If you’ve ever wondered, “Do fighters wear cups?” here’s your answer: MMA fighters are required to wear cups as part of their standard uniform when fighting in UFC fights. Being required to wear a cup may feel awkward for some fighters, but UFC officials anticipate groin strikes as a possibility during any match have recently tightened their rules to protect the fighters.
While groin strikes are now illegal in UFC fights, accidents happen, and fighters are required to wear protection. The benefits of wearing a cup outweigh getting used to an extra layer of equipment.
Benefits of Wearing a Cup
MMA fighters put in hours of training to build their endurance and tolerance to blows. However, certain blows can weigh heavily even on the best-trained athlete.
While some of the benefits may seem obvious, wearing a cup may prevent the need for extensive medical attention during practice or a match. Even with a cup, some strikes may still cause pain and injury, so it is essential to protect yourself. These are the top benefits of wearing a cup.
Prevent Severe Harm or Injury
While the UFC has banned groin strikes from MMA fights, accidents can happen. Wearing a cup can prevent injury from kicks or when grappling. Fighters are often in fast moving situations on the ground, and a cup can prevent further injury during submissions like kneebars or triangles (especially for the fighter on the bottom).
To Hold Everything in Place
One reason why cups are essential for men is that they keep everything in place. It is more difficult for men to control their “sensitive” parts when sparring. A protective, comfortable cup will keep everything in place without restricting movement.
Some cups, like those built into MMA shorts, allow for improved stretching, leading to better performance in a fight. Having the freedom to stretch your groin area properly can prevent strains and other muscle-related injuries.
Approved Male Cups for MMA Fighting
The UFC regulates the type of cup fighters are allowed to wear. While the fighter must feel comfortable with their cup, it should not have any extra padding. The UFC also requires the cups to be made from approved materials that should be worn during matches or practice.
When choosing the right cup for you, be sure to consider durability, functionality, and which is most comfortable for you.
It is very common for fighters today to wear compression shorts with a built-in cup. They are comfortable to wear, easy to adjust, but still provide protection.
When considering compression shorts, be sure to try on for size. Compression shorts not only provide cup support, but they also increase blood flow. However, if they are too small and restrictive, they can actually do more harm than good.
Jockstraps are a more traditional form of protection in fights and general athletics. They are made with an elastic drawstring that is easy to adjust and provide maneuverability. However, they can be challenging to adjust to, so you should wear them to practice sessions if you plan on wearing them in fights.
Muay Thai Cups
Muay Thai cups can also take some getting used to but are most effective during hard sparring or very technical matches. They absorb hard hits and are better suited to perform technical martial arts like jiu-jitsu or taekwondo.
Differences for Female Fighters
The MMA uniform is different for male and female fighters. Both are required to wear shorts, open-fingered gloves, and a mouthguard. Women are also required to wear a shirt and chest protection, and only men are required to wear a cup. Current UFC rules and guidelines actually prohibit women from wearing groin protection during a fight.
Female MMA fighters have also been subject to some below the belt hits, but the UFC has not changed its required uniform for female fighters. Some fans and professionals feel that women should be required to protect themselves during a fight as these types of strikes can cause lasting damage.
If you’ve ever wondered “Do fighters wear cups?” with regards to female fighters, the answer is yes. But why do fighters wear cups? Sports cups available for women help prevent abdominal pain, bleeding, bruising, and other pain that can occur in both men and women after a groin strike.
What Happens when Groin Strikes Occur in the UFC
Since groin strikes are officially illegal, according to UFC rules, referees have the option to take action against the MMA fighter who made the strike, regardless of whether it was intentional or an accident. After a groin strike, the fighter who was hit has five minutes to compose themself before the fight resumes.
MMA fighters who violate the groin strike rule may have one point removed from their total score. Depending on how many rounds there are, a point deduction like this may cost a fighter the match. If the fighter’s opponent is unable to continue the fight as a result of a groin strike, the fighter at fault could lose by disqualification.
Cups and the History of MMA
MMA fighting began in the early 1990s, and there were very few rules. There were no referees or little referee involvement. Rorion Gracie, the original promoter, only agreed to a few minor rules fighters needed to follow, which were no eye-gouging, no fish-hooking, and no biting.
Eventually, political pushback banned MMWA fights in the United States. Under new ownership in 2001, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers reinstated MMA as a legal sport under the UFC umbrella. Reinstating MMA came with new rules to protect fighters, including more banned attacks like groin strikes.
Famously Controversial Fights Where the Cup or Groin Strikes Were Involved
During the early days of UFC fighting, groin strikes were not illegal. While many fans considered it as fighting “dirty”, some fighters still took advantage of this dirty move. The UFC 4, Revenge of the Warriors fight saw Keith Hackney take repeated groin strikes at Joe Son to get out of a chokehold and gain control of the fight. At the time, this was a legal move that the referee did not call, despite multiple strikes.
After the UFC made groin strikes illegal, using them in fights became more controversial. While these types of hits or kicks can sometimes be unintentional, they can leave referees, judges, and commentators split on how they should be handled.
During UFC 75, Cheick Kongo was warned for kneeing Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the groin. Despite Kong receiving a warning, no points were deducted, and he ended up winning the match 29-28. Three fights later, at UFC 92, Kongo delivered a knee strike to Mustapha Al Turk that some thought was intentional. Earlier in the fight Al Turk kneed Kongo’s groin, causing some to speculate Kongo retaliated. Kongo also won this match by technical knockout.
The Bottom Line: Why Do MMA Fighters Wear Cups?
Male MMA fighters are required to wear cups because they are proven to protect against hard punches, knee jabs, and kicks. Men are more vulnerable to groin strikes than women, so this extra layer of protection is not yet required for women.
If you plan to wear a new cup in a legit MMA bout, be sure to practice with it because some cups may feel a little uncomfortable at first. You should also try out a few different approved styles, so you can pick the cup that works best for you.