The last fifteen years has seen an explosion in the popularity of MMA as a main stream sport. More people are training now than ever before and MMA gear is widely available. Minimal gear is required to train but to give you what you need to start, we have reviewed what to look for in the best MMA gloves.
From Alexander Volkanowski and Israel Adensanya right down to the beginning amateur, the same knowledge of what to be aware of in buying MMA mitts is necessary. In this guide we take a look at the differences between boxing and mixed martial arts gloves, different gloves for training, grappling, or competition before wrapping it up with our favorite brands and specific models.
As you progress through the levels of MMA, you learn so much about gear. However, at the start it can be hard to understand everything. With that in mind, let’s start at the very start.
What is the Difference Between MMA and Boxing Gloves?
Boxing has held the top spot for the most watched combat sports for the longest time. The greats are known everywhere from Joe Louis to Vasiliy Lomachenko.
MMA has been playing catch up but has rocketed into the mainstream to offer a real rivalry. The sports share many things but gloves are not one of them although they do share leather as the main material.
Design Differences and Intention
Seeing both boxing and MMA fighting gloves alongside each other makes the differences simple to spot. The most obvious part is around the fingers and thumb. MMA gloves are fingerless for use when grappling whereas boxing gloves cover the whole hand from the wrist up.
Boxing is a singular tooled sport using only hands offensively and defensively. There is no requirement for the fingers to be open. MMA on the other hand need to have the use of their fingers for clinch, wrestling and submission fighting.
Use of Hand Wraps
Aside from the obvious visible difference, boxing gloves are also designed to allow space for hand wraps.
For the very beginner, these are an approximately 5 metres cloth wrapped around the wrist, hand and knuckles to give the fighter better support and protection. Hand wraps are a smaller or often not used in MMA due to the glove size.
Fingerless MMA gloves also include a lot less padding. Boxers have always made an effort to protect their athlete’s hands as they are their only tools. Boxing once used horse hair which was eventually ousted by the foam padding we see today.
MMA requires athletes to have dexterity for grappling that make up a significant chunk of the sport. MMA gloves have less padding choosing to focus most on the knuckles. Like with boxing, foam is also used in MMA and occasionally gelatin which we discuss later.
What is probably no surprise given the level of padding and overall size difference is that boxing gloves are heavier. Boxing gloves with the extra padding usually range from 8 ounces to the 16 oz mark. 8 oz MMA gloves would almost never be used in competition as they are too thick.
In mixed martial arts, professional competitors usually wear 4 oz MMA gloves. 6 oz MMA gloves can also be used for the higher weights and amateur ranks.
Crossover athletes tend to expect to notice a major difference in attack but also in defense. Boxing gloves are better for blocking head strikes based on pure size alone. It is a major challenge encountered by athletes who try to switch over to mixed martial arts.
MMA gloves cover less of your face and therefore won’t block the exact same way. If you compete in both, this is definitely something to remember when you put your guard up.
As can be expected due to the lighter weight, MMA gloves allow for quicker hand speeds. Boxing purists may contest this but my opinion is not based on fighter skill. It is based on logic. It is easy to understand that as MMA gloves are lighter, they are quicker to move around.
What are the Different Types of MMA Gloves?
As MMA and combat sports in general have evolved, so has the gear. There are specifically designed gloves for different disciplines of MMA training. We have broken down the different types you will come across and what they are typically used for.
Hybrid/Training or Grappling Gloves
The focus on different disciplines can be likened to triathletes who may block train choosing to focus on the swim, cycle or run in a training session.
Similarly, different disciplines require different MMA training gloves sessions. Training gloves are the hybrid of fingerless striking gloves that allow for grappling. Trying to finish a fully locked in, rear naked choke or double-leg takedown is nigh on impossible without fingerless MMA training gloves so these give you what you need.
Heavy Bag Gloves
It is likely you have guessed what these are for. Many MMA fighters will use boxing gloves when they are putting in heavy bag work or on pads. Just as likely to be used are sparring gloves.
While specific heavy bag gloves are less common, there are some options that offer the best protection here. The best MMA gloves for heavy bag training give improved wrist support and denser padding to reduce the shock impacts. For the average 70-80kg fighter, a 12-14 oz glove is recommended.
It goes without saying that anyone who is still learning the sport should start slow here to avoid injury. Similarly, bag gloves should not be used for sparring as you could easily cause an injury to your partner.
Many of the highest level fighters now advocate against heavy MMA sparring rounds like in the days of old. Sparring at the top level now is with the aim of mimicking styles, putting in rounds and practicing technique live.
In order to do this, a glove that gives good protection for you and your partner is best. Most MMA fighters will go with 6 or 7oz MMA gloves to ensure that they are sufficiently protected and can transition between sparring and grappling specific rounds quickly.
The best MMA sparring gloves will almost always say that they are intended for sparring. It is highly recommend that you read the company and model to check. They will usually have individual finger slots or loops, extra padding on the knuckles and an inner grip bar. This grip bar is designed to keep your fist in the correct form while training and is an important feature in the best MMA sparring gloves.
The big mistake to avoid here is getting competition gloves which can result in injuries.
Competition gloves are designed to protect both you and your opponent. Vastly reduced padding is standard to give as much speed in your punches and dexterity in your grappling as needed. Hand wraps are advisable to prevent injury under a slender glove.
Most organizations will either sponsor the gloves they require you to wear or will cap the weight. You can expect to wear 4 ounce MMA gloves for almost all professional competitions. Heavier weight categories or amateurs may also request that you wear 6 ounce MMA gloves.
While the MMA sparring gloves described above are the ones you will wear most frequently, it is important to get used to smaller competition gloves.
MMA Glove Size Guide
For both men’s and women’s MMA, it is important to understand what size glove you require. It is best to begin by measuring your hand. To do so, place a tape measure in your open palm and wrap it around the knuckles and back to measure fully.
A typical medium hand will be 7 to 8 inches or 18-21cm. Knowing your MMA glove size is obviously very important for fitting the right gloves to your hand with maximum protection. Many guides determine that 8 inches and below require a small to medium glove and above requires large to extra-large.
Occasionally you will find suppliers who have the niche sizes which is fortunate. They usually operate off the following grid:
6-7 inches (15-18cm)
7-8 inches (18-20cm)
8-9 inches (20-23cm)
9+ inches (23+ cm)
MMA Glove Weight Guide
Gloves weights depends largely on the activity. For competition you need to stick to the organizations rule set for glove weights. This is often 4 oz or less in the professional ranks and 6 oz in the heavier weights or amateurs.
For typical MMA sparring, training, grappling or hybrid gloves you should be looking to the 7-10oz weights. Heavy bags then usually come in around 12 – 14 ounces. As explained, each glove type have different designs so you will need to be diligent in picking the best for you.
How to Choose the Right MMA Gloves
What constitutes a good MMA glove will get you different answers depending on who you ask. Once you make your choices based on the activity, there is a reasonably easy process to consider.
Below is our take on what to look out for in terms of materials, construction, training focus, and what to expect. We finish with some recommended best MMA brands for you to look out for.
In describing boxing and MMA gloves earlier, we mentioned that both are made from similar materials. MMA gloves are made from either 100% cowhide leather or synthetic leather.
Cheap MMA gloves are usually made from synthetic leather and feel lower quality. Full leather MMA gloves are more expensive but feel superior to the touch and give you extra durability. This choice comes down to personal preference and it is important to go with what you are happy with.
MMA gloves, especially MMA sparring gloves usually focus padding around the knuckles. The most common type of padding used is layered foam. Layered foam is a number of layers of different density foam stacked on each other. Boxing gloves often use injected machine foam which is intended for those bigger gloves.
MMA gloves occasionally use regular foam or even gelatin but these are less common. As with the materials in MMA gloves, the cheaper the padding, the less durable the glove.
While it may seem that MMA gloves pale in comparison to boxing gloves in terms of protection, there are a number of important features.
Most notable of these is the hook and loop wrist strap. The wrist strap closure system keeps the gloves in place and tight around your knuckle which is vital. In fact, Hayabusa have pioneered a Dual-X system for better wrist stability.
We have discussed padding but to reiterate, MMA gloves feature most of their padding around the knuckles. This is to protect the hands but also provide a shock absorber for the striker. MMA gloves have small advancements to protect the athlete where possible and buying quality is important. Cheap MMA sparring gloves will do for now but in the long run the cons can outweigh pros. Fight veterans suffer degenerative effects after their careers so take care early.
How Long Do MMA Gloves Last?
