The 10 Best MMA Headgear
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Planning on getting into the ring or octagon in the near future? Then the least you can do is protect your face — and brain — with something from our selection of the best MMA headgear. One of these should help to take the sting out of some of those kicks and punches, so you can keep fighting until the bell rings. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best mma headgear on Amazon.
A Brief History Of MMA Headgear
Headgear is regarded as especially important thanks to its concussion prevention potential.
In ancient Greece, there was a similar sport known as pankration.
The earliest mixed martial art was invented in ancient China by military generals and soldiers.
Called Shuai jiao, this ancient style of wrestling and Kug-Fu incorporated grappling techniques that are regarded as precursors to contemporary judo and jiu-jitsu. Shuai jiao also permitted kicking, punching, joint locks, finger locks, leg sweeps, leg locks, and the brutal, but effective close-range trapping techniques perfected by Han Chinese soldiers in combat with enemy soldiers.
In ancient Greece, there was a similar sport known as pankration. This competition, which was featured at the 33rd Olympiad of 648 B.C.E., combined grappling and striking in a manner similar to modern mixed martial arts. Pankration evolved from the already-established Greek boxing and wrestling traditions, and barred only biting and gouging. Pankratiasts, as the sport's fighters were known, fought until one opponent could not continue, or submitted by raising an index finger. Pankration was later passed on to the Romans.
Contemporary mixed martial arts traces its roots back to the mixed-style contests that were popular throughout Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim during the early 1900s.
In the early 1990s, a Brazilian competition known as Vale Tudo was brought to the United States in the form of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. This dangerous style was eventually made safer, and the door was opened to practitioners of all styles, adding to the burgeoning organization's intrigue. In 2001, UFC changed ownership, and under new leadership it experienced an era of unprecedented success.
Actor and MMA practitioner Bruce Lee was at least partially responsible for the popularity of martial arts in the 1960s and 1970s. UFC president Dana White called Lee the "father of mixed martial arts" in 2004, crediting Lee's Jeet Kune Do philosophy with inspiring a generation to seek multi-disciplinary training.
While many competitions throughout the centuries would fall under the mixed martial arts umbrella, the term may only date back to 1993, when television critic Howard Rosenberg used it while reviewing UFC 1.
Modern mixed martial arts reached peak popularity in the mid- and late-2000s, when a series of UFC events captured the public's attention like never before. Chief among these blockbuster fights was a rematch between then UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, and former champion Tito Ortiz. For the first time, mixed martial arts events were rivaling and surpassing even the biggest boxing events in Pay-per-view sales.
Modern mixed martial artists often train with head gear, heavy gloves, strike shields, and shin protectors to limit their injury exposure. Headgear is regarded as especially important thanks to its concussion prevention potential.
Similarly, amateur mixed martial arts is practiced with protective gear that includes shin protectors and larger MMA gloves.
MMA And The Law
The legal status of mixed martial arts varies by country.
In the United States, professional MMA is governed by the Association of Boxing Commissions, which permits competition in every American state. In 2012, MMA attained "national sport" status in Russia, making it legal and encouraged.
In Norway, any sport that involves scoring or winning with knock-outs is banned.
While modern MMA is legal in much of the world, some countries specifically prohibit its practice.
For example, in 2012 the Sports Authority of Thailand banned all MMA competitions, citing the potentially damaging effects the sport could have on the country's native Muay Thai industry.
In Norway, any sport that involves scoring or winning with knock-outs is banned. Despite the ban, there were nearly 50 MMA gyms in Norway in 2012. In Norway competitions follow a strict set of rules that limit the kinds of strikes a competitor is permitted to make.
France has a similar position, and currently bans all full contact MMA competition. MMA bouts in France do not permit striking on the ground, and include several other limitations.
While not illegal, MMA is not recognized by the government as a sport in India. This means any organized MMA bouts are regarded as street fights, with respect to the law.
The Professional MMA Landscape
With many hundreds of MMA promotions and organizations throughout the world, making sense of the professional landscape can be daunting.
The most popular and successful modern MMA organization is the UFC, which came to mainstream prominence around 2006.
In 2007, the UFC merged with Pride FC, effectively eliminating its largest competitor.
Below the organizations in the global hierarchy are many hundreds of MMA training facilities.
Currently there are three other organizations that regularly feature top-ranked fighters on their cards: The California-based Bellator MMA, Singapore's One Championship, and Invicta FC, headquartered in Enka, North Carolina.
Beyond those four organizations, there is little competition for the eyes and ears of the worldwide MMA viewing public. However, some organizations have risen to regional prominence, and may someday threaten UFC's stranglehold on the industry.
Among them is London's Cage Warriors Fighting Championship, the Russia-based M-1 Global, and Jungle Fight, which stages fights chiefly in Brazil.
Below the organizations in the global hierarchy are many hundreds of MMA training facilities. Based on the success of the fighters they produce, the most effective gym in the world is Nova Uniao, located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The second most accomplished gym in the world is the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA gym.
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