the best headgear for mma

Ultimate Guide to the Best MMA and Boxing Headgear

With MMA, Boxing, and other combat sports like Muay Thai, there is always risks associated with absorbing punches and kicks to the head. There is no way around these types of strikes to the head when training combat sports. These types of strikes are well-known to cause concussions and permanent brain damage. Luckily the use of combat headgear can improve your chances of not getting injured.

Guru's Choice
Venum Elite Headgear - White/Gold
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Hayabusa T3 MMA Headgear - Black/Red, One Size
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Best Value
Ringside Competition-Like Boxing Headgear with Cheeks
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Sanabul Essential MMA Boxing Kickboxing Head Gear (Silver, S/M)
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Ringside Cleto Reyes Classic Training Headgear, Blue, Large
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Do You Need To Wear Headgear In Boxing?

When you practice a martial art like Muay Thai or Boxing, there are many possibilities that versatile strikes can cause severe consequences to your brain. This type of damage is going to happen in any sport where head strikes are absorbed, even when you’re simply practicing. Sports such as Football and Soccer have some of the highest concussion rate because of the severe blows absorbed to the head.

Wearing padded 16 ounce gloves does help, but at the end of the day it only lessens the severity of these heavy blows by a small margin. This is why it’s important to be as protected as possible when you’re training, especially when you’re sparring or competing. Wearing headgear is one of the most important ways to help prevent head injuries. Remember, headgear or any other type of equipment won’t guarantee that you’ll be injury free in training.

Should You Wear Headgear During Sparring Sessions?

You ultimately have the choice on whether or not to wear headgear during sparring sessions. I personally believe headgear is a necessity, especially if you’re a sparring beginner. If you choose to spar hard, headgear can be very beneficial to give you an extra layer of brain protection. Remember, just because you or your partner choose to wear headgear it doesn’t give you an excuse to punch or kick harder. Headgear doesn’t necessarily justify harder shots, it simply is there to lessen the damage caused from hard shots.

Headgear isn’t always necessary for sparring sessions, especially if it’s a light spar or if you and your partner are just focusing on the basics. Boxing headgear is more appropriate when sparring partners don’t hold back, or when sparring partners are known to have a lack of self control.

Why You Should Wear Headgear When Sparring

  • Head Collisions – Accidental head collisions can be tragic. The worst part about head collisions are that they are so common! Headgear significantly reduces your chances of getting injured from a head collision.
  • Superficial Injuries – Headgear is great for preventing injuries like bruises, cuts and even black eyes. You don’t want to go into work/school with a black eye do you?
  • Confidence – While training or sparring headgear reduces the pain of being punched or kicked. This type of reduction in pain allows a fighter to fight with more confidence because the consequences aren’t as severe when you’re wearing headgear protection. More confidence = better training sessions, which means you improve faster.
  • Cauliflower Ears – Believe it or not, headgear significantly reduces the likelihood of cauliflower ears. This is similar to wearing wrestling headgear while rolling in jiu jitsu. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Disadvantages to Wearing Headgear

  • Vision – Headgear can actually disrupt your vision while fighting or sparring.  Wearing headgear could hinder your peripheral vision which affects your ability to see shots to the side of your head, like hooks.
  • Security Blanket – Many fighters use headgear as a security blanket. This is a tactic used by fighters who feel safe absorbing strikes because the pain of being hit to the face has diminished. This type of thought process is detrimental to a persons health, and can actually be worse than not wearing headgear at all.
  • Aggression – Due to the reduction of pain from head shots, you and your sparring partner may use the headgear as an opportunity to turn up the aggression, this is a big NO-NO. Just because you can absorb more damage doesn’t mean it allows you to hit harder and recklessly.
  • You’re a Bigger Target – It’s inevitable that a bulky headpiece naturally causes your head to become a bigger target. For this reason alone many fighters don’t like to wear headgear, they believe it gives them a disadvantage.


What Type of Headgear Should I Buy?

There are many factors one should consider when purchasing headgear for MMA or Boxing. Personal preferences will always come into play while making choices. It’s completely fine to purchase headgear based off of looks as long as it’s high quality and a reputable brand. This guide will be as thorough as possible so that you can find the perfect set of headgear for your intense training sessions.

Things to Consider when Purchasing Headgear:

Getting the Most Comfortable Fit
It’s important to have a comfortable feel and fit when you’re choosing the right headgear. It’s very similar to wear a cup, you want it to be tight enough to stay in place, but not so tight that it feels uncomfortable to wear. The perfect fit isn’t all that hard to find, unless of course you have an abnormally large or small head. All jokes aside, new headgear will require a period of adjustment. Don’t give up on a new headgear right away, give yourself some time to fall in love with it.

Headgear is a great piece of protection that should do it’s job. Remember, it’s suppose to fit comfortably and snug. If you’re constantly thinking about your headgear while sparring, the fit is probably wrong. This type of distraction can significantly hamper your training or sparring session. Any type of distraction can also be dangerous, you could end up getting hit with a shot you normally would’ve avoided.

Another huge factor that plays a part in your headgear performance is how the chin strap fits. This is similar to wrestling headgear, if it fits loosely the headgear will also feel loose. Another part of headgear that can come loose is the slipper lining. This slipper lining may come loose and wrap around your head when taking a hard punch. Not only is this type of problem irritating, but it can also obstruct your vision if it gets twisted out of place. Another example of the importance of having snug fitting headgear that should stay in place. No matter how hard your get hit or how much you sweat, your headgear should stay in place.

Getting the Most Visibility
Having good visibility is an important factor when selecting the correct headgear. Generally speaking, headgear will provide maximum head protection while also providing minimal visibility. Wearing headgear is a sacrifice that needs to be thought about, is it worth the head protection if you lose vision?

Not seeing incoming punches or kicks is obviously a serious problem. If the headgear you wear disrupts your visibility to the point of absorbing more punches or kicks, then it’s probably not the right set of headgear for you. Absorbing more punches and kicks can lead to potentially more severe brain damage. It’s important to buy headgear that provides enough protection AND visibility to defend strikes from all different directions.

The amount of thickness in cheek and forehead padding in headgear is the determining factor regarding visibility. Thicker padding means more protection but less peripheral vision, which means that you will not be able to see from important angles.

Getting the Most Ventilation
Any type of sport always leads to heat and sweat, but this is especially true with MMA and other combat sports. When you’re hot and fatigued your performance goes down the drain. That’s why we specifically looked for headgear with good breathability to keep air flowing and allow you to maintain a better cool during training. In addition, a secondary benefit to ventilation is that you have better hearing. Cues and instructions are always being shouted during training or sparring, so we wanted you to be able to hear as much as possible.

Quality VS. Price
These days there are so many headgear products available. The level of quality varies wildly depending on the brand and the quality of the material. Keep in mind that when you attempt to save money by purchasing cheaper headgear, you will most likely be buying an unreliable and low quality product.

Headgear is one of those things that you shouldn’t be a cheapskate on. Whenever you’re buying a product you will need to protect your head or body, it’s important to only buy the very best. Buying high quality headgear is not optional; it’s a necessity.

Headgear prices are directly related to the gear’s manufacturer and the materials used to make the gear. Cheaper brand and cheaper headgear equals cheaper materials that may be cost efficient, but also dangerous. Throughout my many years of training I’ve discovered that the major boxing brand manufacturers make a bunch of headgear that works well for Muay Thai as well as Western Boxing. This works vice versa, MMA companies such as Venum and Hayabusa make great headgear for boxers as well.

Headgear We Recommend:
Sanabul Essential MMA Head Gear

Sanabul Essential Head Gear provides excellent coverage and protection for the face and head while training or sparring. Whether you are training boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, karate or tae kwon do, this head gear is perfect for you. This is great for beginner sparring in Muay Thai or Boxing. 

Guru Rating: 8/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Sanabul Essential MMA Head Gear

RDX Head Guard

The RDX head gear has Shell-Shock technology with foam padding for high-intensity shock absorption. The RDX head gear includes shock absorbent gel tech integrated padding for ultimate protection, safety and efficiency. This specific set of headgear has four different styles to choose from: Red, Black, Blue, and Pink. This headgear is great for kids!

Guru Rating: 8/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: RDX Head Guard

Venum Challenger 2.0 Headgear

The Venum Challenger 2.0 headgear is ultra lightweight and great for beginners. Made in Thailand with 100% Skintex leather, the Venum Challenger 2.0 brings you the most perfect head gear at an affordable price. The ultra-lightweight headgear made with Skintex Leather, improves better head movement and visibility of your opponent. Keep your head in the game and stay protected.

Guru Rating: 8.5/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Venum Challenger 2.0 Headgear

Hayabusa T3 MMA and Boxing Headgear

The Hayabusa T3 headgear is in a class of its own. The wide field of vision and low profile design maximizes strike deflection for added protection making this the best MMA headgear, Kickboxing headgear, Muay Thai headgear, and boxing headgear available. What I love most is the antimicrobial lining inhibits bacteria and will reduce unpleasant odors from occurring inside of this boxing headgear. In my opinion this is the most stylish headgear on this list as well.

Guru Rating: 9/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Hayabusa T3 MMA and Boxing Headgear

Ringside Competition Boxing Headgear

The Ringside Competition headgear is USA Boxing approved with a sleek contoured design and curved cheek protections to better protect the head and face. Made of durable leather construction to ensure lasting dexterity and performance with a soft suede lining to absorb sweat. This head gear has a top quality laminated foam system that disperses impact so you can focus safely on sparring and fighting. Top rated headgear for boxing, MMA, Muay Thai and combat sport athletes alike to practice and compete.

Guru Rating: 8.5/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Ringside Competition Boxing Headgear

Everlast Everfresh Head Gear

Cheek protectors provide optimal safety and excellent visibility. Adjustable chin strap for secure fit for most adult head sizes. Comes in the brilliant black color. I would recommend this headgear if you’re primarily a boxer. This headgear isn’t the absolute best for MMA or Muay Thai. This headgear has great peripheral vision for hooks.

Guru Rating: 7/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Everlast Everfresh Head Gear

Fairtex Headgear Head Guard

The Fairtex headgear is top of the line when it comes to combat headgear. The peripheral vision on this headgear might be one of the best on this list. I highly recommend this headgear if you’re a Muay Thai or Boxing practitioner and if you’re a heavy sparrer. This headgear will give you ultimate protection during those intense sparring sessions.

Guru Rating: 8/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Fairtex Headgear Head Guard

Venum Elite Headgear

The Venum Elite headgear is made of 100% Skintex leather construction for great durability. This headgear is ultra lightweight which allows faster head movement during sparring sessions. Made of triple density foam which is contoured for a perfect fit and allows ultimate shock absorption. The “over-top” design is made of mesh for a better evacuation of perspiration and moisture. Venum products are always homemade in Thailand so you know the quality is going to be out of this world.

Guru Rating: 8.5/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Venum Elite Headgear

Cleto Reyes Classic Training Headgear

The Cleto Reyes classic is the top of the line when it comes to boxing headgear protection. Manufactured with cowhide and latex foam padding, the material is high quality. There is two adjustment areas on this headgear, one on the chin strap and the other on the crown area. This allows for wide-angle vision so that you can see all of those dangerous hooks. Authentic and handcrafted from Cleto Reyes.

Guru Rating: 9/10

To purchase this headgear on Amazon, click this link: Cleto Reyes Classic Training Headgear

Develop Better Habits When Sparring and Training

It’s important to note that having the awareness and knowledge of certain dangers will help lead to safer sparring sessions. Having the capability to recognize certain dangers during and after training sessions is also helpful when preventing serious injuries.

  • Training Partner – It’s always important to find reliable sparring partners that could be trusted to not headhunt for a knockout. We bought this up earlier in this article, but it’s so important to be communicative with your sparring partner so you’re both on the same page.
  • Light Sparring Sessions – It’s important to have sparring sessions where you and your training partner are throwing strikes with less than 50%, 25%, or even 10% power. This will actually be helpful in gaining technique, worry about power during your heavy bag training.
  • Body vs. Head – Try to organize training sessions so that everybody delivers light strikes to the head. Save the hard punches and kicks for the body. There will be times where you and your partner both go hard for the head and body, but those intense sparring sessions should not be too common (maybe once a week).
  • Rest and Recovery – To me this is the most important habit on this list. Sparring too much, especially without adequate time to rest your body and mind between each session is very dangerous. This type of strenuous training will increase the likelihood of developing a concussion.
  • Symptoms – Even if you didn’t get knocked out or knocked down during a training session, blunt force trauma may still have been absorbed. Anytime you receive a hard hit to the head the possibility of a concussion is always a danger. It’s always helpful for an individual to know how to identify the symptoms of a concussion, or at least be able to ask other people that are knowledgeable about the topic.


The Final Say When it Comes to Headgear

At the end of the day, it’s your decision whether or not you decide to wear headgear during sparring or training. I hope that you evaluate everything that was mentioned in this article, also check out our other articles on The MMA Guru about the topic of headgear. It’s up to you to decide whether or not wearing headgear would be best for your training situation. I personally believe that headgear has many more benefits than downsides. Learn to train smarter and protect that beautiful brain of yours!

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