both kicking and punching, although the latter is somewhat more important and talked about in modern combat sports. A good reach can help you win a fight, it can be good for both offence and defence, but it’s really not something you can influence, which is why it is a very valuable “gift” if you know how to use it. Fighters who have long reaches tend to have an advantage in a fight and if they know how to use it to their advantage, they can be pretty tough to beat. 

Reach in UFC and boxing is measured by taking a length from one end of a fighter’s arms (at the fingertips) to another, when the hands are raised in a horizontal position at the shoulders, under a 90°-angle in relation to the body.

In today’s article, we’re going to discuss the importance of the reach in modern combat sports, how is it measured precisely, and the biggest reaches among UFC fighters and boxers.

How Is Reach in the UFC (MMA) and Boxing Measured?

The reach or arm span (sometimes called wingspan) is a physical measurement that measures the length from one end of a person’s arms (measured at the fingertips) to another, when the hands are raised in a horizontal position at the shoulders, under a 90°-angle in relation to the body. Measuring it can be quite simple (just use a tape measure), but there are also more sophisticated methods. 

The arm span is generally related to a person’s height, meaning – the taller you are, the longer you can reach. This is why basketball players tend to have longer reaches, which is extremely useful in such sports. Other sports where a large reach is beneficial are tennis, some athletic disciplines, volleyball, swimming and two combat sports – boxing and MMA. Besides height, an arm span is related to one’s age, sex, and ethnicity. 

What Is Ape (or Gorilla) Index?

When talking about reach, one cannot skip over the ape (or gorilla) index. It is a colloquial term for the ratio of one’s arm span compared to one’s height. The typical ratio is 1, meaning that a person who’s 170 cm tall should have a span od 170 cm; this was defined by the famous Roman architect Vitruvius (after whom Da Vinci named his famous sketch, The Vitruvian Man).

But that is not always the case and many professional sportspeople, especially fighters and martial artists, have a disproportionally positive ape index. 

We are going to talk about some of them in the following paragraphs. 

Reach in Boxing and UFC (MMA): How Is It Measured?

Importance of Reach in Boxing

Why is a long reach so important in boxing? Well, the answer to that question is both simple and obvious. If you have a long reach, you can punch your opponent without him being able to reach you. If you manage to combine a good reach with a good hight, you’ll be extremely difficult to defeat.

Certainly, there have been boxers that did not make full use of their good ape index (one famous example is Bryant Jennings, who lost to Wladimir Klitschko, despite having an ape index greater than other champions like Joshua or Wilder), which goes to tell that technique and skill still go a long way and that one’s natural predispositions don’t mean much when faced with a difficult and skilled opponent.

The same rule applies to boxers with a negative ape index, like Mike Tyson and legendary Rocky Marciano, who were excellent fighters and champions despite having a shorter span compared to their heights. 

The general conclusion is as follows – a big reach is certainly an advantage in boxing, but it is rarely a decisive factor, especially in the so-called “big fights”. A boxer needs to train and know how to use his reach to his advantage, which can only be achieved by training, training and training. 

To conclude, we shall bring you a list of boxers with the largest ape index:

#FighterNationalityHeightReachApe index
1Sonny ListonUnited States185 cm213 cm+29.21 cm
2Hasim RahmanUnited States189 cm208 cm+20.32 cm
3Steve Cunningham United States191 cm208 cm+20.32 cm
4James DouglasUnited States192 cm211 cm+19.05 cm
5Lennox LewisUnited Kingdom / Canada196 cm213 cm+17.78 cm
6Primo CarneraItaly198 cm216 cm+17.78 cm
7Sam LangfordCanada169 cm188 cm+16.51 cm
8Marvin HaglerUnited States177 cm191 cm+15.24 cm
9Larry HolmesUnited States191 cm206 cm+15.24 cm
10Charley BurleyUnited States175 cm190 cm+15.24 cm
11Adonis StevensonHaiti / Canada180 cm196 cm+15.24 cm
12William Landon JonesUnited States175 cm191 cm+15.24 cm
13Paul WilliamsUnited States187 cm201 cm+15.24 cm
14Tommy BurnsCanada170 cm185 cm+15.24 cm
15Thomas HearnsUnited States188 cm198 cm+12.70 cm

Importance of Reach in MMA

The situation is very similar in MMA. The only difference is that MMA fights include kicks along with punches, which means that a reach per se is not as big an advantage as it is in boxing, where the whole fight depends on your arms and their span. But, despite all of that, your arm span can still be a significant help in MMA, especially if you manage to balance out your defence and offence. 

MMA fighters need to have a strategy that is more based on defence, if they wish to use their reach to their advantage. MMA is just different than boxing since a fighter has more shots and techniques he can use, so the reach doesn’t really work unless you plan your fight and know how to utilise your strengths.

Still, statistical data has shown that, unlike boxing, reach doesn’t really have much influence on MMA fights, meaning that you will probably not win by just having longer arms than your opponent; such a thing could happen in boxing, but very rarely in MMA

Like above, we’ll bring you a list of MMA fighters that have the longest reach:

#FighterNationalityHeightReachApe index
1Sergei PavlovichRussia191 cm213 cm+22.86 cm
2Jon JonesUnited States 193 cm215 cm+21.59 cm
3Kevin LeeUnited States175 cm196 cm+20.32 cm
4Dalcha LungiambulaSouth Africa173 cm193 cm+20.32 cm
5Uriah HallJamaica / United States183 cm202 cm+19.05 cm
6Francis NgannouCameroon / France196 cm211 cm+17.78 cm
7Paul DaleyUnited Kingdom175 cm190 cm+17.78 cm
8Miguel TorreUnited States175 cm193 cm+17.78 cm
9Georges St-PierreCanada178 cm193 cm+15.24 cm
10Brock LesnarUnited States191 cm206 cm+15.24 cm
11Alexander VolkanovskiAustralia168 cm182 cm+13.97 cm
12Tony FergusonUnited States180 cm194 cm+13.97 cm
13Tyron WoodleyUnited States175 cm188 cm+12.70 cm
14Conor McGregorIreland175 cm188 cm+12.70 cm

That wraps up our coverage of the reach in modern combat sports. We’ve brought you the science behind it, the numbers and some names, so we hope we’ve covered every point of interest. We hope you’ve enjoyed the read, learned something new and that you will keep following us for more information on the world of martial arts. See you next time!