Why Do MMA Fighters Wear Gloves?


One of the must-have items for MMA fighters is a pair of good gloves. MMA gloves come in different colors and sizes — they usually match the fighter’s outfit — and in an open-fingered fashion. MMA fighters are not ready to fight until they have their gloves on, but why?

Why Do MMA Fighters Wear Gloves?

MMA fighters wear gloves to get grappling flexibility and some hand protection. Gloves ensure an MMA fighter’s fists and wrists are protected when they put out powerful punches onto their opponent. The use of gloves in MMA fights ensures that the injuries inflicted on both fighters are minimized.

Let’s get into more details about the roles of gloves in MMA, be it in training or matches.

Is There a Reason MMA Fighters Wear Gloves?

The reason MMA fighters wear gloves is to minimize the injuries inflicted on both fighters during a match. When a fighter hits their opponent with strong punches, they can severely damage their fists in the long run. The gloves are meant to reduce the impact on the fighters’ fists and wrists.

It’s common to see MMA fighters wearing gloves, and it’s easy to understand why. The easy explanation for why MMA fighters wear gloves is for hand protection. What some might not realize is gloves do more than protect a fighter’s hands.

On the other hand, the opponent can benefit from their attacker wearing gloves because the damages inflicted, especially in the facial area, can be reduced. Gloves can also lower the risk of head injuries in fighters. Despite the lack of research regarding head trauma caused by MMA today, it’s in every fighter’s best interest to protect themselves in the ring.

Different Types of MMA Gloves

There are different types of MMA gloves to suit different uses. Competition gloves weigh about 110g-170g (3.8oz-5.9oz) or heavier, depending on size. Heavier competition gloves are usually worn by amateur fighters, whereas professional fighters wear lighter gloves.

Amateur fighters wear heavier gloves to help them increase their stamina and build muscle strength. Competition gloves help to prepare amateur fighters for MMA tournaments in which they wear lighter gloves. Usually, competition gloves are only worn for a short time.

Then, there are sparring gloves, also known as training gloves. Typically, sparring gloves’ paddings are heavier than those of competition gloves as they involve a lot of punching. Sparring gloves are excellent for MMA training because they provide adequate hand protection to fighters during training.

Grappling gloves are what MMA fighters normally wear in competitions. Unlike competition gloves and sparring gloves, grappling gloves have less padding to allow easier grappling. This type of glove allows the wearer to move every one of their fingers without restrictions.

Difference Between Boxing Gloves and MMA Gloves?

The most obvious difference between boxing gloves and MMA gloves is their physical appearance. Boxing gloves wrap the fighter’s fingers like mittens. In contrast, MMA gloves expose the fighter’s fingers. Boxing gloves are softer, bulkier and less padded than MMA gloves.

You cannot use boxing gloves for MMA; neither can you use MMA gloves for boxing because the two sports are not the same. A boxer can only use punches against their opponent, strictly above the belt — usually on the head. Meanwhile, an MMA fighter can attack their opponent in several different ways, like punching, kicking, and grappling.

Think of UFC fighters when you think of MMA gloves. Both boxing gloves come with velcro closures, but boxing gloves mostly use a lace-tying mechanism, while MMA gloves are strictly velcro-type. MMA gloves must have a snug fit on your hand because if they’re too tight, they can restrict blood flow, but if too loose, they may slip off during a fight.

Which Gloves Hit Harder: Boxing or MMA?

MMA gloves hit harder than boxing gloves due to less padding and their lightweight nature. Without padding, the bare fist projects the most force (about 370 kg or 815 lbs). MMA gloves reduce the impact to about 295 kgs (650 lbs).  Boxing gloves reduce it to 291 kg (641 lbs).

Boxing gloves can weigh between 120g-150g (4.2oz-5.2oz), and they have more padding than MMA gloves. In contrast to the belief that more padding delivers more force, boxing gloves project less impact than MMA gloves — only 291 kg (641 lbs). 

MMA gloves are superior to boxing gloves for speed, power, versatility, and grappling, but boxing gloves are safer when a fighter receives a punch.

Watch the video below for a strength comparison between boxing gloves and MMA gloves:

Should You Wear Gloves When Training MMA or Boxing?

You should always wear gloves when training MMA or boxing for your safety and the safety of your training partners. It would be best to wear hand wraps with your MMA or boxing gloves, too. That way, you’ll get the most hand protection. 

Your bones may be strong, but they will get worn out in time, inevitable even among world champions. It’s important to protect your hands as much as possible, especially before a match. Many fighters own at least two gloves because rigorous training can wear down the gloves between 1 and 3 years.

Of course, the state of your fighting gloves will depend heavily on their quality and the amount of pressure they endure within time. Lower quality gloves that work the hardest would last up to several months only. Higher quality fighting gloves that fight the hardest may last under two years.

Are Gloves Required in the UFC?

All UFC participants are required to wear UFC gloves. Fighters must also wear approved clothing for UFC matches. The idea of imposing these rules is to keep the sport as safe as possible for the athletes.

There are still concerns regarding UFC gloves, though. Despite meeting UFC safety standards, UFC gloves are not safe enough for eye pokes, which do happen in UFC matches. Even Joe Rogan addressed the issue back in 2011. 

According to Rogan, open-handed gloves are still considered dangerous. The superstar called for a solution to have UFC gloves cover the tips of the fingers and secure them together like a ‘speed bag glove.’ At least, we don’t see fighters fighting with bare hands anymore today, thanks to the mandatory use of proper fighting gloves in the 1997 UFC 14. 

Final Thoughts

All MMA fighters wear gloves to protect their hands and reduce hit impacts on their opponents. While MMA is a high-risk sport, injuries can be avoided or reduced by ensuring all fighters wear gloves, be it training or competitions. MMA gloves hit harder than boxing gloves, and with proper care, high-quality gloves can last between 1 and 3 years.

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