Gear Guide: Best Boxing and MMA Headgear for 2017

Headgear is one of the most important pieces of safety gear a fighter will purchase. While studies have shown that good boxing headgear can reduce the force delivered to the brain significantly, not all fighters are convinced it actually reduces concussions. There is little debate that headgear greatly reduces the amount of superficial cuts and bruises to the face that can quickly ruin a match or pre-bout training.

See our #1 Headgear pick on Amazon

If the best defense to head injuries is not getting hit in the first place, the second best is using good safety gear. The best boxing headgear protects your face during those important sparring sessions, reduces bruising, and over time can reduce the cumulative force delivered to your brain. Not surprisingly, even the best cheap headgear is no match for the high quality stuff. This guide dives deep into the best options for Boxing, MMA, and Muay Thai.

Pros & Cons of Headgear

(Pro) Helps Prevent Cuts
(Pro) Protects the Nose & Chin
(Pro) Reduces Bruising
(Con) Reduces Range of Vision
(Con) Creates a Larger Target
(Con) Creates False Sense of Security

Does Headgear Prevent Concussions?

You may have noticed we did not mention prevention of concussions as a benefit of headgear. Contrary to conventional wisdom the primary use for headgear is used to prevent facial cuts, nose injury, and bruising. Head guards do not necessarily prevent concussions. The best protection long term is to wear headgear along with a mouth guard.

Despite many studies, the data is still inconclusive as to whether wearing headgear helps reduce the occurrence of concussions in any of the fighting sports. Even though the IOC eliminated the headgear requirement for Olympic Boxing, it is important to note that the Association of Ringside Physicians does NOT support the removal of headgear from amateur boxing competitions.


Styles of Headgear

Some gyms have community headgear for anyone to strap on. That may work in a pinch, but think about all the baked in sweat and blood in those things, it’s really gross. That should be reason enough to invest in your own set. Depending on your sport there are different needs for headgear and each style is outlined below.

Boxing (Competition)
Boxing (Sparring)
Muay Thai (Kickboxing)
MMA

5 Best Boxing Headgear

Model: Style: Price Range: Our Score:
1. Winning FG2900 Sparring $$$$$ 4.8
2. Ring to Cage Deluxe GelTech Sparring $$$$ 4.7
3. TITLE Gel World Full Face Training Sparring $$$ 4.5
4. Ringside Ultra Light Sparring Sparring $$$ 4.5
5. Revgear Full Face Sparring $$$ 4.3

1. Winning FG2900

Winning is a Japanese fight sports gear company known for high quality that comes at a premium price. The FG2900 is a “Mexican” style design, which means it has full cheek coverage instead of a face bar. The Fg2900 is the best headgear for sparring they make.

Winning gear typically has a minimalistic design, but they keep it clean to keep the gear light. Lightweight headgear is super important to improve fighter’s ability to not get hit. So this is why they have no padding in the back, and a simple chin strap instead of a heavier buckle. The plastic ratchet allows you to secure your chin strap without a large buckle hanging in there.

The material is not real leather, which is surprising for one of the most expensive headgear out there. But it is durable, with some fighters reporting hundreds of rounds without showing any signs of wear. The cheek padding has good coverage and while it can’t replace a full face bar, it does protect really well for this style.

Is the Winning FG2900 worth the money? The FG2900 is hand crafted in Japan, the padding is great, and weighs just 10 ounces. All we can say is that if you want the best and don’t want to think too hard about it, no doubt the FG2900 is a solid choice.


2. Ring to Cage Deluxe GelTech 2.0

If you’re looking for a good Winning FG5000 alternative, the Ring to Cage Deluxe 2.0 is about as close as you can get. The biggest difference beside the price is the weight. The FG5000 weighs in at a ridiculously light 15 ounces vs 24 ounces for the R2C. The Deluxe also uses genuine leather compared to the synthetic leather from Winning, and has a “Dri-max” fabric liner that some fighters prefer over the vinyl. It dries fast but some think it feels hotter while sparring.

This model is bulky looking but it has a really awesome face saver that protects the nose. The window is large enough to have decent vision, which face savers aren’t exactly known for. The chin strap is a 1 inch wide hook and loop strap and has a nice loop sewn into the bottom to keep the strap from coming loose.

The rear of the headgear snugs up to the head with a large hook and loop pad and laces over the crown of the skull. The padding consists of foam and gel that helps absorb a lot of shock. Overall the Ring to Cage Deluxe 2.0 is a really good sparring headgear for Muay Thai or regular boxing.


3. TITLE Gel World

The TITLE Boxing Gel headgear is a solid option for sparring and can double as a Muay Thai Headgear set. It features an all real leather construction, with a layered padding inside. There are the outer foam layers and an inner gel layer for better force distribution and dissipation than the traditional all foam designs.

