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Do MMA Fighters Wear Hand Wraps?

If you’ve ever tried on a pair of 4-ounce MMA style gloves, you’ll know that those things are tight. There is a lot less room for the hand to shift around when compared to a big 16-ounce boxing glove. I myself have wondered how MMA fighters can fit wraps under the small gloves, which also begs the question: Do MMA fighters even wear hand wraps?

Yes, most MMA fighters do wear hand wraps under their 4-ounce MMA gloves, although the wraps have a lot less padding than those used in boxing. Some fighters however, choose not to wear wraps at all, such as UFC welterweight Gunnar Nelson, who says he has “more feel for what I’m doing with no wraps”.

Sometimes, hand wrapping is enforced by the State Athletic Commission, but not always. Because there is not much space between the hands and the gloves, an MMA fighter can wear them without wraps without too much of a difference.

In the rest of the post, I’ll cover the differences between wraps and no wraps, how hand wraps differ from boxing, and whether you should wrap your hands for MMA training.

How Are The Wraps Different From Boxing Wraps?

There are many ways in which MMA hand wraps differ from those used in boxing. As mentioned before, the gloves in MMA are a lot tighter on the hands than boxing gloves. Because of the glove size, there is less space for hand wraps inside an MMA glove.

Boxing gloves have enough space to fit special wraps with extra padding, such as the Radius Hand Wraps.
Boxing gloves have enough space to fit special wraps with extra padding, such as the Radius Hand Wraps.

The biggest difference is in the padding that goes over the knuckles. If you look at an MMA glove, you’ll notice that it is flat. In contrast, a boxing glove starts rounding off by the knuckles, to keep the fingers curled in.

This means that when you make a fist while wearing an MMA glove, it puts more pressure on your knuckles than a boxing glove would. Added pressure on the knuckles is not a good thing, as this limits the protection the glove can offer to the knuckles.

This means that there is much less space between the knuckles and the gloves for hand wraps to fit in. For this reason, there is much less gauze placed over the knuckles in MMA, as compared to boxing, where large amounts of gauze are stacked over the knuckles, as seen below.

Floyd Mayweather seen here with a large amount of padding over the hand. There is no way that would fit under an MMA glove.
Floyd Mayweather seen here with a large amount of padding over the hand. There is now way that would fit under an MMA glove.

The amount of padding on Mayweather’s hands fits snugly into a 16-ounce boxing glove, which makes this hand wrapping style optimal for the sport. Of course, this is way too much padding for an MMA glove, where the gauze over the knuckle is pretty even, and does not stick out as much as the padding on Floyd’s knuckles does.

Why Do Some Fighters Not Wear Wraps?

As mentioned at the start of the post, some MMA fighters do not wear hand wraps. There are several reasons why they might avoid hand wraps. First let’s look at UFC welterweight Gunnar Nelson detail why he doesn’t wear wraps.

“I never wrap my hands. I like to get as much feel for my hands and my opponents as I can, and I’ve never really felt any difference wrapping my hands. I’ve never broken my hands, that’s probably why. If you like to work with your hands, you like to get the feel for what you’re doing, and I feel like I have more feel for what I’m doing with no wraps.”

Gunnar Nelson during post-fight interview.

So Gunnar basically feels more feedback through his gloves when he is not wearing hand wraps. You may have experienced this on the heavy bag before. When you hit the bag without gloves on, you can feel the difference in each punch you land, while when wearing gloves, you don’t really feel anything when you land a punch.

Gunnar Nelson (left) doesn't wear hand wraps while fighting. Notice the tape under his opponents (blue) glove, while Nelson's (red) doesn't have any.
Gunnar Nelson (left) doesn’t wear hand wraps while fighting. Notice the tape under his opponents (blue) glove, while Nelson’s (red) doesn’t have any.

The increased feedback might help Gunnar know when he has landed a strong punch, as a punch that lands flush will have stronger feedback. For example, when Michael Bisping was describing his knockout of Luke Rockhold, he stated, “You know as a fighter when you land a good shot because you get the feedback on your fist”.

The feedback could help a fighter determine how much damage they deliver to their opponent with each punch, and sense when they are close to a finish.

Gunnar Nelson is also a very good grappler, meaning he uses his hands to control his opponents. Perhaps the lack of wraps in his gloves gives his hands more mobility when holding and attempting to submit his opponents.

Should You Wear Wraps During MMA Training?

The easy answer to this question is yes, always protect your hands with reusable cotton handwraps. However, you may not want to wrap your hands in the same way you would in boxing.

In boxing, it is very common to wear 180-inch long hand wraps, as the whole wrap fits snugly under the glove. Some people even prefer to fold a piece of the wrap to use as padding for the knuckle, and then wrap over the padding. I used to wrap my hands this way, and I definitely recommend it if you ever feel pain in your knuckles.

You want to keep your wraps even throughout the hand for MMA, instead of focused on the knuckles.
You want to keep your wraps even throughout the hand for MMA, instead of focused on the knuckles.

However, with the small MMA gloves, there is much more focus on the wrist than on the knuckles. This is because in boxing, most of the impact of a punch is absorbed by the padding in the glove. Since an MMA glove has significantly less padding, a lot of the impact gets transferred into the wrist, making it more injury prone.

For this reason, you want to wrap less on the knuckles in particular, and more on the wrist. You may notice that this makes the wraps around your wrist bulkier. For the same reason, some people prefer to wear shorter, 120-inch hand wraps under MMA gloves instead of the 180-inch, for a more comfortable feel.

Can The Commission Force Fighters To Wear Wraps?

To answer this question, I took a look at the rules for the Nevada and Mississippi State Athletic Commissions, as well as the rules for MMAC (Amateur MMA).

It turns out there are no rules that require the fighter to wear wraps or otherwise forbidding the use of gloves without wraps. There are other rules, such as limits on the amount of tape and gauze used for the wraps and things like that.

However, I should note that it is ultimately up to the commissioner to approve the fighter’s wraps (or lack thereof) before the fight. If the commissioner decides the fighter cannot fight without wraps, then the wraps must be used to appease the commissioner.

Conclusion

In short, most MMA fighters do wear hand wraps, although they are shorter and less padded than boxing hand wraps. However, there are no requirements to wrap the hands, and some fighters prefer to fight without wraps under their MMA-style gloves.

If you liked this post, consider checking out the Martial Arts History page for more FAQ on the history, rules, and fights that made MMA what it is today. Thanks for reading!