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Whether you are brand new to Mixed Martial Arts training or a seasoned veteran of the cage, you need a pair of the best MMA gloves for training, sparring, and competing.
In fact, the complete MMA gym bag should have several pairs of MMA gloves for each method of MMA training you plan to participate in.
This article contains our top picks for MMA gloves for general training, MMA gloves for sparring, and last but not least, the best MMA gloves for actual MMA competition.
We’ve included a few tips to consider when picking your first pair of MMA gloves. We also go over our recommendations for keeping your gloves clean and fresh, and a few things you can do to clean MMA gloves if they get stinky.
Once you’ve picked which gloves you want, scroll to the end of the article to get the best tips on glove cleanliness.
When it comes to choosing which MMA gloves should be your first purchase, the primary question is what your intended training will be as well as your longer term goals for MMA, such as whether you plan to compete, train for self-defense, or just use MMA as a workout.
You should also consider the material used to make the gloves when deciding on your first pair of MMA gloves, as there are pros and cons to the various materials used in glove construction.
The following section will discuss the MMA glove considerations for each type of training as well as a rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of each.
At most legit MMA schools, you will be spending a good portion of your training time doing drills with a partner. These drills usually involve throwing a pre-planned but realistic combination at your partner and allowing them to counter or reply with the proper responding combination. You are not throwing hard punches at this point, and your partner will know what combination is coming so that they can train the appropriate response. Ultimately this builds instinctive reactions needed in live training and competition.
For general drilling, MMA gloves are worn primarily to protect you and your partner from accidental knuckle-on-knuckle, knuckle-on-forearm, or knuckle-on-face contact. Since you will not be throwing punches live and are certainly not trying to hurt your partner, most entry-level MMA gloves will work fine for this purpose. The main goal is to have a small barrier between your knuckles and your partner. If you are new to MMA training, it may be a while before you spar, much less compete, so picking a basic set MMA gloves will do the trick, particularly if you are on a tight budget.
To really get good at MMA, most fighters acknowledge that live sparring is a crucial aspect of training, and an absolute requirement for anyone looking to compete in MMA.
MMA gloves for sparring have a bit for padding than gloves strictly used for drilling or competition, and will tend to be on the heavier side in terms of gloves meant for MMA. There will be more padding around the knuckles less around the wrists.
Sparring gloves typically run about 7oz, and may be a bit more pricey than general drilling gloves. The good news is that if you do plan to spar, the best MMA sparring gloves will be more than adequate for MMA drilling as well.
If you’re seriously planning to compete in MMA, you will need to purchase a dedicated set of MMA competition gloves.
The best MMA competition gloves are generally 4oz, although amateur gloves are up to 7oz. The MMA competition gloves will have more padding focused on the wrist area, and a little less around the knuckles. This allows you to absorb more force when blocking but deliver more damage when you land a strike on your opponent
Your MMA competition gloves should not be worn during general training. Most fighters will wear their competition gloves for 1-2 practices before a fight to allow themselves to get a feel for the lighter glove and break the gloves in if they have not yet been worn.
Before buying the gloves, be sure to check with the promotion to make sure the gloves you buy will be legal and meet the requirements of that promotion. If you are fighting professionally, your coaches are probably aware of the requirements, however it’s worth double checking either way.
For example, in 2014 Bellator switched to a new glove style from the gloves used in the UFC and other promotions. These new gloves significantly decreased the rate of hand breakage due to improved padding alignment. While your promotion may or may not use a specific glove type, be sure to double check just in case.
Consider spending a bit more on your competition gloves. You don’t want to be distracted or have anything to worry about other than fighting your opponent. Competition gloves should fit snugly but comfortably on your hands.
We don’t generally recommend MMA gloves for heavy bag work. The padding around the knuckles and the support in the wrists is simply inadequate to keep your hands safe over the long haul when doing serious heavy bag training. The one exception is if you are drilling light-combos on the bag to crisp up your accuracy and make sure you are connecting your fist properly when landing punches.
When it comes to serious bag work and throwing power, you should consider a pair of boxing or Muay Thai gloves.
The biggest difference between boxing gloves and MMA gloves are the size, weight, and padding. Competitive boxing is typically done with gloves sizes between 8oz and 16oz. As we mentioned, MMA gloves typically don’t get any bigger than 7oz.
MMA gloves also separate the fingers and allow for grappling and BJJ more effectively than the mitten-style construction of boxing gloves.
Muay Thai gloves are very similar to boxing gloves in weight and overall construction. The main difference is that Muay Thai gloves typically have a more open palm construction than boxing gloves. Additionally, Muay Thai gloves generally have a thumb-construction that allows for better behind-the-head Thai-clinch work that is prohibited in standard boxing competition rules.
Both boxing and Muay Thai gloves offer adequate protection for heavy bag and power training, and most fighters will have at least one pair of either style of glove in their gym bag.
For training accuracy on the heavy bag, most MMA drilling and sparring gloves will be adequate – just don’t throw full power punches unless you have bigger gloves on!
Glove Construction Material
The material from which your MMA gloves are made is an important consideration when buying new MMA gloves. The most common materials on the market are polyurethane, synthetic leather, and genuine leather.
Polyurethane is the cheapest construction material and most entry level gloves will be polyurethane. The biggest advantage of polyurethane is that it’s relatively cheap and fairly easy to clean.
Other than that, it’s by far the lowest end of material in terms of feel, breathability, and durability. PU is fine for your first pair of MMA gloves, but in the long run you will want a higher quality material.
Synthetic leather products are designed to mimic the texture and feel of real leather using somewhat cheaper synthetic material. Maya-hide is a very popular synthetic leather for MMA glove manufacturing and is very similar to real leather, but there are other styles of synthetic leather as well. Synthetic leather has the advantage of being easier to clean and take care of than real leather, although it will lack that true leather feel for people who prefer old school genuine cowhide gloves.
Genuine leather is a premium material for glove construction. Typically made from cowhide, genuine leather requires separate care and maintenance to ensure it stays supple and does not crack.
Using leather conditioner, mink oil, or other oil-based leather treatment products on a semi-regular basis is necessary to keep real leather from cracking over time.
Properly cared for leather will last a very long time and give a great feel as an MMA glove material. It’s worth noting that most competition gloves will not be made from real leather, however many premium MMA sparring gloves are leather based.
Overall, picking a glove material will depend on budget, glove style, feel, and how much time you care to spend on maintenance. Synthetic leather and real leather are always going to be the best options, but polyurethane will do if you are on a tight budget or buying your first pair of MMA gloves.
The Best Picks for Your First MMA Training Gloves
Everlast Mixed Martial Arts Grappling Gloves
If you are looking at your first pair of MMA gloves at an affordable price, Everlast Mixed Martial Arts and Grappling Gloves are a great choice. When it comes to combat sports equipment, Everlast is one of the top, longstanding brands in the industry.
These gloves offer adequate protection for general MMA drilling, and are also a great choice for BJJ and grapplers looking to add some light strike drilling into their ground game training. The ¾” closed-cell foam padding will protect your knuckles and your partner from knicks and scrapes while drilling. Reinforced seams and finger slots ensure these gloves will last long enough to get you going in MMA.
If you are newer to MMA or unsure about your longer-term plans for training, these gloves won’t break the bank and will allow you to train basic MMA skills safely. Once you know the scope of your MMA goals and have a feel for what MMA training is really like, you can invest in more premium gloves.
While Elite Sports is widely known for their combat sports apparel, they also offer a great glove option for new MMA athletes who want to cut their teeth on some drilling before investing in sparring gloves.
The Elite MMA Gloves offer great value for their price with triple-density gel and impact foam. The pre-curved design requires less time to break-in than stiffer glove designs.
The polyurethane leather construction is easy to clean and requires less maintenance than genuine leather. These gloves are a great alternative to the Everlast brand if you are just getting into MMA training.
Suitable for drilling and grappling
Great option for your first set of gloves
Not a great solution for long-term serious MMA training
If you are looking for entry-level MMA training gloves with a bit more durability than the cheapest on the market, Reebok MMA Gloves are a great choice. Built by one of the biggest brand-names in the athletic apparel industry, Reebok MMA Gloves deliver the quality we expect from the Reebok brand at a mid-level price.
These gloves feature an open-palm design well-suited for grappling and a wrap-around wrist support for a great fit. Polyurethane construction with tough fiber construction make these gloves rugged enough for serious training but lightweight to allow for flow and technique.
If you need a lightweight, quality glove for drilling MMA and working grappling technique, be sure to check out the Reebok MMA Gloves.
The Century Drive MMA Training gloves are another great pick for your first MMA glove. These MMA training gloves are comparable in price and value to the Everlast and Elite Sports options if you need a pair of MMA gloves for drilling and light work.
Pre-formed gel-padding fits comfortably in your hand. The polyurethane leather is great for athletes who don’t want to spend a ton of maintenance on gloves. In terms of purchasing your first gloves, the Century Drive MMA Training Gloves are a great contender for value and durability.
Pre-formed padding great for out-of-the-box use
Slightly more expensive than similar options from other brands
RDX Maya Hide MMA Gloves for Martial Arts Training & Grappling
If you need a great pair of MMA gloves for sparring on a budget, the RDX Maya Hide MMA Gloves for Martial Arts Training & Grappling are one of the best options.
These MMA gloves offer great protection for both MMA drilling as well as live-sparring training. The synthetic Maya Hide leather offers durability and a feel that is very similar to real leather but requires less maintenance to avoid breaking down.
