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4 Types of Gloves MMA Fighters Use and Why

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has undeniably revolutionized the realm of combat sports, ushering in an era of unparalleled excitement for a global audience. Beyond its electrifying matches, MMA has left an indelible imprint on training methodologies, MMA gear innovation, and the broader spectrum of sports science.

One of the defining features of contemporary MMA fights is the ubiquitous presence of MMA gloves. These iconic gloves have traversed a transformative journey over the years, marked not only by stylistic shifts but also by the infusion of crucial safety enhancements, safeguarding the combatants who step into the ring or the hallowed Octagon.

The MMA glove, in its current form, plays a pivotal role in facilitating stand-up battles, providing a vital shield for fighters’ hands and knuckles. Moreover, these gloves empower fighters with the nimbleness required for grappling and ground combat, enhancing the versatility and safety of the sport.

The evolution of MMA gloves is emblematic of the sport’s commitment to preserving the integrity and well-being of its athletes. These gloves afford fighters the freedom to showcase their skills while mitigating the risks associated with combat sports.

In conclusion, MMA gloves have not only become an integral part of the sport’s identity but also a symbol of its dedication to the safety and performance of its participants. As MMA continues to captivate fans worldwide, these gloves will undoubtedly remain a cornerstone of its enduring legacy.

History of MMA Glove Design

The evolution of MMA gloves is a fascinating journey that traces its roots back to the inception of mixed martial arts itself. In the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), fighters didn’t even use gloves. But as the sport progressed, so did the need for protective gear.

If you closely examine modern MMA gloves, you’ll notice that they share a striking resemblance to Kempo gloves with one crucial distinction – the absence of fingers. Remove the fingers from a Kempo glove, and you essentially have the blueprint for contemporary MMA gloves. However, the concept of these gloves predates the UFC.

Before the Octagon fights gained prominence in North America, combat sports were flourishing in other corners of the world. Brazil saw the emergence of “vale tudo” fights, which essentially meant “anything goes.” These confrontations were the brainchild of the legendary Gracie brothers, who welcomed challengers eager to prove their mettle against their storied family.

The pivotal 1973 Bruce Lee film, “Enter the Dragon,” illuminated mixed martial arts for mainstream audiences. This film showcased diverse martial arts styles in a single fight, complete with gloves that bore a striking resemblance to today’s MMA gloves. Bruce Lee and his opponent donned these gloves during their bout, with Lee using the open fingers to execute a decisive armbar takedown.

However, it was in Japan that the first official MMA glove design took shape. In 1989, Shooto, a fighting promotion rooted in the shoot style that melded wrestling and martial arts, mandated the use of open-finger gloves. This change was driven by the frequent occurrence of cuts and lacerations from bare-fisted bouts, necessitating stoppages.

While the UFC initially allowed fighters to compete without gloves, it was primarily a platform for showcasing diverse fighting styles and disciplines. In the inaugural UFC tournament in 1993, professional boxer Art Jimmerson entered the ring wearing a single glove on his left hand, intending to strike without causing significant damage to preserve his boxing career. His plan backfired as he was swiftly taken down and submitted by Royce Gracie in the first round.

UFC 3 saw Felix Mitchell wearing distinctive red gloves, a precursor to modern MMA gloves, but he opted to remove them before his match against Ken Shamrock. The true breakthrough for MMA gloves in the UFC came at UFC 4 when Melton Brown wore gloves similar to Mitchell’s design. However, despite his success in boxing, Brown discovered that MMA posed an entirely different challenge.

The fighter often overlooked as the pioneer of MMA gloves in the UFC is Tank Abbott. Abbott gained notoriety for his fighting style and his choice to wear MMA gloves. Unlike many fighters, Tank’s decision to adopt gloves was not about enhancing his punching power; it was driven by the need to protect his hands. Having engaged in over 200 street fights bare-fisted, he understood the toll it took on his hands. When transitioning to professional fighting, he modified boxing gloves by removing the fingers, making them suitable for grappling.

Tank Abbott’s unique gloves raised eyebrows, but referee John McCarthy permitted their use, leading to Abbott’s victories and eventual fame. Despite this development, it wasn’t until UFC 14 in July 1997 that the UFC mandated the use of MMA gloves, establishing a standard that endures to this day. This move was instrumental in professionalizing and regulating MMA, addressing the sport’s earlier controversies and challenges. MMA gloves, now an integral part of the sport, continue to evolve, prioritizing both fighter safety and performance.

MMA vs. Boxing Gloves

While MMA gloves may bear a superficial resemblance to Taekwondo or Kenpo sparring gloves, a closer inspection reveals distinct design nuances tailored to their intended purpose.

The hallmark of MMA gloves lies in their meticulous separation of fingers by padding, facilitating even finger spreading. Notably, these gloves lack palm padding, thereby bolstering grip strength.

A high-quality pair of MMA gloves prioritizes flexibility for the wrist and fingers, striking a balance between safeguarding the fighter’s hands and knuckles from potential harm.

