When it comes to MMA training sessions, having the right protective gear is incredibly important.
You might need to show up to school, work, or any other obligation, and rocking up with a beat-up face might well give the wrong impression.
That’s why wearing protective headgear during training can be extremely beneficial. Obviously, there are some downsides that we’ll touch on later.
For now, let’s dive in and take a look at the 10 best MMA headgear for training and sparring.
Let’s get to it.
At a Glance
- Hayabusa T3 – Best for sparring
- Sanabul Essentials – Best budget option
- Fairtex Super Sparring – Best lightweight option
- Venum Elite Headgear – Best for visibility
Best MMA Headgear for Training & Sparring
Right then, let’s dive in and take a closer look at some of the top MMA headgear that you can find.
Hayabusa T3 Headgear – Best Headgear for MMA Sparring
The Hayabusa T3 Headgear is a staple of top quality protective headwear perfect for heavy sparring sessions.
I’m a massive fan of Hayabusa’s overall design, with the T3 sporting a significantly trimmed back look with minimal bulk. There’s nothing worse than big, bulky headgear, as it provides a large target and makes you much easier to hit. Fortunately, that’s not the case here.
Having a secure fit is always important, as the last thing anyone needs when sparring is having to re-adjust your head protection every time you get hit. Knowing this, Hayabusa has implemented its own patented T-cross closure. This ensures a tight fit, with minimal shifting and slipping.
I’m also a big, big fan of the top tier cheek protectors that the T3 has to offer. Orbital bones are pretty thin and without adequate protection, can break if hit with enough force. With that in mind, the cheek protection provided by the Hayabusa T3s is definitely appreciated.
Also, if you’ve ever worn head gear to training before, you’ll know you can get extremely hot pretty quickly. Hayabusa combats this by implementing vented mesh ear coverings and an open top design that keeps you as cool as possible when sparring. You’re still going to get hot, don’t get me wrong, but it won’t be anywhere near as bad as with other head gear.
All in all, a great option for anyone looking to protect themselves during intense training sessions.
- Great all round protection for sparring
- Designed to be as cool and ventilated as possible
- Made from top tier materials
- Good number of style options
Sanabul Essentials Headgear – Best Budget Headgear for MMA
When buying the best MMA gear on a budget, there’s no better brand than Sanabul, and their Essentials headgear is no different.
I should probably by mentioning that the Essentials Headgear does slightly impede peripheral vision. At the end of the day, that’s going to be the case with the vast majority of headgear and is often the price that needs paying for extra protection.
This lightweight headgear offers plenty of protection, with impact absorbing foam and full facial coverage. The headgear also makes use of a secure hook and loop system that ensures a tight fit with minimal slippage.
Plus, Sanabul offers their sparring headgear in a couple of different sizes, these being small/medium and large/ extra large. This in turn allows you to find head gear best suited to your size, ensuring a nice and firm fit.
To top it all off, you can get your hands on the Sanabul Essentials for a very reasonable price, which is always a bonus in my books.
- Budget friendly
- Multiple sizes ensure a secure fit
- Different design options
- Can impede peripheral vision
Fairtex Super Sparring Headgear – Best Lightwear Headgear
Fairtex is an extremely well know and respected name in the Muay Thai space. Although originally designed as Muay Thai headgear, practitioners of various combat sports opt to use the Super Sparring headgear for its exceptional quality and protection.
All of Fairtex’s gear are hand made in Thailand, and if you’ve ever trained over in Thailand before, you’ll be aware of just how popular the brand is… and for good reason.
First things first, the design of this headgear is really second to none. Thanks to the wide design of the eye slits, the head gear provides plenty of frontal and peripheral vision, which is of course ideal for any intense sparring sessions.
Plus, the Fairtex headgear offers superior protection across the entire head and face, which is thanks to the top tier multi layered foam padding. The quality of this padding really can’t be overstated, it’s the same padding used in all of the top quality boxing gloves, providing optimum shock absorption.
When you combine this with the ultra lightweight design and the various adjustable straps, you have yourself an extremely protective, and comfortable headgear.
The price. Given Fairtex’s reputation and the quality of their gear, they’re known to charge a pretty penny and the Super Sparring Headgear is no exception. At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on safety, and you’ll struggle to find more protective headgear anywhere else.
- Offers great vision
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Adjustable straps offer a secure fit
- Handmade and top of the line construction
- Peace of mind in a well known brand such as Fairtex
- Extremely expensive
Venum Elite Headgear – Best for Visibility
The Venum Elite headgear is without a doubt one of the best when it comes to visibility. The overall design of the headgear allows for fantastic peripheral vision, perfect for catching any crafty hooks looking to sneak through.
If you’re a fighter that’s picky about the look of their gear, then you’ll be pleased to know that the Venum Elite Headgear comes in a ton of different design variations. I usually like my gear to somewhat match, so I personally love it when brands have a ton of options to choose from.
Constructed from top quality PU leather and multi-layered foam, this headgear from Venum provides a ton of protection and durability. I’ve used a ton of Venum products over the years, including their protective headwear, and the quality is always top notch.
Despite coming in a “one size fits all” size, thanks to the ingenious two way velcro strap at the back, this headgear from Venum provides an incredibly secure fit.
The only down side to speak of with the Venum Elite Headgear is the price. As with all Venum gear, they tend to charge a pretty penny. That said, given the overall quality and level of protection offered, the value for money is definitely there.
- A ton of different designs
- Offers great visibility
- Comfortable and firm fit
- Excellent protection
- Pretty expensive
Elite Sports Celestial Head Guard
Elite Sports is another brand that has built a name for itself by offering budge friendly gear perfectly suited for intense training sessions.
Their Celestial Headgear features an adjustable chin strap that when paired with the additional adjustable closure, allows virtually any fighter to find perfectly fitting protective headwear.
I’m a big fan of lightweight headgear, as it allows you to maintain good head movement with minimal distractions. Fortunately, Elite Sports are aware of this and have constructed the Celestial Head Guard to be as light as possible, whilst not sacrificing in the protection department.
Speaking of, the Celestial features triple density foam cheek padding, providing ample protection to one of the most vulnerable areas of the face.
As with all head protection, visibility can be a concern. However, Elite Sports have designed its head guard to deliver full 180-degree vision, providing the wearer with unimpeded vision.
When you consider the overall price of the Elite Sports Celestial, you really can’t ask for much more, massively delivering in the value for money department.
- Highly adjustable
- Good quality triple density foam padding
- Offers fantastic vision
- Insane value for money
- Not many color variations and designs
Revgear Champion II Headgear
The Revgear Champion II is the pinnacle of quality when it comes to protective headwear for combat sports. Revgear opted to construct their Champion II using genuine leather, a material known for its lasting and resilient qualities, and as such is often used in top tier boxing gloves.
Along side this, their newly designed Champion II features a well thought out design, providing an ample field of vision alongside top quality padding and protection.
They’ve also utilized a double hook and loop closure system, allowing fighters to perfectly adjust the headgear to fit them perfectly.
With this kind of quality, a hefty price tag is to be expected, but I doubt you’ll find longer lasting protective headwear anywhere else.
- Made from extremely durable material
- Provides a great field of vision
- Solid double straps for a secure fit
- Top quality protection in all the key areas
- No design and color variaitons
Sanabul Battleforged Headgear
I’m a massive fan of Sanabul, and their Battleforged line is one of my favorites. Although one of their more expensive options, catering to fighters that train regularly and require top quality training headgear to withstand the constant hours spent in practice.
With any form of protective gear, having optimal safety is incredibly important. Knowing this, Sanabul has utilized top of the line impact dispersion foam. This helps to reduce the force of any impact received, which in turn should help prevent head injuries that can easily occur, especially if your sparring partner is a bit reckless.
