Mixed Martial Arts training can be one of the most injury-prone sports simply because of how versatile the attacks and movements can be.
Where contact sports like boxing have a few patterns, MMA brings every kind of strike into contact, from head kicks to ground-and-pound.
So, a good headgear for MMA is one that adds extra protection while allowing freedom to move from feet to the ground.
My pick for the best headgear for MMA is the Hayabusa T3 headgear because of its compact design yet usefulness when switching between different fighting styles from standing to the ground, as it doesn’t shift around too much.
But here are my top three picks that will suit different budgets:
In the rest of this article, I’ll give you my selection of the best MMA headgear options out there and what to look for in my buyer’s guide.
Table of Contents
Top choice headgear for MMA
Let me give you the lineup of the best headgear options for mixed martial arts training.
I’ve selected most of these based on their usefulness for mixed martial arts.
But there are a couple of options in here that are better suited to boxing, just in case you are especially focused on face-punching with your sparring partner.
Here’s a quick list of every option and their highlights:
- Contender Competition — Most affordable option with great visibility.
- Hayabusa T3 — Maximum coverage in a compact form, ideal for MMA.
- Fairtex HG13 — High-quality all-purpose headgear for switching between sparring types.
- Venum Elite — Lightweight and doesn’t impair vision, but one size might not fit all.
- Ringside Competition — The boxers’ choice for most face-punching needs.
- Ring To Cage Full Face — Perfect choice for those that hit the heaviest.
- Cleto Reyes Facebar — Serious premium face bar for wide visibility and maximum style.
- ONX Sports Elite Ultralight — Absolute premium headgear specialized for the needs of MMA training.
To learn more about each option and why they each have their own unique highlights, keep reading.
This sleek, durable boxing headgear, approved by USA Boxing, provides superior facial protection with improved cheek guards and top-quality, impact-dispersing padding.
- USA Boxing approved
- Offers plenty of facial protection
- Durable leather outer construction
- Impact-dispersing padding
- Adjustable fit with lace closures
- Suitable for various contact sports
- Excellent value for price
- Takes time to break in
- Lacks much nose protection
- May fit snug on larger heads
Contender offers another boxing-focused headgear on this list, but one which is reliable and extremely affordable.
If you expect to be striking plenty and need good visibility, your cheekbones will thank you with this option.
It’s a lace-up headgear which makes it a bit fiddly to get on and off, so it’s suitable for fighters entering long sparring sessions.
Maybe you have recently joined the fight team at your gym. These could be your first option for striking sparring sessions.
It’s not covering the front of your chin or nose very well, but it’s likely to take the sting off some of the more devastating hits you could take.
It can be a bit snug for big heads like mine, but the quality is up there with most other options on this list, and you can’t really argue about the price, either.
Experience unrivaled protection without bulkiness with this compact MMA headgear, patented T-Cross closure and engineered leather exterior offer a secure fit and extreme durability.
- Excellent coverage and protection
- Lightweight and compact design
- Secure fit with minimal shifting
- Good visibility despite full coverage
- Durable, high-quality materials
- Good ventilation and breathable
- Versatile across combat sports
- Strap might be uncomfortably long
- Protection against hooks and kicks to side of the head could be improved
Hayabusa enters the fray with my top choice for MMA headgear precisely because this equipment does the best job of adaptability for multiple martial arts.
The compactness of this headgear is well-designed so that it is wearable for striking but doesn’t shift around when you start to mix in takedowns into your training.
The outer leather material and inner padding give excellent security against the variety of hits you might take.
Plus, the protection reliably covers the chin, cheekbones, and forehead with plenty of coverage yet still allows for good vision while wearing.
The only slight downside with them is that they don’t add extra ear padding (that you can find in other similar headgear) that can often soften a lot of blows to the side of the head.
But hey, you really don’t want to be taking those kinds of shots regularly anyway, so get gud at avoiding hooks and kicks to the side of your head!
The Hayabusa T3 comes in some nice color options, too, and their gear always looks stylish.
Especially when you pair it with something like the Deadpool boxing gloves from their Marvel collection.
Experience superior protection for a variety of martial arts in this high-grade microfiber headgear, with optimal shock absorption, improved vision and movement, and a secure fit with adjustable straps
- High-grade manufacturing
- Features multi-layered foam for optimal shock absorption
- Promotes visibility with ergonomic design
- Adjustable straps for secure, comfortable fit
- Protects all critical areas well
- Lightweight for enhanced comfort
- Suitable for various combat sports
- Sizing may be inaccurate
- Might shift with strong hits
- Lace on top can come undone
This Fairtex HG13 headgear is a really solid option for mixed martial artists.
It is a little pricier than some of the other options, but it covers the needs of covering your cheekbones, chin, head, and ears all really well.
It’s made from high-quality microfiber, which usually withstands a lot of friction and whacks so that it would make for a good investment.
The padding inside this headgear is dense and multi-layered, so it’ll absorb plenty of the shocks you might take and stays put on your head reasonably well.
In my test, this headgear can move a bit with really strong hits like hooks or head kicks — so watch out for that.
Fairtex also made this bit of kit look pretty great with various color options to suit your style.
