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Mixed Martial Arts Shorts (MMA Shorts)

Mixed martial arts shorts are the center piece of clothing for an MMA athlete. The recommended unified rules of mixed martial arts provided by the association of boxing commissions states that, with relation to shorts:

“Each contestant shall wear martial arts shorts, biking shorts, or kick-boxing shorts. Shorts must be approved by the inspector or commission representative. Shorts with a grip panel are not permitted. Shorts with metal parts are not permitted unless properly covered.”

MMA shorts have seen tremendous improvements in recent years. The above mentioned rules have provided some guiding principles to ensure that the latest shorts do not have any metal hooks, avoid grip panels, but most of the improvements have come from the fighters themselves. Today MMA shorts provide distinctive features that allow them to depart from regular board shorts. Although they may continue to share some similarities, MMA short are certainly NOT board shorts. We will cover more on this topic on a later article.

MMA shorts can probably be divided into three major categories, which is derived from the above regulations:

  • Mixed martial art shorts
  • Vale Tudo shorts
  • Muay Thai or Kick-boxing shorts

Today, in both professional and amateur bouts, is pretty rare to find an athlete using shorts from the latter category (Muay Thai), but we include it in this articles as they are approved for competition. Let’s review each type of short in more detail.

Mixed Martial Arts Shorts

Most major mixed martial arts brands have spent a considerable amount of time devoted to the design and testing of their primary fight shorts. Although each major brand has been able to provide features to differentiate their shorts from them immediate competitor, most of them share the following features:

  1. Flexibility: most mixed martial arts shorts are built using stretching materials on a polyester base. Polyester is usually used for its ability to release water quickly compared to other materials like cotton. In addition to polyester, they also use a stretch component like Spandex, Nylon, among other. Some of these shorts are made in their entirety using a fabric with a particular mix of these materials. However, since some of the materials are expensive, some of the fight shorts use smaller bands that are strategically placed in the right location to continue to provide high flexibility for the athlete and reduced manufacturing cost.
  2. Special Closure System: Most boxing association and unified rules do not allow any metal on any of the shorts used in professional bouts. As a result, the closure system for MMA shorts is of special interest. All MMA shorts ensure to completely cover any strings (to adjust the shorts waist size) using either a top-over or a side cover. Below you can see a few examples of these closure systems.
  3. Slit on the leg: an extended slit on the side of the leg is a very common feature found on MMA fight shorts. In some cases, shorts have opted to shorten the length of the short, both features towards a common goal: increase flexibility and avoid any impediments while kicking or requiring extra room on the floor while grappling.

In addition to these features, MMA shorts, may also include other characteristics to distinguish themselves. Some of these features are:

    • Included sleeve for a cup.
    • Mouth guard pocket.
    • Specialized Fit – for added flexibility
    • Specialized seems for added comfort
    • Anti-slip waist bands.

Vale Tudo Shorts

Vale Tudo shorts is another common pair of shorts often seen in both amateur and professional bouts. Referred to in the unified rules of MMA as biking shorts (similar to bicycle shorts) they offer their own specialized features. We believe that Vale Tudo shorts have also evolved to distinguish themselves from regular bike shorts – and should deserve to carry their specialized name moving forward.

In addition to the obvious improvement in flexibility, Vale Tudo shorts are usually made from a heavier (read thicker) fabric. They are not underwear. They are fitted to the athlete and provide pretty much complete range of motion. Similar to the flexible material used on fight shorts, they are also complete composed of Nylon/Spandex/Lycra/Polyester, and in some special cases, specialized materials.

Other features make Vale Tudo shorts special, included:

  1. The waist and leg often include anti-slip bands to provide extra support. Last thing you want to do in a fight is ensure that you have to fix your shorts.
  2. Many of the have a sleeve to include a cup. Probably not the best to do so, as proper cup systems include a specialized compression short to ensure the cup sits in the perfect position.
  3. Mouth guard pockets.

It is important to note that Vale Tudo shorts provide compression, hence we have seen them being used for the features a good compression short provides, but they provide more than a regular compression short. Hence, you can say that Vale Tudo Shorts are compression shorts, but compression shorts are certainly not Vale Tudo shorts!

The last category of approved shorts for MMA practitioners is the well know Muay Thai shorts. Some of the MMA brands currently produce Muay Thai shorts that follow the original tradition of the short – hence not many changes have been included to an overall excellent fight short design.

A lot of people at our shop have asked us: What is special about MMA shorts? We hope that this article has answered this question! If you have any additional questions with relation to MMA shorts or anything else at our shop, please don't hesitate to contact us!

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