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What Gear Do I Need for MMA?

by Tom Reynolds on May 8, 2017

One of the most common questions that I get asked by people that are new to mixed martial arts is “What type of training gear do I need for training MMA?”  I’m going to breakdown the basics of what every grappler, striker or mixed martial artist needs when they’re getting started.

General Training Needs

A Strong, Flexible Cup – I trained without a cup for years, only wearing one for competitions until very recently. You want a cup that is strong enough to protect you, but flexible enough to allow you to move properly. The tough thing about traditional cups is that they can dig into your groin especially when kicking or working from the guard off of your back.

There are a number of good options that have recently come out. Our favorite option is Diamond MMA’s Athletic Cup Groin Protector & Compression Shorts System with Built-in Jock Strap. For a cheaper option, Shock Doctor also offers a high quality compression short + cup that flexes well.

A Quality Mouthguard – Don’t get caught without a mouthguard.  When I started, I didn’t wear a mouthguard unless I was sparring hard.  After I managed to chip a few of my teeth and dislocate my jaw, the idea to start wearing a mouthguard came through my thick skull.

The main reason a quality mouthguard is so important is that it keeps your jaw locked in the proper position.  When your jaw is hanging loose and it is knocked to the side, you can get knocked out or cause nasty damage to the joint.  You don’t want that.

Your best bet is to get a custom mouthguard made by your dentist or from one of the many sites online.  If you don’t want to spend $80+ on a mouthguard (although it’s worth the investment to do so), alot of the guys that I train swear by the Venum “challenger” mouthguard. To keep your mouthguard off the mats and clean before and after training, you may want to grab a cheap mouthguard case.

Fight Shorts – Get some good board shorts that aren’t too baggy.  Make sure that if they aren’t MMA specific that they allow for flexibility.  If they are tight in the groin and you can’t stretch your legs out, your grappling and striking will be limited. You’ll be fine with two or three pairs of training shorts when you’re starting out.

Rashguard – Rashguards are good because they don’t get snagged up when you’re training, and as the name points out, they’re a great barrier to rashes and other abrasions.  Buy a couple of rashguards or wear t-shirt that isn’t baggy (Understand that t-shirts tend to get torn and stretched fast).

Athletic Tape – Injuries, small and large, are often inevitable in any sport to you or the people you train with.  Be one of the few, and come prepared.  Make sure to have a roll or two of athletic tape in your gym bag.

Notepad and Pencil – If you want to get good, take notes when you learn something that you want to remember.  One of the biggest mistakes I see 90% of people at just about every gym I’ve trained at make is to not take notes!  Why show up to class if you aren’t going to retain the knowledge that you are gaining?

Gear Needed for Muay Thai & Striking

16oz Gloves – These are the gloves you’re going to use for sparring.  If you plan on staying in the sport a long time and want to make your gloves an investment, buy leather gloves because they’ll last longer. There are a ton of different types of gloves out there.  Find a pair that you like because you’re going to be spending a lot of times with these gloves over the next few years.

My favorite gloves are made by Hayabusa. They’re very high quality, but are also very expensive.  Venum’s boxing gloves will certainly do though. They’re high quality, will last for years and are much less expensive.

Hand Wraps – Wrapping hands is an art.  Learn the basics of this art, and you’ll be able to protect your hands from silly breaks that could have otherwise been avoided.

When you’re looking for wraps, make sure that they have some elasticity to them.  Stiff wraps are useless.  You also want wraps that are long enough. 180″ will do for just about anyone. I have several pairs of Meister semi-elastic handwraps that I love.

Shin Guards – There are two major types of shin guards. Grappling shin guards are contained in a sleeve and allow you to slip them on and are relatively seemless so they don’t snag up while grappling.  I’ve seen complaints about them tearing and being hard to put on, but I have no problem with mine.  There are also pure striking shin guards that strap on with velcro or a buckle.

Hayabusa has a very light, very strong shin guard that is top of the line, but very expensive. Venum also puts out a very good pair, and it’s reasonably priced.

Headgear (For Hard Sparring) – Get some good headgear if you plan on sparring hard. There are a ton of different types with varying levels of protection. some simply protect the sides and top of the head while others cover the cheaks and jaw.  Make sure that you get one that is adjustable.  I’ve got a big head so I had to get one that is a little more open.

There are a ton of options out there, but like with the other gear, stick to a reputable company, and figure out what type of trade-off your want between restriction of breathing/seeing and protection.

BJJ Technique

What Gear Do I Need for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Grappling?

A Good Kimono/Gi – Get a good Gi for $125 when you’re starting out.  Make sure you get the right fit, and make sure it’s blue or white.  Don’t be that douche that rolls in with a camo or pink gi thinking you’re making a statement.

I have atleast a dozen kimonos that I’ve gone through over the years and none have held up to the test of time like the Sirius Gi, and it’s cheap! Howard Combat and Fuji also put out cheap, high quality Gi’s.

Kneepads – Do yourself a huge favor and invest in a good pair of wrestling kneepads.  Crawling around on your knees without some extra padding and support is terrible for the joints.

Brute and Asics put out high quality. The McDavid’s Knee Pad is by far the best I’ve found. You’ll thank me later.

What Gear You DON’T Need for Training MMA

Ironically enough, I recommend against buying MMA gloves when you’re first starting out.

The little MMA gloves are meant for protecting your knuckles not your partner, and they don’t even do a good job at that. If you want to practice ground and pound, use the full gloves so you can strike. It’s much better to emphasize controlling your opponent on the ground rather especially when you’re starting out.

Anything you think I left out? Let us know and we’ll take a look.

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  • Lou Dobb

    The picture on the top cracks me up. One of the best posts that you have put on the site Eric…

  • Corytz10

    a sport top bottle, then you dont need to worry about taking your gloves off in between sparring rounds

  • A

    Nice article and you’ve covered everything. Ive got everything I need and you should add gym bag 🙂

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