You’ve been watching the UFC and seen a couple of groin shots. Pretty nasty, right?
Don’t get too concerned because regulations in mixed martial arts competitions always provide some added protection.
So do UFC fighters wear cups in a fight? Yes, here’s why:
UFC fighters DO wear cups for an MMA fight to help cushion any low blows they receive. It’s also partly worn for a chance to hurt your opponent’s foot for doing it. Groin shots are illegal and could even cause an early stoppage in a match.
In the rest of this article, I’ll tell you more about using cups in the UFC and MMA.
Table of Contents
What UFC fighters are wearing under their shorts
Many people believe the fighters in MMA use nothing but a pair of shorts while fighting, but it turns out that they often wear protective cups on their groin and lower abdomen.
Every fighter wears a cup under their shorts to protect against serious injury below!
Cups suitable for the UFC/MMA are often one specially molded piece of hard plastic or polycarbonate that fit under compression shorts or a jockstrap:
Groin protection isn’t just used for an official fight but can often be used in sparring when leading up to a fight.
In training, groin protection could be the same as the slip cup above, or a groin guard similar to that in boxing could be used as well:
These groin guards are used in striking martial arts like boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai.
The slip cup is usually the more versatile option when sparring or fights need to go to the ground and bring in wrestling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Do MMA fighters wear jockstraps?
Most fighters in MMA wear jockstraps under their shorts and usually come with a slip cup that protects the groin area from injury during sparring or live fights. The jockstrap also provides support to “keep everything together” neatly.
It can help you to be as mobile and flexible as possible whilst training with fewer concerns about bits getting in the way or getting squished.
What are MMA cups made of?
The MMA cup used in fight events is usually made of hard plastic, polycarbonate, or mixed composite. It’s held in place by a jockstrap or compression shorts, so you wouldn’t usually notice them when watching an official MMA fight on TV.
This type has been used for years because fighters need protection. Still, it prevents unnecessary extra material from altering the mobility of the fighter or giving protection where it isn’t accepted in the sports regulations.
Need a cup for training? I recommend the Diamond MMA Athletic Cup:
This cup uses a special material, polycarbonate, which is used even in bulletproof glass.
The material is designed to withstand extreme levels of impact, and I probably wouldn’t trust anything else with my crown jewels!
Do female MMA fighters wear cups?
Female/women fighters in MMA don’t have to wear a cup, as it isn’t a regulated requirement for their sex, unlike men. Men are required to wear a cup by the Unified Rules Of Mixed Martial Arts.
History of the groin cup in the UFC
When the UFC first began in 1993, cups were not used. The rules of the UFC were extremely lax at the time, with little consistency about what you could or could not wear.
Fighters like Royce Gracie wore an entire Gi during his run of BJJ domination in the sport’s early days.
And groin cups weren’t commonly used, while groin strikes were still allowed and yet to be illegal.
When the UFC had its first event, there were only three rules:
- No biting
- No eye-gauging
- No groin strikes
Interestingly, these were the same essential rules in place during Ancient Pankration (UFC and MMA’s birthplace).
But these rules seemed to fluctuate at the whims of the UFC’s promoters and any local laws they had to accommodate for where the event took place.
In an early UFC event (UFC 4), Keith Hackney faced off against Joe Son. Both fighters had completely different attires, with Hackney looking like a Cobra Kai student wearing black sweatpants and a vest and Son dressed like a wrestler with hot red y-fronts, knee pads, and wrestling shoes.
The fight went on to the ground as Son held Hackney in a firm headlock. Son lay on the bottom with Hackney’s neck in a headlock, which he couldn’t release, or risk ending up in a disadvantaged position.
This left open Son’s entire body and the special area beneath his red pants that allowed Hackney to abuse with ferocity. Keith Hackney didn’t waste much time throwing low blows at Son’s groin.
The fight goes down in the UFC’s history as one of the craziest moments caught on tape.
It wasn’t until 2001, when the UFC adopted Unified Rules Of Mixed Martial Arts, that groin strikes became illegal, and cups became required to be worn.
Effects of groin strikes in the UFC
Groin strikes are illegal in the UFC and MMA competitions. In the UFC, a fighter receiving a low blow gets an immediate break to recover for up to five minutes of time.
It can take several minutes for a fighter’s groin to feel back to normal again, which is why they are given so much time under the rules. Even an eye poke doesn’t get the same level of break time.
While it can be a good idea to recover fully when you take a groin strike, fighters are also cautious about giving their opponent too much time to recover their stamina.
If you were already winning the round of a fight, you don’t want to give your opponent a chance to regain their cardio and win points against you.
Other protection worn during a UFC fight
UFC/MMA fighters have strict equipment to wear during a fight event.
The aim is to add the right level of protection for both fighters to prevent dangerous levels of injury whilst also giving fighters the most mobility for expressing their talents in the fight.
The list of equipment includes:
To prevent teeth and jaw damage. This is mandatory for all fighters, amateur or professional, in most countries worldwide (including the USA).
The mouth guard should be a custom-fit device that protects both upper front incisors from injury and protects lower back molars if an overhand punch lands on your cheekbone area.
A 4-6 oz MMA glove is worn for a fight, mainly padding across the knuckles to protect against damage to the hands and cause fewer cuts for the opponent.
They’ll also have open fingers where the material goes only halfway up the fingers to allow for the grappling part of the sport.
Professional-grade hand wraps are usually applied by an expert before a fight.
They use many one-time soft materials and tape to create a perfect seal around the wrist, hand, and fist.
Its purpose is to give the maximum protection whilst keeping as much of a small form as possible to fit into the lean MMA glove.
Shorts are worn and usually come in just a few variants from which a fighter can choose.
The “boxer brief” style is tight to the skin and is often worn by fighters with many leg kicks and mobility requirements.
The other is the more “board shorts” style that the MMA sport began with and is still used by many fighters today. This short version could provide slightly lower mobility, but the effect is marginal and mostly comes down to the fighter’s flexibility.
The more recent addition is the more “flair short” version that has slits down each thigh. It looks slightly like a skirt and flaps through the air as the fighter performs big kicks. Wild flair fighters like Cory Sandhagen wear these.
Sports bra/shirt (women)
Female fighters are allowed to wear sports bras and shirts (usually short-sleeved) in UFC, and MMA fights for obvious reasons.
Ankle or knee wraps
Fighters are allowed to wear ankle wraps within limitations if it helps to support them against injuries during a fight.
They can also wear knee wraps or pads as long as they fit within certain criteria (like not limiting the opponent’s options for leg attacks).
Though it is really rare to see it, we did see Francis Ngannou choose to wear them against Ciryl Gane when he had knee problems.
Final thought on cup-wearing in the UFC
UFC fighters and many other martial artists wear cups for sparring in training and live event fights. For the men, a blow to the jewels is too much to handle to be able to continue fighting.
So to minimize fights being stopped early, fighters will wear cups. It’s also a part of the rules of the UFC and MMA.
Many leg kicks will skim up the thigh and hit the groin inadvertently, so it’s a pervasive issue.
Luckily though, fighters in the UFC will get up a whole 5 minutes break if they receive a low blow.
Those 5 minutes can change a fight.
If you’re doing some heavy sparring or fights yourself, I’d recommend grabbing a cup and lowering your chances of any regretful accidents.
What to read next
Now you have the background on why groin cups are worn in the UFC. Next up, I’ve more articles that might interest you to read about tickling in the UFC and whether fighters can wear knee pads: