MMA (or Mixed Martial Arts) is more popular now than ever, with the stars of the sport occasionally crossing into both other sports and mainstream media.
Unlike sports like Boxing or Kickboxing, MMA requires you to train all aspects of fighting, from exhilarating striking on your feet, to the more nuanced grappling on the ground. This means that there’s a little more equipment needed to make sure you’re safe. We’re here to walk you through all of the equipment you might need.
Because MMA incorporates striking, with knees and elbows also allowed, it’s crucial that anyone training has the correct protection, to ensure that they avoid injury and get the most out of their training. The level you train at will affect how much equipment you need, however there are some items which are an absolute necessity.
When training MMA there are a number of essential items which are required to train safely.
MMA gloves are one of the most important items of training equipment for Mixed Martial Arts. The gloves are what protect both your hands from getting damaged and your opponent or sparring partner from getting injured, so it’s important to get these right.
Unlike Boxers, MMA fighters use a small light weight glove which offers a little less protection, but allows you to use the hands for grappling as well. The open palm and fingerless make means that the right areas are protected without them feeling too bulky. While they may not look like much, the amount of protection compared to a bare fist is a big difference.
It’s important to know that there are different types of MMA Gloves – some are designed with striking in mind and have more padding to protect both your partner and yourself, while some are designed for grappling and feature a slightly streamlined shape closer to the ones used in competition, but aren’t suitable for hard sparring.
When it comes to combat sports, there are more types of short than ever before. We’ve written a bit of a guide on choosing the right shorts which should help you work out what to use. In general, the MMA world is a little more flexible than other sports in terms of what you can wear, so you can really focus on performance, and make sure you’re wearing whatever suits you best.
The important thing to remember is that as part of Mixed Martial Arts you’ll be throwing high kicks and knees as well as tying your partner up on the ground, which means that flexibility is essential. On the other hand though, you also need something sturdy enough that it won’t get trashed when you’re being crushed up against the side of the cage, so durability is another important consideration.
Once you have a good understanding on what types of shorts you’re looking for, check out our Clothing Reviews section, where we share our thoughts on some of the shorts we’ve tried out personally.
When it comes to sparring, you’ll need a solid pair of shin guards. The type of shin guards you’ll need will depend a lot on how you train though.
If your training sessions consist of separate stand-up sparring and grappling, then you’ll definitely want to get some Striking style shin guards. These are the typical sort of shin guard used in MMA, based mostly off of the designs produced in Thailand for Muay Thai – a popular style of Kickboxing often utilised in MMA.
If your sparring is very much mixed, and you’ll often transition between being on your feet and on the floor, then a more fitted type of ‘grappling’ or ‘hybrid’ shin guard would be far more suited. While these shin guards are decreasing in popularity due to lack of protection, the design means that they’re far less likely to get in your way.
If this isn’t really making sense to you then we have the perfect guide to the different types of shin guards, which should help you weigh up the options.
Regardless what type you need, we’ve got your back when it comes to deciding on a pair, having tested out and reviewed some of the best options across the market.
A Mouth guard
The body is good at healing itself when injured, but one of the things that can’t heal are teeth, which is why it’s extra important to protect them. Mouth guards are made for this purpose, absorbing the shock and protecting the teeth from impacts. That said, don’t be fooled into thinking mouth guards would stop you getting knocked out – they won’t.
At a professional level, most fighters get professionally custom-fit mouth guards, which can be fairly expensive, so most amateur fighters opt for boil-and-bite mouth guards, which can still offer strong protection. Most of the issue with boil and bite gum shields is finding a brand which has a tight, comfortable fit.
Our personal favourite type of mouth guard is the slim, harder type of mouthguard (Essentially custom-fit mouth guards you can fit yourself). You can find a couple of examples of what we’re talking about.
Oh and please – keep them clean.
This one is mainly for the guys, but there are options for women out there too. The groin is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, and is at high risk of damage when hit by a hard impact. That’s on top of the fact that a strong groin strike can render the toughest of men useless. In MMA, there is always the possibility of a kick accidentally hitting the wrong area, so it’s more important than ever to keep everything protected.