Of course the answer to this question is that it depends on your MMA training. How often you train, what training you are doing either striking or grappling heavy, your weight class, leather or synthetic and if you use a different pair of MMA gloves for different sessions all play a role.
With that said, someone who trains two or three times a week using good quality set of leather MMA gloves should expect to get at least one year from their mitts.
MMA glove providers are becoming more popular but there are a few who can guarantee the best quality.
The aforementioned Hayabusa are committed to providing their athletes with exceptional quality. Everything they make for training or competition incorporates the best quality and newest technology. They also over deliver when it comes to general style. Hayabusa is a name that really means quality.
Venum produce everything when it comes to mixed martial arts. From mouth guards and rash guards to fight gloves. They are synonymous with great MMA fighters. Venum MMA gloves are top quality and put appreciated focus on safety with extra foam and thoughtful design.
Everlast seem to be everywhere. Another brand who are completely ingrained in the combat sports world making heavy bags, boxing gloves, MMA gloves, hand wraps, apparel and more. Fortunately for you, they also sit on the cheaper end of the scale for price.
RDX are another good value purchase that doesn’t skim on quality and safety. They provide extra layered padding on their gloves to give you as much protection with shock absorption as possible. RDX are a quality brand who design products with the user in mind.
Our Top Picks of the Best MMA Gloves
It is not easy to pick the best gloves out there especially with different types for different training and MMA competition but here we go.
As I mentioned, Everlast make sure MMA is affordable to everyone even the youth. The Pro-Style MMA Grappling gloves are a very fair priced product that are extremely reliable. They have a moisture absorbing technology to make sure your hands can stay as dry as possible while you train.
Everlast are so confident in their durability, their gloves come with a 120 day warranty.
Venum features twice on our list of favorites. The Challenger series is a major staple of the MMA scene. While the Undisputed 2.0 (below) is pricier, the Challenger MMA gloves fall more in line with the Everlast Pro-Style. Again they have a layered foam designed to provide better protection and shock absorption. They incorporate a high-wrist and adjustable Velcro strap closing system to maintain the glove position on your hand.
Hayabusa just don’t make bad gear. It is as simple as that. The Ikusa Charged 4 oz MMA gloves have been around for a long time going through several upgrades on the way. They are a great affordable training and competition glove. The Dual-X Wrist closure system gives you great wrist protection for when it is needed. They are a quality, breathable and supportive option for any mixed martial artist.
Sanabul are another brand who are enmeshed in combat sports. They provide an array of high quality products. The Battle Forged MMA gloves are a great sparring glove. Although they are 4 oz gloves, they help switching between sparring and grappling easily.
Sanabul’s use of advanced SBL engineered leather gives extra durability. The special lining helps prevent moisture absorption also damaging the glove. These do fit small on the hand so make sure to accurately measure before choosing your size.
Combat Sports produce some excellent fight equipment. Best of all is their max strike sports MMA gloves designed for a comfortable ergonomic fit. They are designed to offer as much protection and multiple sizes for men, women and youth at a fair price. If extra padding is your preference, these might be the pair of gloves for you.
RDX are a great brand for quality, technology and affordability. Not a combination that usually goes together. RDX have put a good deal of research into their gloves. They have technology backed designs for their padding, hook and loop closure system, D. cut open palm design, reinforced stitching and a shock dispersion system. They have not cut any corners.
The Maya leather construction is super durable which is fitting as they also sponsor the durable Tony Ferguson.
We have included the official UFC MMA gloves as most people want to know what they are like. Naturally, they are a bit more expensive glove made with quality black leather. They have dual locking closure for wrist support and gel protection for the knuckles. The only mark on them is that the sizing runs small. All in all, they are well made product.
Finally our favorite; the Venum Undisputed 2.0 MMA Gloves. They are more expensive but with good reasoning. The Undisputed 2.0 gloves are extra comfortable and designed to form fit to your hand.
Developed in Thailand, they are hand-made with quality leather and high density stitching to give you one of the best competition gloves available. The curved foam takes time to break in but the extra care and attention paid to fighter safety is phenomenal.
When choosing the best MMA gloves, there are so many considerations. Measuring your hands and knowing what you want to spend is a good place to start as is deciding on your training schedule or if you would need MMA sparring gloves.
Most instructors will be happy to give their students recommendations on the best MMA gloves. If you can afford it, you will be better off with higher quality as they will last and protect both you and your partner the best.