The multi-layer gel integrated padding ensures sufficient shock absorption for sparring, keeping both you and your partner safe as your train to fight. The Quick EZ hook allows you to easily remove the gloves between rounds if needed, but will also keep the gloves secure on your hands during use.
The reinforced stitching on these gloves keeps them in one piece even after the gloves accumulate some serious mileage. We strongly recommend RDX Maya Hide MMA Gloves if you plan to spar MMA and need an affordable pair of MMA gloves.
RDX Genuine Leather MMA Gloves for Sparring Martial Arts
If you want an affordable pair of genuine leather MMA gloves that will work well for drilling and sparring, consider the RDX Genuine Leather MMA Gloves for Sparring.
This glove design mimics competition-style gloves while offering the padding and protection needed for MMA sparring in the gym. The genuine leather is perfect for athletes who like the old-school feel of real leather.
These MMA gloves are fortified with PC-3 Padding that offers maximum shock diffusion to protect your hands and wrists during sparring. The D-Cut palm design allows a lot of gripping options, making these gloves a great choice for MMA fighters with a grappling-heavy style.
If you are an extremely serious fighter and plan to put some high-mileage in with your MMA Gloves, the Hayabusa T3 Kanpeki Hybrid MMA gloves are the top choice.
Intended for sparring and hard training, these gloves are made from genuine leather and have the highest quality craftsmanship of all the gloves on our list. The open-palm design is ideal for transitioning between striking and grappling techniques. The thick foam padding offers enough protection for sparring and moderate heavy-bag work. The design is optimized for hard training because it allows the dexterity needed for conditioning such as jumping rope between rounds without having to remove your gloves each time you transition.
If you want the very best MMA training and sparring gloves on the market, the Hayabusa T3 Kanpeki Hybrid MMA gloves are by far the top choice.
Highest quality construction on our list
Great for sparring, conditioning, and grappling work
For premium MMA competition gloves, the Venum Challenger MMA gloves offer a serious step-up from entry-level brands in terms of feel and durability.
The multi-layered foam construction ensures superior protection for your hands during the chaosThe double-closure system and reinforced finger and thumb keep this glove snug and comfortable on your hands, improving your focus during fighting and avoiding any “glove malfunctions” that can cost you your win in the cage.
These gloves are a great pick for less-expensive gloves that are still suitable for competition.
If you want to spend a little more for premium MMA gloves just for drilling, the Venum Challenger MMA gloves should be on the top of your list as well, even if you don’t plan to compete in MMA.
For serious competitive fighting, it’s worth spending a little more on your gloves. The Venum Undisputed 2.0 MMA Gloves are the premium option from Venum. Compared to the Venum Challenger series, the Undisputed 2.0 series are constructed from Skintex leather, one of the highest grade synthetic leather options on the market.
The hand-conforming layered foam of the Venum Undisputed 2.0 MMA Gloves offers superior protection and comfort. These gloves are made in Thailand, which is a manufacturing hub for high-quality fight gear. High wrist support and high density thread offer full hand and wrist protection alongside the rugged durability expected from a premium glove.
The Venum Undisputed 2.0 MMA Gloves come in orange and black colors, both featuring the prominent snake-fang Venum logo.
Once you’ve invested in a pair of the best MMA gloves, taking proper care of your gloves is crucial to keeping you safe from bacteria, making sure your gloves last as long as possible, and avoiding the dreaded smell of stinky glove.
As soon as you finish training, we recommend drying the sweat off your gloves. Bacteria love moist, dark environments, so drying the gloves is a great first step. Investing in a gym bag with a mesh pocket that allows airflow is a good idea as well to ensure they dry properly.
After you get home, spraying and wiping the gloves with a mild vinegar or essential oil solution will further reduce bacteria and eliminate the risk of odor. For the extra fresh smell, keep a pair of glove-dogs in your bag near your gloves. Socks with cedar chips or a little baking soda inside works very well for absorbing that last little bit of moisture stubbornly sticking to your gloves.
We don’t recommend industrial disinfectant for cleaning gloves, as these harsh chemicals can degrade the glove material over time.
Drying your gloves in direct sunlight is another good way to kill bacteria and reduce moisture buildup. Just don’t leave them too long or the sunlight will damage the gloves.
Conclusion: Order a Pair of the Best MMA Gloves Today!
Whether you are a newbie MMA trainee or an experienced fighter, having a pair of the best MMA gloves is crucial for success in the gym and in the cage.
If you are buying your first pair of MMA gloves on a budget, any of the entry level MMA gloves on our list will be perfect.
For long-term serious MMA sparring gloves, our top picks will keep your hands safe and protected for the long-grind of MMA training.
If you are competing in amateur or professional MMA, double check the promotion rules on gloves and order a pair of our best MMA gloves for competition!
Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years.
Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.