There are a variety of different groin guard styles. MMA fighters often look for ones which are lightweight and don’t get in the way, usually opting for a cup which fits into compression shorts or a jock strap for the best fit when moving around.
If you’re looking for a new groin guard why not look through our Groin Guard Reviews.
While these items aren’t generally a necessity, some of the items below might help improve your comfort and allow you to focus completely on improving your skillset.
Yes, I’m aware we just told you to go and pick up some MMA gloves, but sometimes you might want to use boxing gloves instead.
MMA gloves are perfect for fight-like sparring, but when you’re just strictly keeping it standing, you just can’t beat the protection boxing gloves provide.
When buying boxing gloves, many first timers will go out and buy the cheapest pair of gloves they can find. Unfortunately a lot of the time, the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true here. Usually boxing gloves for around £20 or less tend to be cheaply built and don’t last long at all. While they may seem ‘fine for now’, they can actually end up doing more harm to your hands than good. I would advise anybody looking to try to spend a little more on boxing gloves, and go for a mid-range glove. The difference is definitely noticeable.
The type of training you do will also affect what weight of glove you use. Many people use lighter gloves (around 10oz) for bag and pad work, as they allow you to work on speed and technique, as well as getting used to the feel of throwing a punch. For sparring, most gyms won’t let you spar in anything less than 16oz. The extra padding is not so much for your sake but for your opponent’s protection.
For help choosing a glove which is right for you take a look through our Boxing Glove Reviews.
When using boxing gloves (and if possible, MMA gloves too), hand wraps should be used. When starting out, many people don’t quite understand that glove padding alone isn’t actually all that protective. Every punch you throw creates sudden pressure on the 27 small bones that form the hand. All it takes is one bad punch and you can easily break something.
If you don’t quite believe us, here’s an article where you can read up on it more.
To prevent this, fighters use hand wraps. Hand wraps are rolls of fabric wrapped around the hand to form a protective shock absorbing layer. They support the hand in a way boxing gloves can’t, making sure that there is no accidental movement in the wrist or hand. Inner gloves are favoured by some people instead. We’ve written plenty about the different options you have available, so you can work out what’s right for you.
You can find our hand wrap reviews in the Accessories section, where we’ve compared hand wraps from a range of brands.
Ankle supports are often work by fighters for a few reasons. The elasticated nature of ankle supports sit tightly around the foot, offering the joints a little more comfort as they move. They also keep the joint warm which allows it to function better, and less likely to pull or strain the tendons. They also offer a tiny bit of protection when kicking pads or bags, however this depends on the materials.
You can find our Ankle Supports Reviews in the Accessories section.
Harder strikes like elbows and knees are often not used in sparring at a beginner level because of the dangerous nature of the hard bones and how easy it is to accidentally hurt your sparring partner. For anyone looking to incorporate elbows into their sparring it’s a good idea to use protection to keep your training partner safe. Elbow pads and knee pads are both similar in design and consist of a padded layer over the joint to reduce the impact of the blow.
Headgear isn’t as common in MMA as it is in boxing for example, mainly because sparring is more all-rounded, and not focused so much on the head. Many methods of sparring are also often usually lighter and more playful than other boxing and more focused on technique than hard strikes. For anyone training often though, or who want to go hard when sparring, then a head guard is a good way to ensure that training doesn’t have a negative impact on them over time.
Rashguards, Spats & Compression Clothing
A cotton T-shirt is fine for most training, but you’ll quickly realise it’s not the most pleasant choice for MMA. If you just want to avoid sweat soaking up when practicing your striking, you could opt for a Breathable Training T-Shirt like the ones you can pick up from Fight Quality Clothing.
If you’re planning on grappling though, it would be a much more practical idea to go with something much more fitted and designed for the job – that’s where rashguards come in. Rashguards are designed with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and wrestling in mind and are a sturdy, well fitted choice that won’t slip around when training. Long sleeved versions are a popular choice, and come with the added benefit of preventing any unwanted infections from rolling around in the gym.
Anything else you’d add? Feel free to make a suggestion down in the comments and help out any fellow fighters.