A pivotal divergence between MMA gloves and their boxing counterparts is the padding. Boxing gloves adhere to a minimum weight requirement of 16 ounces, resulting in multiple layers of foam padding. In stark contrast, MMA gloves sport significantly leaner padding, endowing them with a more compact appearance.

The pivotal distinction between MMA gloves and boxing gloves is the prominence of finger mobility. MMA gloves empower fighters with the freedom to employ their fingers during combat, whereas boxers are constrained within enclosed gloves, ensuring no finger interference. This design choice in MMA gloves enhances efficiency in grappling, submissions, and evading opponents.

In the realm of boxing, hand or wrist wraps are indispensable to reduce friction within the glove and prevent unwanted glove movement during bouts. MMA fighters, conversely, have the option to forgo wraps, as their gloves are designed for a snug fit.

When evaluating the effectiveness of delivering punches, factors such as weight, speed, and power are paramount, with the power of a punch largely contingent on the individual. A study conducted on the impact of gloves revealed that the lighter and less padded MMA glove delivered marginally more force than a boxing glove. However, the disparity between a gloved hand and an exposed fist is substantial. Gloves substantially reduce impact by over 100 pounds, thereby affording significant protection to both the fighter wearing the gloves and their opponent. This emphasizes the critical role of gloves in mitigating potential harm during combat sports.

Types of MMA Gloves

Mixed martial artists have a range of glove options at their disposal, each designed with specific purposes in mind. These gloves play a pivotal role in safeguarding fighters during official matches, training sessions with coaches and partners, and sparring sessions aimed at preparing them for upcoming bouts.

The primary distinction among these various types of MMA gloves lies in the weight of the padding they employ. When referring to gloves in terms of ounces, it pertains to the weight of the foam or padding encased within the glove, not the overall weight of the glove itself. As mentioned earlier, gloves with more extensive padding provide added protection and cushioning, a critical aspect in ensuring the well-being of fighters and preventing injuries that could prematurely terminate their careers.

Competition Gloves

In the realm of professional MMA fights, fighters are mandated to don MMA competition gloves, renowned for their lightweight construction, typically weighing in at a mere four ounces or approximately 110 grams. However, the landscape shifts for amateur fighters embarking on their inaugural bouts, where it is advisable to opt for slightly heavier gloves, boasting six ounces or around 170 grams of padding.

Seasoned fighters, on the other hand, have the flexibility to select gloves within the four to six ounces range, in line with the regulations set forth by organizations like the UFC. This allowance is particularly beneficial for fighters requiring larger-sized gloves, such as the 2XL category.

Given the streamlined design of competition gloves, fighters often complement them with hand wraps to provide an additional layer of safeguarding for their hands and knuckles. These gloves, engineered to amplify the impact inflicted upon opponents, reciprocally prioritize the fighter’s hand protection.

Diverse manufacturers and brands introduce varying features and technologies into their gloves. Some incorporate side padding elements that enhance hand stability while mitigating chafing issues, especially for those who opt not to use hand wraps. These gloves may employ foam crafted from synthetic materials, offering enhanced cushioning upon impact. Others even integrate gel-like substances, further diversifying the spectrum of protective options.

An inherent attribute of competition gloves is their natural downward curvature, strategically positioning the fighter’s hand and knuckles for effective punching. This design minimizes the risk of accidental eye pokes or finger injuries during intense scrambles. Additionally, competition gloves are designed to provide a snug fit and are available in both open-palm and closed-palm variants.

To secure the wrist, competition gloves offer either a glove lace or a Velcro wrap mechanism, allowing fighters to adjust the gloves to their preference without hindering hand mobility. Comfort-focused features like ventilation systems, anti-microbial properties, and reinforced finger and thumb openings further contribute to the fighter’s well-being and performance.

Various materials are employed in the construction of competition gloves, including cowhide leather, synthetic leather, or a combination of both, depending on the glove’s quality and performance specifications. The choice of material is a crucial determinant of a glove’s durability and overall performance in the high-stakes world of professional MMA.

Training Gloves

Training gloves, often referred to as grappling or hybrid gloves, serve as indispensable tools for fighters looking to enhance their skills. These gloves are characterized by their reduced padding and increased finger mobility, expressly tailored to facilitate effective training sessions.

Compared to competition gloves, MMA training gloves exhibit a noticeable contrast in both padding and finger flexibility. This divergence is vital in shielding the fighter’s fists and ensuring the safety of their training partners during intensive practice sessions.

A standout feature of exemplary training gloves is their versatility, harmoniously accommodating ground-based and standing workouts, earning them the moniker “hybrid.” For stand-up training, thicker padding is the norm, ensuring the safety of fighters when working on heavy bags. Conversely, when honing grappling techniques, a lighter, open-palm design proves ideal, granting unrestricted movement on the mat.

Training gloves boast a plethora of attributes universally beneficial in diverse training scenarios. They offer a secure grip, coupled with thoughtful contouring and padding to bolster fighter safety during rigorous training, whether striking or grappling.

Durability is a paramount consideration in the design and construction of training gloves, as they are expected to endure daily and extended usage. Manufacturers employ resilient materials and reinforce stitching to mitigate the risk of abrupt wear and tear.

Breaking in training gloves is a straightforward process, with certain brands even incorporating a pre-broken-in design, allowing fighters to don gloves that feel as though they’ve been well-worn. These gloves also prioritize ergonomic contours, optimizing grip and ensuring fighters can comfortably form a fist or engage in grappling maneuvers while wearing them.

In summary, training gloves, with their reduced padding, enhanced finger mobility, and robust construction, play an indispensable role in helping fighters refine their skills, offering both comfort and protection during rigorous training regimens.

Grappling Gloves

Fighters who prioritize their ground skills often turn to specialized gear, such as grappling gloves. These gloves stand out due to their reduced padding in comparison to competition gloves, a feature that significantly enhances a grappler’s training experience by reducing bulkiness and promoting ease of movement.

The hallmark characteristic of grappling gloves lies in their emphasis on providing fighters with heightened finger mobility. This design choice affords grapplers a superior grip on their opponents, a pivotal advantage in executing ground-based techniques and maneuvers.

Sparring Gloves

In the realm of combat sports, sparring represents a pivotal and indispensable phase in an MMA fighter’s journey. This crucial practice serves to condition and prepare fighters while awaiting their official matches. Enter the MMA sparring glove, a specialized piece of equipment designed to cater to the demands of this rigorous training regimen.

MMA sparring gloves distinguish themselves by their weight and padding, offering a unique blend of protection and functionality. These gloves typically tip the scales at approximately seven to ten ounces, striking a balance that safeguards the fighter’s knuckles and critical impact areas. The padding on these gloves typically ranges from one to one and a half inches in thickness, comprising dense foam that serves as a formidable defense against serious injuries.

Some iterations of sparring gloves elevate protection further by incorporating double padding, a feat achieved through a split stitching technique that efficiently disperses impact. This innovation not only enhances safety during sparring and grappling sessions but also mitigates fatigue, allowing fighters to train with sustained vigor.

Sparring gloves also prioritize finger reinforcement, featuring concentrated padding on the knuckles, thumb, and areas prone to impactful contact. While these gloves maintain a level of dexterity, they provide a protective shield for both the wearer and their sparring partner, minimizing the risk of unintended injuries.

Securing these gloves is achieved through a reliable Velcro system or laces, ensuring that the glove remains firmly in place throughout the duration of the sparring session. For added security and safety, fighters often opt to wear a wrist wrap beneath these gloves. The design of sparring gloves is carefully contoured to offer comfort and a natural curvature that complements the fighter’s hand during combat.

Sparring gloves come in a variety of styles, including open palm and closed palm designs, offering fighters the liberty to choose the option that aligns with their comfort and preference. Quality sparring gloves are constructed from durable materials, empowering fighters to push their limits during every sparring and grappling session without reservations.

How to Measure Your Glove Size

When it comes to selecting the right mixed martial arts (MMA) gloves, the paramount consideration is achieving a snug and proper fit. This underscores the significance of knowing your hand size, as it forms the foundation for choosing the ideal MMA gloves.

For those embarking on their MMA journey as amateurs, seeking guidance from a seasoned coach is the optimal way to determine the correct glove size. The wealth of experience and insights possessed by a professional coach or athlete far surpasses any DIY approach.

However, if you find yourself without expert assistance, a tape measure can be your ally. When measuring your hand, keep it open with the thumb positioned away. The key is to measure the circumference of your hand and then correlate it with the appropriate glove size.

Here’s a handy reference for hand circumference and corresponding glove sizes:

  • 5.5″ to 6.5″ Hand Circumference: Opt for 8oz. gloves.
  • 6.5″ to 7.5″ Hand Circumference: Opt for 10oz. gloves.
  • 7.5″ to 8.5″ Hand Circumference: Opt for 12oz. gloves.
  • 8.5″ to 9.5″ Hand Circumference: Opt for 18oz. gloves.

These values provide approximate guidelines to aid your selection. For absolute certainty, consider visiting an authorized store where you can try on various gloves to determine which pair offers the utmost comfort and fit. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the store experts to ensure you make an informed choice that enhances your MMA training and performance.


The landscape of MMA gloves has evolved significantly over time, progressing far beyond their humble origins. Today, these gloves stand as a testament to continuous innovation, aimed at elevating the sport by enhancing excitement, safety, and competitiveness. However, the quest for optimal MMA gear represents just one facet of the journey towards becoming a better fighter.

In this dynamic arena, knowledge and understanding play pivotal roles, extending beyond mere victory to encompass the safety of both oneself and one’s opponent in every bout. As the MMA glove continues to evolve, it is this holistic approach that ultimately contributes to the growth and excellence of the sport.

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