Overall I like this option for MMA.
It has protection in the areas you want it and is suitable for different fighting positions like boxing, and kickboxing, and with enough visibility to defend takedowns.
A lightweight and 100% Skintex leather headgear, boasting triple-density foam for ultimate shock absorption, secure Velcro closure a 180-degree visibility design.
- Made with high-quality Skintex leather
- Ultimate shock absorption with triple-density foam
- Provides a secure and comfortable fit
- Enables 180-degree vision for better opponent visibility
- Good for Mixed Martial Arts or Boxing
- Offers superior nose, cheek, and chin protection
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Holds a lot of heat and easy to get sweaty
- Less protective on the ear
- Padding could be thicker for cheeks
The Venum Elite Headgear is the more balanced option between price and function.
This product is one of several by Venum but is the top tier option and yet still affordable for most people considering the quality.
This headgear is made from Skintex Leather (higher quality fake leather), with dense and lightweight foam inside that doesn’t weigh your neck down.
It does an excellent job of having a unique shape for protecting the critical areas of attack around the face and head.
This headgear’s shape practically protrudes across the cheekbone for protection without too much sight interference.
It offers enough visibility to make this headgear useful for MMA sparring and other martial arts like Muay Thai that depend on good visibility on your opponent’s feet.
It also has additional protection on the chin area, which not all options have.
The protection over the cheekbones is sufficient for taking the sting out of clean shots and has additional protection surrounding the ears, which could help prevent cauliflower ears.
A double velcro strap at the back tightens around the back/top of your head to fit.
It’s easily adjustable and comes in one size, which is good for most people. But if you have a large head (I know I do), then it might not squeeze in, and you’ll need to consider other options on this list.
USA Boxing-approved headgear gives superb protection. Designed for durability and performance, with curved cheek guards and a laminated foam system for safe, focused sparring.
- Outstanding protective design
- Durable leather construction
- Absorbs sweat efficiently
- Ideal for Boxing, Good for MMA
- High-quality, thick padding
- Adjustable for comfort
- Easy-to-clean surface
- Pin-lock chin strap
- Sizing may run a bit small
While this list is targeted at mixed martial artists, I couldn’t disregard this solid option for the strikers out there.
The Ringside Competition headgear gives great levels of protection for straight-up punch-fests with tons of visibility.
Clearly, you’re not getting much chin protection here, but the cheeks padding is large enough to give decent coverage on your face.
This kit’s level of padding and reliable construction still makes it useable for MMA if you need it.
If you’re primarily focusing on your boxing training, perhaps it’s your specialty, then the reasonable price and quality of this headgear might float your boat.
Ring To Cage Full Face
Superior full-face protection gear crafted in top-grade leather which offers good visibility, punch absorption, and comfort. Ideal for the martial artist that goes heavy and expects to get hit heavy!
- Offers excellent facial protection
- Provides good visibility
- High-quality leather construction
- Doesn't shift during activity
- Promotes proper chin positioning
- Quick-drying lining
- Universally fitting design
- Slightly limited view for kickboxing
- No chin pad included
- May not fit smaller sized heads
The Ring to Cage Full Face headgear is a great pick for heavy fighters.
Whenever I consider heavy martial artists, I always go to the Ring to Cage line.
Whether you have a lot of weight to throw around or are expecting a lot of force through full-contact heavy sparring sessions, this would be the one to pick.
The face bar is thick and dense, covering most of your cheeks, chin, and nose.
When you’re expecting to get hit hard on the chin, this should give that extra safety against getting knocked out.
It’s versatile enough to be useful for MMA sessions, but you might experience some difficulty getting full vision in kickboxing matchups.
So watch out for those question mark kicks and the like!
Cleto Reyes Facebar
Experience unparalleled protection with this handcrafted, natural leather headgear, featuring an adjustable strap to get a great fit, the face bar parries or reduces impact across your nose and cheeks for focused sparring.
- Handmade with high-quality material
- Adjustable for perfect fit
- Excellent protection for sparring
- Comfortable wear during fights
- Long-lasting leather and latex foam
- Supports wide visibility during bouts
- Chinstrap can feel too tight for some
- Difficult to get a drink wearing this
- Can feel too wide for guard positioning
Cleto Reyes enters one of the final options for headgear, a brand that continues to deliver premium quality but at a similar price tag.
I love the style of their gear, particularly this headgear with various color options.
If you’re one to enter the ring or cage looking to make a statement, these are spot on.
The quality of materials and the dense padding give a very reliable safety net, as you should expect from the brand.
Vision is excellent wearing this, and the thick face bar covers most of the danger spots to deflect some of the impacts.
The only issue is that the headgear feels very wide overall. It makes it a bit too unnatural to keep your guard in a good position.
You want to keep your hands close to your chin or the side of your head, which is your second line of defense (after avoiding or parrying) and an important one.
As it feels like your arms are held out a bit wider than usual, it leaves you open down the middle.
Though this is a common gripe with headgear in general, it’s just a tad more noticeable with this kit.
