Us fighters love to stand out. From the iconic gear of fighters like Anderson Silva and Mirko Cro-Cop, to the forgettable black and white shorts of the early Reebok UFC era, fight shorts are the best way to make a statement, for better or worse.
If you’re just getting into fighting, you’ll need to pick up some shorts specially made for BJJ and MMA. Regular gym shorts will do fine for your first couple of days, but after a while you’ll notice a real loss in quality, performance, and safety. Both for you and those around you.
Not to mention, you’ll be coming in last in all the gym fashion contests.
There’s a bit to learn about No-Gi BJJ and MMA shorts, and we’ll try to explain everything you need to know in this article, before breaking down our team’s picks for the best options out there right now.
What to Look for (and not to look for)
MMA and BJJ are very different to other sports. There’s a significant difference in movement, contact, and more, which means you need gear specifically tailored to what you’re going to be doing.
Thus, the shorts you wear for something like basketball, soccer, rugby, or even Muay Thai or boxing, won’t be ideal once you start your BJJ journey.
Here are a few things to look for in BJJ/MMA shorts.
A good pair of shorts will give you the full range of motion that you need. For BJJ, this means you’re able to spread your legs enough to pull off attacks like armbars and triangles, as well as providing unhindered motion in moves on the feet, such as takedowns and sprawling.
If we’re talking MMA, you want even more mobility, as you have to factor kicks into the equation. That’s why MMA-specific shorts are a bit looser, or have a slit on the side to accommodate more movement, while some BJJ shorts can be a little more rigid.
Muay Thai and kickboxing shorts are even more loose-fitting, due to the obvious need for free motion when kicking. You can use Muay Thai shorts when grappling (at least when training), but they aren’t ideal. When your shorts are too loose around the thighs, it’s easy to get legs and toes caught up, which gets in the way and opens up you and your opponent for injuries.
Gripping an opponent’s shorts is not allowed in BJJ or MMA, but that doesn’t mean your pants aren’t going to be in line for some punishment.
With the extended grappling exchanges in BJJ and MMA, your shorts should be strong enough to hold up. This means high-quality materials and stitching, and not wearing down with exposure (you will get sweaty).
Part of this is having a strong, secure waist. The last thing you need is your shorts coming off when you get double-legged.
Safety & IBJJF compliance
There are some things you want to avoid in grappling shorts, as they present a safety risk for you and your opponent. Open pockets, zippers, exposed drawstrings and buttons can cause some damage in BJJ and MMA, either by scratching against your skin or getting snagged in.
If you want to compete in BJJ, ensure your shorts meet the IBJJF No-Gi uniform standards. These standards include the safety features mentioned in the last paragraph. Their regulations also include color, which has to be either a mix of black and white, or the color of your belt rank.
Of course, fashion is a consideration for a lot of people. There are a ton of crazy and awesome designs out there today. You honestly could never run out of fresh designs to wear. For competition you’ll need to make sure they conform to the color of your belt (or black, white, or black and white). But for training, go wild.
Other than the design, there are two different types of MMA and BJJ fight shorts you can get; classic board shorts and vale tudo-style compression shorts. Both are legal in IBJJF, and after a while you will usually develop a preference for one of the two. Whether it’s due to comfort, look, or a mixture of the two.
Different Styles of MMA & Grappling Shorts
Quickly, here’s a breakdown of classic vs compression fight shorts.
Classic Fight Shorts
Regular MMA & grappling shorts are the classic board short look. They’ll come down to around your knees, or slightly higher depending on your preference, and allow sufficient ventilation while not being loose enough to catch on things.
These are the most common choice, as they look casual and can be repurposed for other activities, such as lifting weights, or even wearing them on your way home.
Vale Tudo/Compression Shorts
The other kind of shorts you’ll find are compression pants. They’re also sometimes referred to as Vale Tudo shorts. These are skin-tight shorts, which offer the least amount of friction and restriction of movement. They’re extremely comfortable and lightweight, and the compression material aids muscle recovery.
The downside is, the skin-tight design obviously leaves very little to the imagination, which some people are not comfortable with. You’ll probably get some funny looks if you wear them as your primary bottoms outside of the gym, too. But there’s a reason pro fighters like Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva and Shogun Rua wear them. Generally speaking, compression shorts offer the best performance.
(Personally, I wear classic MMA shorts with spats underneath when I train No-Gi and MMA).
Top 10 MMA Fight Shorts
Looking for a pair of quality fight shorts? Look no further. Here’s the cream of the crop, whether you’re looking for classic MMA shorts or compression pants.
Best Classic Fight Shorts
When you’re talking No-Gi & MMA gear, it doesn’t get any better than Hayabusa. The preferred brand of GSP makes the highest-quality, best-looking gear out there, in my opinion.
These shorts are designed with a mid-thigh cut on the sides, allowing for increased range of motion. This is intended for kickboxing primarily, but works just fine for BJJ too.
The waistband is a hybrid design with elastic at the back and a concealed drawstring at the front, which makes them easy to fit right.
Personally, I’m not big on crazy designs on my gear. That’s why I love these shorts, they look great, but the design is clean and unobtrusive, with Hayabusa written down one side and the trademark eagle logo on the other. They also come in a range of colors, including competition-legal blue and purple.
RDX gear is generally great value, and these shorts are no exception. They’re simple, but not lacking quality in any way. The feel is great, really breathable and lightweight. The material holds up well over time, and they don’t shrink at all after washing.
The design is sharp and looks great, available in blue, red and yellow. However, the color options aren’t IBJJF standard (the blue version might be, although that’s pushing it), which might be the only downside.
The Sanabul Essentials shorts are no-frills MMA & BJJ shorts. The design fits those who aren’t out to make a statement with their gear, but just want something that performs well. Alternatively, the design is perfect if you want to add things like gym patches or sponsors.
Instead of putting effort into crazy designs, the Sanabul team are focused on quality. The Essentials hold up well under pressure, have a secure hook and loop in the front, and antimicrobial treatment to the fabric which helps them last a long time.
The last thing to mention is the value. A really low-priced short, that will hold up for a long time.
I’ve always got a soft spot for Fuji gear. Not just known for their Gis, their shorts are great for grappling, very lightweight with high performance. While the fabric feels thin, you won’t notice any loss in strength after continued use.
You can wear them for kickboxing and MMA too, but they don’t offer quite as much movement as other shorts. The design is super simple, classic Fuji style. All in all, a great No-Gi competition short.
If you need your uniform to stand out a little more, I understand. That’s why Roar is here.
Their designs might be a little much for some. However, if that’s what you’re looking for, they have some crazy designs. The one that stands out is the checkered design of their pro series shorts, available in black, blue, red, pink and yellow.
The focus on design doesn’t take away from the quality. The fabric is both lightweight and heavy-duty – they won’t slow you down, but they’ll last a long time too.
Another Hayabusa product, because they really do make the best gear. The Chikara fight shorts are made with a lower cut on the side, better suited for grappling than the first pair we looked at. Other than that, they have the same core features, such as the hybrid waist and clean design.
The Chikara shorts are a stronger option, with reinforced seams and stronger fabric, designed to stand up to long periods of grappling. They’re a little more expensive too, but should perform better as a result.
Best Compression Shorts
Of course they have compression shorts too!
Hayabusa’s compression shorts perform really well. The fabric doesn’t stretch out, and doesn’t provide any friction or restriction in movement. Optimum performance for grappling and MMA. There’s a built-in pocket for your cup, for a seamless mix of performance and safety.
While a little pricey, Diamond MMA’s compression shorts are as good as you’ll get in safety and performance. They’re designed as a hybrid compression short and jock system, tailored to be able to hold your cup just right. You don’t want your cup falling out or moving just at the wrong time, and that’s why it’s a good investment to get a pair of shorts like this.
The material is military-grade spandex, so you can be confident it will hold up through intense rolling sessions. The sizing is a little tight around the thighs, so keep that in mind when picking your size.
Bad Boy compression shorts are a pretty iconic look for MMA fans. Shogun Rua’s white Bad Boy fight shorts come to mind first whenever I think of MMA fighters’ compression shorts.
These will bring back memories of the old-school Pride days. But it’s not just the look, they perform great. The material used in these shorts are a little thicker than you usually get in compression gear, which means they stand up better and longer. It’s also designed to expel moisture and dry quicker, which is what you want from all your training gear.
Like their classic fight shorts, Sanabul’s compression shorts are simple in design, high in performance and value. The material is a blend of nylon, spandex and polyester, which makes it both breathable and strong. They compress well, with no rogue material that’s going to get caught up, but they don’t feel like they are strangling you, like some compression gear does.
These pants feel great, perform great, and are a steal at this price.