Why Do MMA Fighters Wear Gloves?
Chances are that you've seen Mixed Martial Arts fights, and at some point you've wondered.. Why do they even wear gloves in the first place? It's a fight right?
You're right, and you're not. We'll explain. In this guide we'll cover every reason why they wear gloves, how big these gloves are, and why their gloves are different from boxing and kickboxing.
Why Do Fighters Wear MMA Gloves
The short answer is that gloves actually protect the hands of the fighter and help prevent cuts to the face.
Protecting the Hands
The bones in human hands are very brittle, in fact even with the gloves on fighters still often break their hands and are subject to other injuries.
Throughout history fantastic fighters such as Fedor Emilianenko (and was out for 4-6 months), Daniel Cormier (broke his hand in the Strike Force Grand Prix), and Robert Whittaker have all broken their hands as a result of punching their opponent.
Even though these injuries to the hands still occur, they occur at a much reduced rate than they do when fighters don't wear gloves.
Cuts to the Face
If you've ever seen a Bare Knuckle Fighting fight, you'll notice two things. They're not wearing gloves and blood... lots of blood.
This isn't by coincidence, there's blood in the majority of these fights due to not wearing gloves.
Bare knuckles have an easier time splitting the skin open, and wearing gloves can impact this directly.
This is also why when you witness a street fight, you'll see they will be bleeding within a short time frame.
Whereas MMA fights, most blood occurs from elbows, and knees in a short period of time, or from one blow.
Punches typically open up wounds after long periods of time, for example once they get into the 3rd through 5th round which can equal 15-25 minutes of fight time.
Modernization of the Sport
Over the years, in any sport fans have wanted to see less blood and more of everything else including knock outs and submissions.
Blood can make fights messy (as well as the octagon for the next fight) and now that the UFC has a partnership with ESPN, they typically avoid using bloody footage to promote fights that will air on the network.
Along with that, a big part of MMA as a sport having transitioned from being seen as 'Human cockfighting' to an actual sport, involved the implementation of gloves and weight classes.
Is Wearing Gloves Safer Than Not Wearing Gloves?
There is enough data to conclude that wearing gloves is safer for the hands than not wearing gloves.
However, for the overall safety of a fighter the data becomes much less conclusive.
As far as brain injuries such as concussions, gloves allow the fighters to throw harder strikes at their opponents, which can make the brain more susceptible to injury.
Hand injuries (from no gloves) may hurt fighters in the short term, but long term injuries can include brain injuries.
UFC Glove-less Era
It wasn't until UFC 6 where Tank Abbott showed up to fight in the octagon with gloves on.
Tank Abbott also happened to hit very hard and wanted to protect his hands, along with throwing harder strikes to land the knock out blow.
Prior to this, the UFC usually held glove-less bouts.
So in hindsight, the UFC can thank Tank Abbott for helping modernize the sport.
How Much do MMA Gloves Weigh
Padding & Size
MMA gloves are typically around 4oz - 6oz.
Why Don’t Boxers Use MMA Gloves
One of the reasons why the MMA gloves are smaller than gloves from other sports such as boxing is due to the fingers being left open for grappling and clinching.
Boxers also have a much stricter ruleset where fighters can only strike from the waist and up, and it is strictly a striking fight.
Why Do Boxing and Kickboxing Use Bigger Gloves Than MMA
Similarly to boxing, kickboxing does not allow grappling. If there's no need to grapple, then there's no need for open fingered gloves (that has a risk of eye poking their opponent).
They can focus on protecting their hands, and the eyes of their opponents as well and this is done by the use of heavier gloves.
Why Not Use MMA Gloves on Hard Bags
MMA gloves are not designed to hit heavy hitting bags. Using MMA gloves on hard bags can injure your hands, knuckles and even wrists. MMA gloves do not have heavy enough padding to successfully protect your hands.
They also do not provide great wrist support, where as heavier gloves meant to hit the heavy bags do.
To hit a heavy bag correctly, successfully and to prevent injury, you will need an appropriate heavier glove.