ONX Sports Elite Ultralight
Innovation meets comfort in this lightweight, low-profile headgear, ideal for diverse MMA training. Constructed with premium materials, it assures durability, mobility, and vision clarity for serious combat sports athletes.
- Superior build quality
- Ultra-comfortable fit
- Enhances visibility during combat
- Impressive shock absorption
- Stays in position during sparring
- Instruction guide for fitting
- Equipped with soft interior lining
- Zipper can catch on your hair
- Lacks ear protection & chin
- No padding at the back
- Quite expensive
To finish off this list comes the Elite Ultralight Headgear by ONX Sports.
You may have heard of ONX if you’re a fan of Justin Gaethje’s coach, Trevor Wittman.
He is the inventor behind the patented technologies of various protective equipment for mixed martial arts, not only headgear but also boxing gloves for MMA training.
As an MMA coach, Trevor has witnessed the constant struggles of his athletes.
Most traditional headgear impairs the fighter’s vision. It doesn’t provide a suitable fit to prevent it from moving around during a sparring session.
Traditional headgear can often get moved around the head as you take strikes and force the fighter to reset or retighten the headgear is getting in the way of training.
One of the other common issues with most headgear is that it is bulky in areas that don’t offer protection for MMA.
This is where ONX Sports comes in with the Elite Ultralight Headgear.
The Elite Ultralight Headgear has a unique shape that most notably protrudes across the cheekbone of its wearer and less into the eye line.
Most headgear doesn’t use a shape like this to protect the cheekbone and surround the eye sockets without impairing vision.
The inside materials of this headgear are made from specially designed memory foam which means that after wearing it for half a dozen sessions, it will mold to your brow and head shape for a perfect fit.
This headgear is one of the ultimate choices simply because of the fighters that these are regularly tested on.
Trevor Wittman coaches the ONX Sports fight team that has produced incredibly high-level competitors like Kamaru Usman, Rose Namajunas, Justin Gaethje, and Cory Sandhagen, to name a few.
These fighters regularly use the whole ONX Sports gear line, including the Elite Ultralight Headgear.
I trust that Trevor is constantly tweaking and improving his line of products to bring the best training to his fighters while preventing injuries and that we benefit from this.
The Elite Ultralight Headgear is a premium product, and the price tag reflects that.
Still, if you are looking for the option leading protective tech in combat sports gear, this is it.
What to look for when buying headgear
Wearing headgear for your MMA training could be a big help to give additional confidence to your sparring and reduce superficial cuts and bruises.
Protective headgear for combat sports is essentially the same whether you’re boxing, wrestling, or fighting Muay Thai style.
Sure, you could pick up any combat sports headgear quickly enough and use it.
But if you want to get the best out of your training, then a little more scrutiny will ensure you are getting entirely suitable headgear.
A few considerations make the difference for mixed martial arts. Let me lay it down for you.
Protection against multiple striking patterns
In MMA, you need to be aware of punches and head kicks coming from a wide array of angles.
Advanced sparring could also involve elbows and even knees to the head.
These are far more damaging than most punches, and if you receive a blow from one of these, you’ll want to have adequate protection.
And not forgetting the complications with grappling whereby you have to spot and defend takedowns and ground and pounds to the face!
Maximum visibility is important
While the biggest reason for wearing headgear is to protect from strikes, you also don’t want your vision to be so impaired that you lose vision on your opponent.
Less sight means you’re more at risk of spinning attacks, head kicks, or even takedown attempts.
Regular headgear will most likely hinder your ability to defend against all the different possibilities.
That’s why picking out a headgear that gives great visibility is crucial.
Lightweight for every situation
Typical headgear is designed for boxing which is big, thick, and heavy.
They create a bigger target for your opponent, for one thing, but their extra size and weight make it more difficult for you to move freely and grapple how you would need during mixed martial arts.
So consider the weight of the headgear, especially as the fight can go to the ground and back up again.
Lugging around extra weight on your neck is a hassle.
Preventing cauliflower ear
With the added element of grappling in MMA, the potential to get cauliflower ears in your training goes way up.
Your headgear should ideally protect your ears so that it prevents friction or direct trauma to your ears.
It’s this trauma that can result in the unsightly cauliflower ear that you see with many UFC fighters.
Protecting against cuts and bruises
A decent headgear can help prevent abrasions, cuts, bruising, and swelling on your face and head from being hit.
But PSA: Headgear does not protect your brain.
In fact, some argue that headgear encourages you to hit harder and get hit harder by your sparring partner.
That then results in much more brain trauma, which can potentially cause serious long-term issues for your mental and brain health.
So just keep that in mind when picking out a headgear.
Choose it because you want to avoid open wounds that could lead to infections. Not to protect your brain.
The only way to protect your brain is to not get hit in the first place!
Final say on mixed martial arts headgear
There you have it. Now you know what I think is the best headgear for MMA training.
Most headgear doesn’t offer the right amount of protection while allowing maximum visibility.
So be sure to balance what you need in protection, non-shifting between changing positions like getting up from the ground and having a clear vision.
But with my list of options, you should be able to pick the right option for your fight preparation.
What to read next
Now that you’ve selected your perfect sparring headgear, these next articles might help you to complete the set: