Top Gear: 2017 Best MMA Gloves for Training, Sparring, and Competition

As an aspiring MMA athlete, you know that having the right gloves is critical to your performance and safety. It’s important for you as a fighter to have several pairs of specialized MMA gloves, one for each of the key training areas.  You should match your gloves to your training activities as best you can. MMA sparring gloves are no substitute for good competition gloves. Just like competition gloves will not be the best choice for your regular MMA bag work.

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The best MMA gloves provide hand, finger, and wrist protection, while leaving your hands and fingers mobile and free for extension. The top MMA gloves must be comfortable and durable to prevent injuries while you train. Some gloves are actually pretty versatile in their usage, just be aware of the pros and cons of each style of glove before using them.

In this gear guide we walk you through the best MMA gloves in each category, to make your buying decisions easier. We’ll show you the best times to use each glove type so you get the best performance possible. When reviewing these gloves, just remember you are making an investment in an important piece of gear, so always go for quality.

Key Factors in Choosing Your MMA Gloves

Glove Type

  • Competition – MMA competition gloves have minimal padding and typically weigh around 4 ounces, or less depending on the competition rules. The fingers are separated, and open to allow movement and the ability to hold onto your opponent. With little padding it remains important to use hand wraps or inner gloves, as they are really your only protection when you step in the cage.
  • Training/Bag/Grapping/Hybrid – This style of MMA Glove goes by several names, but they all refer to the same thing. They have segmented fingers with padding covering up to the second knuckle. This finger design allows your hands and fingers to have enough movement to grapple, and still have some level of protection.
  • Sparring – In MMA sparring and bag workouts, the focus is on your striking and punching techniques. MMA sparring gloves weigh around 7 ounces on average, and have more padding around the top and front to protect your hands from unnecessary punishment. Much like boxing gloves, MMA sparring gloves have a grip bar that helps form a tight fist for punching. This also makes them less suitable for grappling work. For non MMA sparring, it is OK to use regular boxing gloves.

Materials

  • Leather vs Synthetic Leather – 100% leather is the high quality material of choice for the best MMA gloves. Yes, leather is expensive compared to synthetic materials, but it is tough, natural, and extremely durable so long as you take care of it. Synthetic leather can be good, but typically you can feel the difference, it just feels a little cheaper. Also keep an eye out for the country of manufacture on the MMA gloves. The best MMA gloves are often made in Thailand, where the combat sporting gear industry has a huge presence. Cheap MMA gloves could be made in China, Pakistan, or really just about anywhere.
  • Padding – Foam is the padding material used in most MMA gloves. Many gloves use a layered foam, while others use regular foam. Like the outer glove materials, the cheaper the foam, the less likely it is to hold up over months and years of use. Look for gloves with quality foam padding, especially for your sparring and competition gloves, where punching is so important.
  • Wrist Strap – Look for a solid Velcro wrist strap on your gloves. The strap helps keep your gloves secure and tight around your fist.

MMA Glove Brands

Here are the most popular and best MMA glove brands. These are good companies known for their quality boxing and MMA gear.

  • Hayabusa – This popular MMA company produces top quality technical fight gear. It’s fitting that the name “Hayabusa” is Japanese for Peregrine Falcon, a bird known for its deadly speed and power. Hayabusa prides itself on making gear that follows in the tradition of the Japanese Bushido warrior code.
  • FairtexFairtex has been the top brand of Muay Thai gear in Thailand since 1971. The founder has been instrumental in training Muay Thai fighters from across the world, allowing the discipline to spread like wildifre. http://fairtex.com/pages/fairtex-history
  • Combat Sports – In 2003, Combat Sports began offering their own brand of fight gear products. This is a popular online MMA store that also carries many of the top name brands in the world. They’re goal is to help outfit all MMA athletes, from beginners and professionals alike.
  • Venum – Venum is a massively popular combat sports brand. They produce a huge array of MMA, boxing, BJJ, and Martial Arts gear for both men and women. Venum MMA gloves are among the best in the industry.
  • TITLE – Title Boxing has been arround since 1998. They brought their expertise into MMA gear in 2007. Title makes great MMA training gloves, as well as good MMA bag gloves. In addition to the boxing gloves and apparel, Title makes great heavy bags and grappling dummies.
  • Everlast – The name Everlast and boxing go hand in hand. They became a houshold name after designing Jack Dempsey’s boxing gloves in his 1919 heavyweight championship bout. Everlast has taken their expertise in boxing and now produce quality MMA gloves.

Top MMA Competition Gloves

Venum Undisputed 2.0 MMA Gloves

The Undisputed 2.0 is one of, if not the top, MMA competition gloves out there today. From the high density stitching to the premium grade Nappa leather materials, these gloves exude quality. The kind of quality you expect being made in Thailand, and quality that an aspiring MMA fighter should be confident in wearing inside the octagon.

The foam layers in the glove create a natural curve in the hands for immediate comfort and good ergonomics. Being made from leather, these gloves may require a longer break in period. The wrist support runs high and secures with a long Velcro wrap system. Overall the Undisputed 2.0’s not only look great in the Black/White/Red color scheme, but are well built gloves meant for serious MMA training.


Hayabusa Tokusha Regenesis

The Tokusha Regenesis gloves are some of Hayabusa’s top regulation 4oz MMA competition gloves. These gloves are designed with pre-formed curve in the upper knuckles, and an open thumb for easy fit and comfort. The inner liner is an odor resistant material dubbed “X-Static” XT2. There’s not much that bugs me more than crappy wrist closures, and I really like the Dual-X wrist strap system in these gloves.

The outer material is an engineered leather called Vylar-2, which is said to be stonger and tougher than regular leather. Overall, there is a lot to like about these MMA competition gloves, except maybe the price, which is up to twice that of other gloves. You are paying for quality, however, and the Regensis gloves are for those fighters interested in premium equipment.


Venum Attack MMA Gloves

The Venum Attack gloves are premium MMA competition gloves that are both design and manufactured directly in Thailand. These gloves are made with Venums premium Skintex leather, which is known to be both comfortable and durable for training and competition. Inside, the glove is constructed with layered, high density foam padding, which is designed to provide impact absorption to protect your hands.

The wrist system is a long strap with a Velcro closure, which makes it easy for fighters to get a customized fit whether they wear inner wraps or not. Unlike other fight gloves, the Attacks have a padded thumb, which can be good depending on your style of fighting. One (minor) downside is the gloves only come in the black and white color schemes.


UFC Official Fight Gloves

What list of MMA fight gloves would be complete without the official fight glove of the king daddy in MMA sports? These are the real deal, actual 4 ounce gloves worn by the fighters in UFC bouts. If you have your sights set on fighting in the Octagon someday, it’s in your best interest to get familiar with the official gloves. These gloves are both open palmed and open thumbed for the most freedom and dexterity during grappling. Like all the best MMA gloves, the UFC gloves are multi-layered and have pre-formed curves for shock absorption and comfort during your fights and training sessions.


Venum Challenger MMA Gloves

The 4oz Venum Challenger MMA gloves are very similar to the Attack gloves, just constructed with slightly lower grade materials. These MMA gloves are designed in Thailand, but made elsewhere in Asia. Instead of Skintex leather, you get an outer glove made with Polyurethane (PU) leather. The Challenger gloves are built with layers of high density foam padding, just like the Attacks.

If you like padded thumbs, these are good gloves to consider. The full wrist strap is long enough to go around twice, which I like for securing my wrist with or without inner gloves. An added bonus is the 4 different color schemes available to match your personal style. I like the Neo Yellow/Black combo the best myself.


Top MMA Training/Grappling Gloves

RDX T2GL Training Gloves

RDX has some good choices in the grappling and MMA training gloves category. The T2GL gloves are built with real leather outer, and utilize layers of gel technology for improved shock absorption. The biggest difference you’ll see in these gloves compared to competition gloves is thicker padding along the front of the knuckles, and a little bit longer finger coverage up to the last knuckle. The RDX T2GL also has a fully sleeved thumb hole and a wrist pad. Despite the additional padding, the palms remain free with a triangular open area that is great for getting in your grappling work. Lots of fighters love using these for bag training.


RDX F12 Training Gloves

The RDX F12 may look similar to the T2GL, but they are usually little cheaper, thanks to some lower cost materials. Instead of real leather, the gloves are made from Maya Hide synthetic leather. Instead of gel technology, the padding is your standard layered foal. The padding layout is much like the other RDX model, including a thumb sheath which I always consider a plus in an MMA training glove. These gloves come in four different colors, but I am partial to the black with red lettering version. If you want a cheaper alternative to gel gloves, these are a good option.


Everlast Pro Style MMA Grappling Gloves

Everlast Pro Style gloves are good for someone just getting into grappling training for MMA. You can take out all the punishment on a lower cost glove and not worry about really wrecking them. These grappling gloves are simply designed, with a large foam pad covering the majority of the hand and fingers, but does not have any thumb protection. The palm is open but has a cross piece that helps to keep the gloves in the proper position. There are only two sizes to choose from, Small/Medium and Large/XL, so choose carefully, particularly if you wear hand wraps.


Top MMA Sparring Gloves

Venum Elite MMA Gloves

 

The Venum Elite MMA sparring gloves are designed and hand crafted in Thailand, just like their top rated Undisputed 2.0 competition gloves. These are sparring gloves designed specifically for MMA training, so they weigh only 7 ounces, compared to heavier sparring gloves you would find for Boxing or Muay Thai. I like the finger sheath design on the Elites. I’ve always found individual finger slots to be most comfortable when sparring.

The Venum Elite are made with their premium Skintex material, which is well known for its quality and toughness. These gloves have a unique wrist system, where an inner Velcro loop straps first, followed by a longer outer strap that goes around almost 2 full times. If your hand measurements are on the line, it would be smart to go up a size with these gloves.


RDX MMA Sparring Gloves

The T6 sparring gloves from RDX are a solid sparring glove that isn’t terribly expensive. The T6 model utilizes the companies gel infused padding technology to help reduce shock and impact to your hands. A lot of people really like the gel padding in their gloves. The gloves are made from a May Hide synthetic leather material for good durability.

In terms of design, these are a little more basic than the Venums. There are finger slots, but no unifying cross piece, and the thumb hole and padding is shorter and less substantial than the Venum Elite. I do like the open palm design to still be able to grapple while doing sparring work.


Combat Sports Max Strike

The Combat Sports Max Strike is a popular sparring glove for MMA fighters. It is an approximately 7 to 8 ounce, leather sparring glove, with excellent padding on the striking areas. The padding can be described as being “soft yet firm”, as in it feels soft to the touch, but has a firmness you can feel when delivering punches.

For a more affordable version of these gloves, you should check out the Combat Sports MMA Safety Sparring Gloves. They are nearly identical in design, but built with an entry level of materials used, such as cheaper foam padding. Fans of the show “The Ultimate Fighter” might even recognize them as some of the MMA training gloves used in the early seasons of the show.


MMA Glove Size and Weight Guide

Size

Most size charts will have you measure the circumference around the knuckles of your 4 fingers, and sometimes the size of your wrist. MMA glove sizing charts are more or less the same between brands, with some slight size variations. In general the sizes can be broken down like this:

  • Small: 6 ½” -7 ½”
  • Medium: 7 ½” – 8”
  • Large: 8” – 9”
  • X-Large: 9”-10”

Always refer to each brand’s specific size chart if there is any doubt. If you wear hand wraps under your gloves, remember to increase the glove size by one.

Weight

MMA glove weights vary by the type and function of the glove. Bag gloves weigh more than competition gloves because they have more padding to protect your hands. Sparring gloves are heavier to protect your sparring partner from injury. There are even some “hybrid” gloves that lie between the minimalist fight gloves and the heavy padded bag gloves. Here are the types and weights for the types of gloves. Some variation can be expected between brands.

  • Fight/Competition: 4-6 ounces
  • Hybrid: 7-10 ounces
  • Boxing Sparring: 14-16 ounces
  • MMA Sparring: 7-10 onces
  • Bag Gloves: 10-12-14-16 ounces depending on your weight

Final Points

If you are a member of a gym, talk to other members and coaches to learn if there are any guidelines for weights. It can actually be considered rude to spar with 14 ounce gloves if that isn’t the norm in the gym.

When in doubt, go for quality in your gloves. It’s better to buy a high quality glove that lasts than having to replace cheap MMA gloves due to premature wear. Buying the best MMA gloves you can afford is a good investment to your training, and will last you months and years.

Photo Credit: Flickr/andriuXphoto via CC