Mixed martial arts training is a great way to work on your flexibility, lose weight, and gain a sense of confidence in your athletic ability. But before you begin, there are some pieces of equipment that you should consider picking up. Purchasing protective equipment will allow you to safely train difficult combinations of punches and kicks, whilst providing padding to avoid injuries. In fact, having the right equipment can set yourself up for success in the ring, and allow you to have a long competitive career.
What You Need to Start MMA Training
One of the first things you’ll need to have when starting out is a dedicated space to work out and train with enough area to move about and practice combinations of movements. This space should be free from any obstacles and equipped with foam mats to absorb impacts from falls.
Also, consider receiving some training from an expert in the field. When starting in MMA, find a trainer to learn from and gain an introductory understanding of martial arts techniques. An expert trainer can help you as you develop unique skills, especially when learning other martial arts disciplines, like BJJ and judo.
The last thing that you’ll need to consider before starting martial arts training is what equipment you need for your training. Martial arts equipment helps to keep your body safe as you push yourself to the limits of your physical ability. This article delves into the best equipment that you can purchase for MMA training, providing you with all the information you need to make informed purchases.
MMA Training Equipment: The Complete List
A bit of padding can go a long way to help prevent injury and keeping you healthy throughout your MMA career. If you’re new to the sport of MMA, one of the most important things you should know is to always adapt and listen to your body. You know your body better than anyone else does, and therefore you need to tailor your equipment needs around pre-existing injuries or your skill and comfort level. UFC champion Demetrious Johnson shares a bit of wisdom when he says, “This is the only body I have for my career. Be smart. A guy has to make sure he doesn’t get hurt but is also ready for a fight,” 1.
Below, you’ll find a list of the most important pieces of athletic equipment that you will need as you train in mixed martial arts:
MMA gloves are a smaller grappling glove used to both strike an opponent and allow for finger dexterity. Because of the hybrid nature of these gloves, MMA gloves weigh significantly less than boxing gloves, coming in at 4oz to 6oz in weight, whereas boxing gloves can weigh anywhere between 10 to 16 ounces.
MMA gloves are actually safer for fighters to use, as the gloves cause less harm to the head and body than boxing gloves. In fact, the mechanics of striking using MMA gloves are different from boxing gloves, being faster with less force behind them, which forces MMA fighters to be strategic with their strikes.
Because of the slimmed-down nature of MMA gloves, mixed martial artists should consider purchasing two sets of gloves — one set of MMA gloves to use only when training for and in competitions, whilst a set of bag gloves to train the power of your punches.
Sparring Gloves and Bag Gloves
Let’s talk a little about buying other gloves to use for sparring and on a heavy bag. Former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s first career injury as an amateur fighter was a broken hand, and he had to have a pin put into his index finger. To avoid future hand injuries, here’s what Johnson does: “To help prevent hand injuries, I wear 16 ounce gloves for sparring, so I can protect myself and my training partner. I wear 7 ounce gloves for MMA. You should try and pad up as much as you can.”2
Some athletes choose to purchase heavier boxing gloves to use in sparring, as well as for striking a punching bag. In fact, as you begin in martial arts training and learn the basics of transitioning from striking to shooting in, it may be best to use a pair of MMA gloves to spar with and a different pair of gloves to hit a heavy bag with, preferably a heavier boxing glove like a 16oz glove.
Fighters who compete in professional MMA fights are required to wear competition gloves. These gloves are lightweight, fingerless gloves which allow the fighter the ability to both strike and grip their opponent. Most competition gloves way between 4 ounces (110 g) and 6 ounces (170 g). Amateur fighters who are competing in their first competition to match should consider wearing more padded gloves, like the 6 ounce MMA glove. Also, larger fighters may need to wear larger gloves, like XL and 2 XL sizes.
Some MMA gloves have gel padding over the knuckles, instead of foam. These gels help to reduce and absorb the impact of strikes, limiting injuries to hands. And don’t forget hand wraps, as they are especially important to wear underneath MMA competition gloves and help prevent injuries.
Although most fighters are trying to avoid hitting their opponent below the belt, sometimes mistakes happen. That’s why you should invest in a good athletic cup to protect that very sensitive part of your body from strikes and grabs. Having a groin protector is a nonnegotiable piece of equipment, especially when training against a sparring partner, where speed and intensity reach competition levels.
There are two different types of athletic cups that you can purchase. The first type of groin guard is a compression shorts and has a pocket where you can put the athletic cup in. Some of this type of groin guards even have padding on the front to help against impacts to the upper legs and groin area. The other type of athletic cup is a simple strap style, with elastic straps that go underneath your legs and around your waist, preventing against movement and holding the cup in place. The cups themselves are also made of two different materials, the first being a hard plastic cup and the other being a soft foam cup wrapped in vinyl fabric.
Often overlooked, this thin piece of plastic should be considered one of the most important pieces of personal protective equipment in your kit bag. Mouth guards are important as they help protect your teeth, preventing you from losing any of your teeth from a punch or a kick to the face. Not only that, mouth guards are also important because they help protect against brain injuries, like concusions3.
Using a fitted mouth guard, one that you boil in water and then place on your top teeth, can help prevent concussions and loss of teeth. If you’re interested, speak with a local dentist to help you get a properly fitted and moulded mouth guard. It’s important to have a mouth guard that is fitted perfectly to your teeth, as well as far enough back on your molars to prevent impact from your lower jaw.
There are also double arch mouth guards which cover both the upper and lower teeth, stabilising an athletes’ jaw and preventing it from impacting the upper jaw and causing a concussion Double arch mouth guards provide ease of breathing with a hole at the front separating the lower and upper jaws. They’re also much more comfortable to wear in your mouth, as you have something to bite down on. The only drawback is your mouth is slightly open, but you are forced to keep your mouth shut.
If you focus on grappling and wrestling techniques, rash guards are an important piece of training equipment. Rash guards help to protect your skin from cuts, abrasions, scrapes, and rashes. They effectively create a layer of fabric between your skin and the mat or your opponent’s body. Rash guards also are comfortable to wear, and use moisture-wicking fabric to help you regulate your body temperature during training and sparring.
When you first start out, you may be fine with just a simple T-shirt, but if you are involved in a martial arts discipline that involves a lot of grappling, like Brazilian jujitsu or jujitsu, buying a rash guard may be one of the best investments you make. Available in both men’s and women’s sizes and styles, as well as short-sleeved and long sleeve, you are bound to find a rash guard that fits your body type and preferences. Rash guards are also great to wear in no-gi sparring or competitions, and can be worn underneath a traditional gi.
Shin guards are an essential piece of equipment because they help you to properly train kicks and strikes with your shins and ankles. They help to protect against the regular wear and tear of training, allowing you to avoid fatigue and injury from training kicks and strikes. Shin guards also protect your lower leg from minor skin abrasions and fractures.
According to an Australian impact study, wearing headgear reduces the shock of getting hit by almost 50%. This makes wearing headgear incredibly important, as it reduces the risk of concussions and brain trauma, as well as protecting your face from punches3. There are several types of headgear that you can buy, but the two most popular types are the fullface and the open-face headgear.
The fullface headgear involves padding which is all around your face, protecting your cheeks and chin. This is most commonly used in boxing.
The other type of headgear is the open face headgear, which covers the entire head except for the chin and cheeks. The open face headgear is commonly used in grappling and striking martial arts disciplines. This type of headgear allows the user to breathe easier and offers greater visibility.
One thing to consider when buying headgear is to find a proper fit. In a similar way to finding the perfect size cup, you want your headgear to be tight, but you do not want it to be too snug that it’s uncomfortable. Give yourself some time to break in headgear and don’t give up on it.
Besides gloves, hand wraps are one of the most important pieces of equipment to protect the small bones in your hand. In fact, the hand has some of the smallest and weakest bones in the human body, and when you strike an opponent’s skull, which is one of the hardest bones in the body, it’s likely that the bones in your hand will fail before the rock-solid bones in your opponent’s head. It’s the old adage of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, and something has to give.
Mark DellaGrotte, an experienced UFC trainer, points out that hand injuries are one of the most common, and easily avoidable injuries he sees among fighters4. Broken bones, dislocations in the hand, and ligament strains and tears can involve long, drawn-out recovery periods. Therefore, wrapping your hands before each time you’re striking a heavy bag, or before sparring with the partner, can be one of the most helpful things in protecting your hands and limiting time off because of injury.
The equipment listed in this article will give you a basic starting place, but when you are picking out martial arts equipment, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help from more experienced fighters and trainers. There is a wealth of knowledge from the experiences of every athlete who trains at your gym; ask around, seeking to understand what works and what doesn’t. From the information that you learn from other athletes, you can understand what may work for you and what doesn’t work for you. However, it’s only until you get out onto the training surface where you’ll learn whether what you have works for you or if you need to purchase more gear.
- Gelber, Jonathan. The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Treating MMA Injuries: Featuring Advice from UFC Hall of Famers Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten, Pat Miletich, Dan Severn and More! ECW Press, 2016, pg. 207
- Gelber, Jonathan. The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Treating MMA Injuries, pg. 157
- Gelber, The Ultimate Guide to Preventing and Treating MMA Injuries, pg. 154.