In a society filled with double standards it should come as no surprise that rules differ for men and women in sports. Our basketballs are smaller, our foul lines closer, and our contact gentler.

In most cases of sports where the women have less protective gear than men (i.e.// football and lacrosse), it is because they are not allowed to use the techniques that require it. Which begs the question: if the rules of MMA are fundamentally the same for men and women, why aren’t women allowed to wear groin protection?

Section 8 of the UFC’s rules and regulations, titled “Protective Equipment”, reads as follows:

  1. Male mixed martial artists shall wear a groin protector of their own selection, of a type approved by the Commissioner.
  2. Female mixed martial artists are prohibited from wearing groin protectors.
  3. Female mixed martial artists shall wear a chest protector during competition. The chest protector shall be subject to approval of the Commissioner.

This is clearly indicative of the fact that the rules were written by men. While it may not be comparable to what a male fighter would feel, I can speak from personal experience that a good shot to the groin can be crippling to women.

Fun fact: there are over 16,000 nerve endings on the external part of the female genitalia. 8,000 of those are crammed into an area that is less than one square inch. To put that into perspective, a man’s penis has only about 4,000 nerve endings.

I often hear the argument that men have more cause for concern because they are more exposed, and I agree. But accidents happen and we have every right to be protected.

The reason even men aren’t allowed to wear groin protectors in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is because the cup could serve as a fulcrum while applying arm bars or other submissions.

But that isn’t the case in MMA. The rules already require men to wear groin protectors, and the female cup is much flatter. Female fighters should also be required to protect themselves.

And the reason I say “required” rather than “allowed” is because some women simply aren’t aware of the risks. I would say that most aren’t until they learn the hard way.

Despite the obvious risk of pain, low-blows can actually do serious and permanent damage to women. For one, there is the matter of scar tissue, which develops every time an injury occurs, permanently decreasing sensitivity in the area and discoloring the skin.

Secondly, without going into too much detail, there is the risk of damaging the Bartholin gland, which is essential to painless (and enjoyable) sexual activity.

Lastly, although rare, a forceful blow to the groin can cause Vulvodynia, which is a fancy word for chronic vulvar pain. This is permanent and can greatly affect your day to day activities, making it extremely painful to play sports or have sex. Permanently. As in, forever.

Sorry, I was wiping a tear from my eye.

Conversely, a strike to the breasts is simply painful. There are absolutely no connected health risks, beyond the possibility of popping an implant if you happen to have them.

This calls into question the reasoning behind mandatory chest protection. It may be attributable to the common misconception that a strike to the breasts can cause breast cancer, but as research has proven on several occasions, that is a myth.

It is also important to note that not all women experience the same pain when it comes to these strikes. The same hit that I would shrug off might leave my training partner gasping for air, which is why some women never wear chest protection and others swear by it.

And yet when fight night comes your choice is gone – whether you want to or not, you are wearing plastic cups in your sports bra to protect the breasts that disappeared as soon as you put it on anyways.

Bottom line is, we all need groin protection and aren’t allowed to use it. We don’t all need chest protection, but all of us are forced to wear it.

Things need to start changing.


About The Author

Quincy Mutter
Staff Writer

Quincy Mutter is a combat sports junkie and amateur mixed martial artist out of Niagara, Ontario. She fell in love with MMA while watching Demian Maia fight when she was 12 years old, and began training at 15. In addition to writing for The MMA Corner, Quincy is an administrator for the MMA Daily Facebook page and runs several of her own blogs.

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  • Reanna O’Dell

    Female MMA hobby combatant here…I completely agree with you. I hate sports bras in general, and the “shells” are added annoyance-having tried several varieties, they ALL shift. Especially when you are an A/intermediate B cup. Ever tried adjusting things with gloves? I habitually spar/train/fight bare from the waist up, and it’s a shock to the system/distracting when you suddenly find yourself squeezed and pancaked. Groin protection, that’s a no brainer.

    • jackie

      mmm from my point of view a groin hit is way more painful than a hit in the a groin protector is a thing all girls must use

      • Mel

        I’ve been hit with low blows several times in Karate and Kickboxing. I was “done” for the day on each occasion. It’s infuriating that we’re not allowed to wear it in pro MMA

        • Reanna O’Dell

          One popular argument (against bras) is that the protection is 90% “bounce control”, 10% actual strike/impact protection. This makes sense boxing, but NOT mma, at least for women…men, boxing as well (with regards to genital support). For me, getting hit while WEARING a bra hurts way worse than getting hit bare chested. Having sparred with two separate guys who say the same about rigid protection…is there a “drum” effect when taking a glancing blow for you?

    • Corinne O’Brian

      I am in complete agreement-the whole impact/sports bra requirement are a holdover from the early women’s boxing. I train topless/bare chested as well, and wear an unstructured cup in the cage/ring.

  • david

    A nice educational and articulate article and argument. I learned several things. Thanks for the good read. I hope that the MMA Commission addresses this soon.

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  • Adam Sander

    Did you even try to contact an athletic commission or veteran referee to ask why it’s prohibited before writing this article?