The overall design of the Battleforged headgear allows for full coverage of the face, whilst not impeding massively on the wearer’s vision. Plus, Sanabul’s secure closure system ensures the headgear stays securely in place.
The curved cheek protectors help to protect the most vulnerable areas of the face, whilst not covering the mouth or the eyes. Some overly bulky headgear can get in the way of the wearer’s mouth, making it tough to breathe properly, which definitely isn’t the case here.
Sanabul has also opted to use high quality synthetic leather in their Batteleforged line, which is extremely durable, and not quite as expensive as genuine leather alternatives. The result?
All in all, this is top quality training headgear ideal for passionate MMA fighters heading to the gym on a regular basis.
- Made from top quality materials
- Exceptional protection
- Great vision
- Adjutable and comfortable to wear
- Not a ton of design options and questionable color choices
- Moderately expensive
Heading down to a sparring session can always be a bit daunting, especially if it’s your first time. Having reliable headgear that you know will protect you can definitely take the edge off, and the RDX Headgear is a fantastic option.
Made using Maya Hide leather material, the RDX head gear offers a ton of durability, ideal for martial artists regularly attending training. In the protection department, RDX utilizes Jumbolon cushioning covering the entirety of the headguard, including over the ears, offering maxim protection. If you’re looking to avoid cauliflower ears, using well padded head protection like the RDX headgear is a must.
I’m also a massive fan of the hook and loop closure system, paired with the adjustable chin strap. This combination allows the wearer to configure the headwear to their individual size, ensuring a good fit.
The main downside to this particular headgear is the overall bulk, both in the forehead and in the cheek protectors. You’ll be a bigger target, so it’s a trade off between protection and bulk, which only you can decide for yourself.
That said, whether you’re an MMA fighter, Muay Thai fighter, or train any other striking martial arts, the RDX headgear is a great option.
- Well protected ears – great for avoiding cauliflower ears
- High quality padding in all key areas
- Good amount of adjustability ensuring a good fit
Cleto Reyes Headgear
Cleto Reye is an extremely well known brand in the boxing space, with their Mexican style headgear being the preferred option for many professional athletes and is often considered the best boxing headgear out there.
Although originally designed for boxing training, many mixed martial artists opt to use this headgear in their sparring sessions. This is largely due to the outstanding quality that Cleto Reyes offers, from the genuine leather material to the latex foam padding, everything is built to the highest possible standard.
This durable leather construction paired with the fact that each headgear is hand made in Mexico, ensures the highest possible quality ideal for professional athletes.
It’s adjustable, built to last, and offers maximum protection to the head and face. While expensive, Cleto Reyes’ headgear is the best in the business, and that’s especially true with their headgear.
- Hand made to the highest quality
- Good number of color options
- Great visibility
- Top tier padding offering amazing protection
- Great cheek protection
Ringside Competition Headgear
Moving onto our final option, which is the Ringside Competition Headgear. Although Ringside is well known in the boxing space, their headgear is ideal for various different martial arts and combat sports.
Although not covering as much of the face as some of the other options on our list, the USA Boxing approved headgear provides optimal safety. Ringside have utiliszed high end laminated foam padding that helps to disperse impact, reducing the blow to your head.
Plus, thanks to the reduced coverage, namely the absence of a cheek protector, the headgear itself is ultra lightweight. This makes wearing headgear far less cumbersome, allowing for slick head movement without any distractions.
Another unique element of this headgear is the soft suede lining, designed to reduce sweat absorption. This in turn keeps the headgear fresh and long lasting.
All in all, if you do decide to wear headgear, you can’t go wrong with Ringside.
- Comfortable lightweight design
- Offers superior protection to covered areas
- Various color options
- Made from genuine leather materials
- Not as much coverage as other options
- Decently expensive
Does Headgear Prevent Concussions in MMA?
A quick disclaimer here, I am no doctor and therefore will lean on a study that reviewed protective headgear and head injury prevention in Olympic boxing. While the study didn’t really have a precise answer, stating “headguards protective effects against concussion are uncertain” they did find that “headguards protect well against facial cuts and skull fractures”.