If you currently have an all foam head guard now, you should notice a nice difference with a gel model.

There is no chin strap, but you snug up the fit with the large Velcro strap on the rear of the gear. This is how they can get away with just two sizes, Regular and Large. The chin bar there in place of the buckle offers just minimal protections, but it is certainly better than nothing. The cheek pads are medium sized so your nose may be more exposed than if you had a full face head guard.

TITLE has a good reputation for good boxing gear, and they stand behind their products. There are certainly cheaper models with similar coverage, but they lack the enhanced gel padding. Overall the TITLE Gel is a good headgear for the money and is durable enough to withstand the punishment of hard sparring and kickboxing.


Ringside Competition (Best Competition Headgear)

There are only a few models of head guards that are USA Boxing certified for official amateur competitions. The laminated foam design has been proven to be a good performer, so the Ringside Competition model earns our recommendation for this style head guard.

The Ringside has a layered foam construction, with leather surfaces, and silky smooth suede lining that keeps the face cool as well as fast drying. Since it’s made of leather, keep in mind there may be a break in period before it is ready for a real fight.

There are four adult sizes, and several youth sizes, making it one of the best fitting headgears you can buy. This is a highly adjustable boxing helmet thanks to three points of securing it. There is the lace on top and Velcro strap on the back to help conform it to the head, and then the leather chin strap to snug it down on the face.

Other Competition Options

  • Ringside Elite Competition – This is an upgraded and newer version of the TITLE Competition. It has a modern design, with flexible panels for a nice fit. It does cost quite a bit more than the regular version, but the upgrades to the padding and chin strap might be worth it for some fighters.
  • TITLE Competition – This head guard is a lot like the TITLE, but for some reason the sizes seem to run small. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad piece of kit, just something to be aware of when measuring and sizing for the TITLE.

RDX Combox (Good Cheap Headgear)

The RDX Combox is a pretty nice performer for the price. Like most RDX gear you get great padding, in this case a three layer foam, gel sheet, and sponge-x for nice diffusion of power when hit. The outer material is the excellent Mayahide synthetic leather that RDX is well known for.

The Combox has no chin strap, you just put it on your head, snug it down into place and strap on the big Velcro flap on the bag and it’s done. There is a sort of funny looking plastic grill face mask on this one, but it’s totally optional and removable. Once you remove it, you will see there are standard cheek guards like on most sparring head gears.

Overall people seem to have been very satisfied with this RDX head guard, and for the price it seems like the best cheap boxing headgear you’ll find.

Other Good Cheap Options

  • Hypnotik Base – A very basic, but passable head guard. It has no chin strap, but has a web on top and a nice padded Velcro strap on the back to tighten. This would be a good buy for the casual boxer who likes to spar a little but doesn’t want to wear the loaners at the gym.
  • Hypnotik Pro Ultra Light – For close to the same price the Hypnotik Pro is lighter, and has a more contoured foam body. It also has a chin strap to help create that secure fit that fighters need when sparring.
  • Everlast Everfresh – The Everlast is very cheaply made, and is really only useful as a beginner head guard, or as a throwaway. The Everfresh is a little barrel shaped, not nearly as contoured as the RDX or Hypnotik. Just know going in that this won’t be a long lasting piece of gear.

5 Best MMA Headgear

Model: Style: Price Range: Our Score:
1. Hayabusa Tokushu Regenesis MMA $$$$ 4.8
2. Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Grappling $$ 4.7
3. Venum Challenger 2.0 MMA $$$ 4.6
4. Meister Gel Full Face MMA $$$ 4.1
5. Everlast MMA MMA $$ 4

1. Hayabusa Tokushu Regenesis

The Tokushu Regensis is a premium MMA headgear. It’s lightweight but has lots of protection for sparring and grappling. The padding has good coverage around the top of the head and ears, a medium sized face guard, and a chin cup to protect your jaw. Even with all that the Regenesis maintains a large window to see the opponent.

The shell of this head guard is made of synthetic leather called Vylar-2. The material is really durable and is designed to prevent cracking and flaking that can occur in leather if it gets dried out. This also makes it easy to wash and maintain.

Inside of the head guard is a fabric liner that draws sweat from your face and helps it all dry quickly. It seems like most of the really good MMA headgear use some form of soft fabric liner.

The Regenesis uses crossing straps on the back to secure the helmet to the head. One strap goes across and the other comes down to secure the straps. It seems to work very well from the forum comments. The great padding, good visibility, and the AG fabric with XT2 anti-microbial technology put the Regenesis at the top of its class.


2. Cliff Keen F5 Tornado (Best Grappling Headgear)

When you are practicing your grappling, a full size headgear doesn’t really make sense. It’s too bulky to practice escaping holds and really impedes the vision on the mat. For that reason many fighters carry both a sparring head guard and a grappling guard.

The F5 Tornado is a lot like a wrestling head guard, but so many people are using it for MMA and BJJ. IT provides good ear protection, yet has plenty of breathability with an air vent system. This headgear straps to the head via three straps. Once you size the top straps for your head shape, all you have to do is snug the chin strap.

The shell around the ears is hard, but has just enough flex to give a little when pressure is applied. That goes a long ways to making it a good option for you and your training partner. This all makes the F5 one of the lightest and best grappling protection guards around.


5 Best Muay Thai Headgear

Model: Style: Price Range: Our Score:
1. Venum Elite Muay Thai/Boxing $$$ 4.7
2. Fairtex Super Sparring HG10 Muay Thai/Boxing $$$ 4.5
3. Fairtex Super Sparring HG13 Muay Thai/Boxing $$$ 4.5
4. Fairtex Full Coverage Muay Thai/Boxing $$$ 4.5
5. Twins Special Muay Thai/Boxing $$ 4.3

1. Venum Elite

Venum makes popular Muay Thai gear directly in Thailand, and the Elite Headgear is no exception. The Elite is open in the back, with nice sized forehead padding, a wide berth for good vision, low sitting cheek pads, and an under chin pad to protect the jaw. There are also nice ear cups which sometimes get overlooked in Thai boxing.

The Venum Elite is made of premium Skintex synthetic leather all around and has a soft liner. Some people think the liner is a little rough at first, and tends to break in after a few sweaty sparring sessions. Overall, the main points that make the Venum Elite a good buy are the excellent padding, wide eye window, and the secure fit thanks to that chin bar and big strap on the back.


2. Fairtex Super Sparring HG10

Fairtex is another Muay Thai brand, and the Super Sparring Head Guard is also made by hand right there in Thailand. The HG10 looks quite similar to the Venum, but there are also some key differences to note. Overall the shape is very similar to the Elite, but the chin bar sits a tiny bit higher, more over the front of the chin instead of under.

The main differences are the materials and how it is secured to the head. The Supper Sparring HG10 is made of real leather, and has a soft inside. Then on the top you have loops and a lace to tighten the top which some fighters prefer. It’s a little lighter that way, yet still gets the gear tight. Whatever your preference, the Fairtex Super Sparring model is a very solid choice for Muay Thai kickboxing.


Headgear Selection Criteria

Unlike a lot of mixed martial arts gear, there isn’t a single “best” feature for headgear. There are trade-offs that have real implications when a fighter steps into the ring or octagon. Some of these criteria will be set by your gym or trainer, while others will be totally a personal preference. Here is a breakdown of the key aspects to consider before buying.

Certification
Secure & Comfortable Fit
Chin Straps & Laces vs Velcro
Padding Coverage vs Visibility
Foam Padding vs Gel
Size and Weight
Boxing Headgear for Women

Headgear Sizing Guide

Exact sizing varies between the brands so just consult with each company’s guidelines once you find preferred headgear. There are usually four sizes starting with Small and Regular, up to Large and X-large. Here are size charts for some of the most popular headgear brands. Measure the circumference of your head, from just above the eyebrows, around the upper part of your skull. Then take that number and compare it to the size chart for your chosen brand.

Ringside Headgear Sizes
Everlast Headgear Sizes
TITLE Headgear Sizes
Winning Headgear Sizing

Final Headgear Recommendations

  • Sparring – Because this is the most popular style of headgear, it’s also the hardest to make a final recommendation. If you are serious about sparring and want the best, it is easy to recommend the Winning FG2900. But for most other people the Ring to Cage Deluxe or Ringside Ultra Light are great choices. If you simply want to try out headgear and need a good cheap option, go with the RDX HGR T1B. The price is right, and has tons of positive reviews.
  • Boxing Competition – For certified competition use, there is one that stands above the rest and that is the Ringside Competition Headgear. It simply has a higher level of quality the others don’t have. The Ringside Elite is an adequate alternative, but don’t bother with the others.
  • MMA – The Venum Challenger 2.0 is the top choice for full coverage MMA style headgear. If you want to have better protection for grappling training, the smaller Cliff Keen F5 Tornado is the best option. It is designed more like a wrestling headgear that can be used for MMA as well.
  • Muay Thai Kickboxing – Kickboxing is similar to boxing but you have the added knee, elbow, and kicks to watch out for. The Venum Elite and Fairtex Super Sparring combine good padding with good visibility for protection during kickboxing sparring matches.

Featured photo by maxtm via Flickr CC, adapted by MMA Revolution. Product images courtesy Amazon.com.