Skip to content

MMA Gloves vs Boxing Gloves The Important Differences

MMA gloves vs Boxing gloves differences,

Table of Contents


Combat sports require specific training and competing for gear for different situations and events. While both MMA and boxing are combat sports, the gear used in both is very different indeed. But when it comes to what a fighter will wear to punch, what are the differences between MMA and boxing gloves?

MMA and boxing are very different sports, each with specific glove designs. While boxing focuses solely on the use of hands for striking. MMA also allows for grappling and submissions, so the gloves are fingerless to allow for the gripping of your opponent.

The reason for the difference in the glove’s weight and design style relates specifically to how the different items are used. As boxing is a standup sport where competitors try to outpoint or stop their opponent using hand strikes only.

While using elements of boxing, Mixed martial arts is a much more diverse combat sport encompassing grappling and submissions. And so it requires a very different type of glove for those purposes.

What Are Boxing Gloves

A black and white photo showing some white boxing gloves.
A pair of new white boxing gloves.

With the focus being only on using the hands as the point of attack, means that the boxing glove is designed for one purpose and one purpose only, punching. Without any requirement to worry about grappling or carrying? The boxer simply needs a glove that will pad both his hand and the opponent’s head from unnecessary damage.

This assumption that better boxing gloves minimize trauma to competitors has been hotly debated for decades. And with more data being provided in terms of the damage inflicted by wearing or not wearing of gloves. It is no doubt a controversial topic that will continue to be debated going forward.

What Are MMA Gloves

When it comes to MMA the sport requires that its participants are able to combine multiple disciplines when competing. In this multi-discipline approach, the MMA glove needs to be designed in a specific way to allow for these differences.

A pair of MMA glove lying on a table in a room.
Some standard 4 oz MMA gloves sit on a table.

As grappling plays a huge role in the sport, the fighter needs to be able to grab and manipulate with their fingers. As a result, the fingers on an MMA glove protrude allowing the user to use all five digits when in competition.

This design has led to many unfortunate incidents in the sport, most of which were eye pokes. Perhaps the most well-known of these incidents resulted in UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping losing his eye.

What Gloves To Use On The Boxing Bag

So let’s be clear about this from the get-go, whether you are training MMA, boxing or you are cross-training in both. You will need boxing gloves that are fit for purpose. By this, I mean that in both sports you will be hitting the punching bag.

It is strongly advised that you use boxing gloves for hitting the heavy bag, along with good hand wraps. Repeated hitting of the boxing bag will over time lead to issues with your hands and wrists as they are taking those large impacts. So you need good quality heavily padded gloves fit for purpose.

The Case For Boxing Gloves

In the case of MMA, you will often start your sparring sessions on the feet and will want to be able to strike with impunity. For this reason, we would more often than not wear our boxing gloves. Minimal takedown with some light ground and pound, then back up and into striking.

A man putting on some boxing gloves in the ring.
A fighter putting on gloves.

This however where their usefulness in MMA ends, as boxing gloves cannot be used in full grappling sparring. It’s all but impossible to grab or manipulate your opponent and they in no way replicate MMA gloves in these situations. So, for this reason, we down the bigger gloves for the smaller fingerless option.

So boxing gloves do absolutely serve a purpose in the sport of Mixed martial arts but with limitations. So it is something to be aware of when getting kitted out for these sports.

The Case For MMA Gloves

As previously mentioned for both amateur and professional fighters, MMA gloves come in two sizes. The sanctioned amateur 6-ounce gloves are also used by pros when it comes to sparring. They allow all the agility of the light 4-ounce glove and also allow for some lighter ground and pound.

The fingerless MMA glove originated under the Shooto promotion in Japan. The design then being adopted by the Ultimate Fighting Championships.

While still being 1 ounce under the 8-ounce minimum glove size in boxing. In mixed martial arts, it is much more so about the flexibility the glove offers. But even within the world of MMA, there have been issues with their design.

Which Gloves Actually Hit Harder

When it comes to which gloves actually hit harder, rather than opinion or hearsay it’s key that we use scientifically proven test results. For this, we refer to a white paper entitled Striking dynamics and kinetic properties of boxing and MMA gloves. By Benjamin Lee & Stuart McGill from the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo Canada, which you can find here.

An impact tester was used to test the kinetic energy of both MMA and boxing gloves.
A pendulum-based impact tester was used in the experiment.

In this, they ran a series of tests on Boxing vs MMA gloves in terms of kinetic energy displacement and impact both displayed in comprehensive repetitive testing.

It turns out that the impact of strikes in both sports is very similar, but professional MMA requires the use of only a 4-ounce fingerless glove. Compared to the larger more heavily padded boxing glove.

Their experiments assessed the kinetic properties and impact dynamics of MMA gloves vs traditional boxing gloves.

This was done by using a mounted moulded fist, which was then repeatedly impacted on a steel plate designed for absorbing the impacts, over a 5-hour testing period. The experiment resulted in 10,000 continuous and equal strikes.

The data when assessed showed that MMA gloves produced 4 to 5 times greater peak force, with a 5 times faster load rate in comparison to the traditional boxing glove.

Additionally, MMA gloves also showed signs of the material breaking down. And as a result, the peak force increased by 35% with the rate of loading increasing by 60% throughout the duration of the test. In comparison, the boxing glove materials did also deteriorate, but not as significantly.

The results of the experiments showed that the kinetic properties of MMA gloves differed in a big way from that of boxing gloves. Resulting in higher peak force impacts with the more rapid development of force.

The National Geographic Experiment

Another experiment was carried out by National Geographic, which had UFC hall of Fame legend Bas Rutten. Test both boxing and MMA gloves, along with a bare-knuckle strike on a pig spleen. Through the experiment, they were able to show the varying levels of damage that are received.

The following data statistics from the experiments give us an idea of the types of force per square inch all three can inflict:

Type of glove/no-gloveForce per square inch
Boxing gloves641
MMA glove651
Table of results from National Geographic experiment.

Of course, we have to remember that this test was done for television and Bas Rutten is but one man. To get far more accurate and trustworthy data, the tests would need to be carried out using a far larger group of people to get the averages involved.

And the findings were also disputed by the researchers at Washington State University who also carried out their own series of tests.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, there are a number of factors that determine what gloves you will need when training and competing. Whether in boxing or MMA, it’s a given that you will need boxing gloves for both sports. And in terms of an all-around glove, I recommend at least 16 ounces for use on the bag and in sparring.

For MMA, you have to go straight for the 6-ounce gloves. They are now the accepted international standard for amateur MMA fighters and you will be using them in your sparring and training. So I believe that is a pretty straightforward route for you to follow.

And in terms of which glove does more damage boxing or MMA, when hitting or getting hit, then according to the scientists whose job it is to find answers to our questions. MMA gloves, especially gloves which have been repeatedly used and whose materials have been somewhat diminished. Are the gloves which inflict the most damage?

It seems like an obvious answer when you look at the weight and thickness of padding on both the MMA and boxing gloves. But having some scientific basis on which to base the assumption just helps to solidify what most of us already presumed. MMA gloves do over time transfer more knockout power than their boxing counterpart.

I hope I have helped you in making your decision on what is best for you. While also making you consider the longer-term effects that both sports may have on your body. Happy training.