My advice here would be to view headgear as a protective measure against superficial cuts and potential fractures but don’t rely on headgear to prevent concussions.
Benefits of Wearing Headgear During Sparring
We’ve got a whole article breaking down whether to wear headgear to MMA training, so definitely check that out for a full break down.
That said, the TL:DR: it’s a personal preference. Some guys won’t spar without headgear, and loads of people prefer to spar without headgear.
It’s always important to listen to the advice of your coach, as some gyms may have their own rules and guidelines when it comes to safety gear when sparring.
Protects from Cuts and Bruises
One of the main benefits of wearing headgear to sparring sessions is the protection it offers from superficial cuts and bruises. It doesn’t take many clean strikes to get a bruise welling up, and having your face covered by a protective shield goes a long way.
The same applies to cuts and abrasions. Many professional fight, whether in MMA, Muay Thai, boxing, or any other striking combat sport has come to a premature end thanks to cuts. Plus, it could well save you a trip to the hospital to get some stitches put in.
I’ve had some nasty cuts opened up on each of my eyebrows at training and both times I didn’t have headgear on. Safe to say, if you don’t fancy walking around with cuts and bruises on your face, then purchasing headgear for training is definitely a wise idea.
Prevents Cauliflower Ear
While cauliflower ear may seem like an inevitability if you’re training regularly and looking to make a career out of MMA, there are steps we can take to help to prevent it from happening (too badly at least).
Wearing head gear with some good high density foam is easily the best method. While cauliflower ear happens most often when grappling, I’ve seen a number of friends at the gym have their ears swell up after eating a (maybe too heavy) head kick.
To summarise, if you won’t fancy having the classic fighter’s ears, getting yourself some good head gear to wear to training sessions is a pretty good idea.
Helps to Gain Confidence Trading
When first learning any striking combat sport, getting comfortable with having someone swinging at your face can take some time.
While head gear won’t protect you from all head injuries, it will help to provide some level of safety when you’re starting to spar, allowing you to get comfortable under the pressure of being in a real fight situation.
With this, you should find yourself willing to trade a bit more, and not surrender to the fear of getting punched in the face, forcing yourself onto the back foot and on the defensive.
Drawbacks of Wearing Headgear During Sparring
Knowing that you’re relatively well protected can give a false sense of security and lead to over confidence. This in turn can lead to sloppy technique, over committing, and slacking in defence. Yes, your headgear will protect you, but it’s best to avoid unnecessary damage when possible.
Can Cause a Distraction
Combat sports require a ton of concentration, and even minor distractions can have severe consequences. If you’re not wearing good headgear, especially if it doesn’t fit well, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to adjust it mid spar.
Let’s say that your headgear is sliding to one side, and your sparring partner is starting to apply pressure. That split second it took to think about the annoyance of your headgear could be the difference between evading a punch or eating it on the chin.
Could Hinder Visibility
This is the most common issue with training headgear in mixed martial arts or any other combat sport. Without headgear on, you have complete visibility. Wearing a headgear can massively reduce the amount you can see, whether this be a hook coming in from the side, or a sneaky overhand coming in over the top.
This visibility issue is amplified if the headgear doesn’t fit correctly, as it can slide around and cover more of your eyesight.
How to Choose the Best Headgear for MMA
When it comes to purchasing headgear for mixed martial arts, there are a number of important factors to consider. Let’s take a closer look.
Type of Headgear
There are a number of different styles and types of headgear to choose from. There really is no right or wrong, as it comes down to personal preference and which allows you to perform at your best, whilst providing enough protection.
Check out the video below for a full walkthrough on the different types of headgear, their advantages, and which one might be best for you.
Although attributed as headgear for boxing, this style is used in a ton of different combat sports. Boxing headgear typically features high density foam padding, adjustable closure systems, and protective ear coverings.
Face Bar Protector Headgear
Personally, I’m not a massive fan of this style of headgear, as I feel that the face bar covers the mouth and can hinder my breathing, plus I just find it annoying. That said, this additional bar does add another level of protection and I know a lot of guys who swear by this style.
At the end of the day, the whole point of wearing head protection is well, to be protected. With that in mind, the overall design of the headgear and the level of protection it offers should be at the top of your priorities.
High density, or multi layered foam paired with a good amount of face and head coverage will provide a solid amount of protection and should help to keep you as safe as possible throughout sparring sessions.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the major down sides to wearing headgear is the impact it can have on the wearer’s visibility.
The best headgear will provide enough protection, whilst having a large enough space for you to see clearly. Peripheral vision is the most affected when wearing headgear, so it’s good to make sure you can see to the sides clearly, as well as in front.
Getting yourself properly fitting headgear is essential. I can’t stress how annoying ill fitting headgear is. It’s an unnecessary distraction and worse, if the headgear is prone to slipping in front of your eyes, can massively impact your ability to see.
The best way to get a secure fit is to have adjustable straps, either on the chin, behind the head, or on top of the head. This allows you to fully adjust the headgear so it’s just right for the shape and size of your head.
Having the ability to adjust your headgear is very important, as it allows you to get the right fit. Good headgear will have a chin strap, alongside other adjustable straps for a secure fit.
If you’re regularly attending intense training sessions, you’ll know how easy it is for your get to absorb sweat. Not only can this cause the gear to stink, but also have an impact on it’s longevity.
Good quality headgear will utilize moisture wicking fabric that prevents the sweat from absorbing into the protective foam. This keeps the headgear from smelling, more hygienic, and helps it to last longer.
I’m not going to lie to you, wearing headgear is a hot, sweaty business (hence the importance of my previous point). The best brands know this and design their headgear with breathability in mind, utilizing mesh and open areas (where safe to do so) to ensure their gear is as breathable as possible.
The good news is that you can get yourself on headgear for pretty cheap. The bad news is the best headgear can cost a pretty penny. Given the nature of headgear (protecting your head and face), sometimes spending that little bit more is worth it.
That said, brands like Sanabul and RDX make great quality gear for very reasonable prices. So whether you train once a week, or every day, there’ll be some options out there for you.
Popular Brands of MMA Headgear
Whenever I write up one of these lists, I like to highlight some of the best brands out there for that particular piece of gear. That way, if there hasn’t been anything on the list that you like the look of, you know where to go.
Let’s take a look.
Fairtex is extremely popular in the Muay Thai world. Their gear is second to none, hand made from natural materials in Thailand, the home of Muay Thai, and is the best quality you’re going to find. Yes, they’re gear is expensive, but in my opinion, worth every cent. They also make the MMA gloves for a number of different organizations such as ONE Championship and Cage Warriors.
Sanabul is the king of making top quality gear for affordable prices. Whether you’re about to attend your first sparring session, or about to go pro, Sanabul caters to just about everyone.
Over recent years Venum has become one of, if not the biggest name in MMA gear. They’re now the official outfitters of the UFC, and if it’s good enough for the big show, then it’s good enough for me. Although more expensive than some other brands, their gear is usually top of the line and very well designed.
Hayabusa is mostly known for two things, their quality and is expensive. Unfortunately, the two tend to go hand in hand, but if you’re taking MMA seriously as a career, having top quality gear is going to help get you through.
Can I Wear Headgear to Muay Thai training?
Yes, as mentioned earlier, a lot of fighters cross over between various different disciplines, often using the same headgear.
Do I Have to Wear Headgear When Sparring?
No, you don’t have to and it comes down to personal preference. Some gyms require headgear, others leave it down to the fighters so it’s best to ask your coach and go from there.
Well, there we have it.
There are definitely pros and cons to wearing headgear, and it comes down to the individual and what they are comfortable with.
I hope you’ve been able to find the best MMA headgear for you, and if you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out!
Thanks for stopping by.
Check out our other gear articles: