3 Types of MMA Shorts That Fighters Use | Easily Explained

There are three types of MMA shorts including the classic Board shorts (longer length with more ventilation), Compression shorts (lightweight & skin tight), and Gladiator shorts (side slit shorts).

In this guide we will cover each type of these shorts in detail, how they differ from each other, and why fighters prefer certain shorts.

Table of Contents

Gladiator Shorts

The gladiator shorts can be identified by the big split on the side of the leg, in between the thigh and the hamstring.

Notable fighters in the modern area who consistently wear this include Jon Jones and Donald Cerrone.

Why Wear This?

If kicking is a big part of your game, when you kick you'll feel an instant breeze from the open area of your legs.

Some power kickers and volume kickers prefer these shorts as they don't feel restrained when they kick (as it can feel with compression shorts if you're not used to it).

Jon Jones uses volume leg kicks vs his opponents in almost every fight and Donald Cerrone uses power kicks vs his opponents.

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Why to Not Wear This

When you're grappling, the loose ends can get caught and used against you.

For example, your opponent can put their feet in one or both of the slits to prevent you from advancing position.

Compression Shorts (aka Vale Tudo)

Nowadays seemingly the most common type of shorts worn by MMA fighters, the compressions shorts provide many advantages.

Jon Jones is a polarizing figure in the MMA community and has achieved massive achievements while wearing this type of short.


Why Wear This?

The skin tight feel allows the fighter to move quickly and makes it difficult for an opponent to use against them, while other baggier shorts can be easy to grab.

Provide comfort with little resistance and also contains a cup pocket.

The cup pockets allow for an easy insertion and removal of a cup (vs having to use a jock strap).

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Why to Not Wear This

They can show your man parts to your opponent when you don't wear a cup.

If you aren't comfortable with having tight fitting clothing or one that shows that much of your leg, this may not be for you.

Board Shorts

These are very commonly used by MMA fighers as they provide comfortable knee-length shorts with more ventilation.

They are tightened with a velcro strap located on the waist.

A notable fighter who wears this is Tony Ferguson.

Why Wear This?

The baggy style provides great ventilation for your legs and other parts of your body along with great comfort.

This also minimizes the view of your upper legs which can become an advantage if your opponent is hitting you with multiple leg kicks.

When wearing other tighter shorts, your opponent (and their corner) will immediately be able to recognize the redness and swelling of the leg.

Get Your Own Board Shorts Here

Why to Not Wear This

With a looser fit, comes more opportunities and surface area for your opponent to be able to grab a hold of them during the fight.

Purpose of MMA Shorts

MMA shorts are built to provide a fighter the most range of movement, and to stay in place throughout a match, no matter what situation the fighter puts himself/herself in.




The majority of MMA shorts are made out of spandex and polyester material. This provides the fighter with a lightweight, comfortable, and fresh shorts.

They contain a bonded waistband, and depending on the type of short, they can contain an inner drawcord.

Another useful addition is stretch panels. They are located in the crotch section of the shorts and their function is to prevent tears from occurring.

These features ensure that the shorts are comfortable for the fighter, provide a great fit, and don't overheat the fighter during use.

What is Not in a MMA Short



Metal D Rings

Selecting the Right MMA Shorts For You

selecting mma shorts

This all depends on your preferred style of fighting as well as comfort.

If you've wrestled for a long period of time, then a tight fitting compression short is what will maintain that consistency of what you're used to, and also match your strength.

If you're a big Tae Kwon Do fighter, then perhaps Gladiator shorts will be a great fit due to your kicking strengths and comfort level.


Different brands offer different fits and you'll want to ensure that you choose the best fit for you.

Most sites offer the measurements of the shorts and how they typically fit in terms of loose, tight etc.

Ensure that you closely read through the details of the shorts prior to making a purchase, and if you're unsure take a look at the reviews to see what others are saying!

High Quality

Ensure that you are getting a short that is made up of high quality materials.

Sure you can save a few bucks by going with a lower quality product, but they will wear out quickly and then you'll find yourself having to buy another pair soon after.

Another aspect to the quality of shorts includes how it fits. Lower quality shorts can be uncomfortable and or even restrict your mobility just from their design.

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