A brief history of the UFC gloves from Art Jimmerson to UFC 302

The new UFC gloves will be in effect at UFC 302. See how they evolved to what we see now.

This article is a part of a new series by FanSided MMA honoring milestones and memories from the past. Watch for a new flashback feature every Thursday.

UFC 302 takes place in Newark, New Jersey on June 1 and is headlined by lightweight champion Islam Makhachev defending his belt against former interim champion, Dustin Poirier. With a victory, Makhachev will have the longest win streak in the history of the promotion's lightweight division. While that history is not a guarantee, history will be made at UFC 302. While it might not be apparent to the casual fan, the UFC will debut their newly designed gloves.

For fans new to the UFC, gloves might just seem like a part of the uniform, like a football player's helmet. However, much like the football helmet, they were not always a part of an athlete's protective gear. At UFC 1 only one fighter wore a glove. That is not a typo. The late Art Jimmerson decided that in his first and only trip in to the Octagon he would wear a single boxing glove.

A professional boxer by trade, Jimmerson wanted protection for his jab hand, but also wanted a free hand to attempt to grapple. This strategy was about as effective as one would expect, with Royce Gracie taking Jimmerson down and submitting him in under three minutes. Jimmerson had a good humor about it and would often show up to media events wearing a single boxing glove.

The next man to attempt to wear gloves in to the Octagon was Felix Mitchell. At UFC 3 he wore fingerless gloves closely resembling modern mixed martial arts gloves. He made it all the way to the cage before referee "Big" John McCarthy told him he would not be allowed to wear them during the fight. The lack of gloves were the least of Mitchell's worries as he was forced to submit to a Ken Shamrock rear naked choke less than five minutes in to their fight.

At UFC 4, Melton Bowen was the first man to wear gloves (plural) in to the cage. Steve Jennum submitted him five minutes later via armlock. It would be two more UFC events before anybody wearing gloves would win a fight.

UFC 6 marked the debut of David "Tank" Abbott. An experienced street fighter, Abbott knew the damage that could be done to one's hands from smashing them in to another person's head. As such, he made a point to ask if he could wear gloves at the pre-event fighters' meeting. The more traditional martial artists openly laughed at the request. Abbott would have the last laugh as he brutalized his first two opponents and emerged with perfectly healthy hands.

A brief timeline of the UFC gloves

More fighters started wearing gloves inside the Octagon, but they would not be mandated for another two years. UFC 14 was the first card in the promotion that required combatants to wear the fingerless mixed martial arts gloves that we know today. This was probably a good thing as the event also marked the UFC debut of "The Smashing Machine" Mark Kerr.

Other than the addition of the UFC logo and some minor tweaks, the gloves would remain largely unchanged for more than two decades. During the lead up to UFC 300 it was leaked that the UFC would make a huge announcement the day before the biggest card in the promotion's history. Would the UFC finally introduce a 165 pound weight class, was Ronda Rousey making her return to the Octagon? Speculation was running wild. In a move very few saw coming, the UFC announced that they were making a huge overhaul to their gloves.

The gloves, designed by Dyaco have a slew of new features. The most obvious is the introduction of colored gloves: gold for championship bouts, sky blue for Dana White's Contender Series, black for non-championship and The Ultimate Fighter, and red for Road to UFC bouts. The improvements are not just visual.

The gloves have fewer seams, intended to reduce the number of cuts that occur as a result of the exposed seams on the older gloves. The overall weight of the gloves has also been reduced by roughly one to one and a half ounces. Possibly the most important improvement is the additional flexibility in the fingers of the gloves. Fighters often complained that the old gloves forced the hand open, leading to more eye pokes.

The most unique addition is that of an NFC chip to the gloves. This will be used to authenticate fighter worn gloves that are sold as memorabilia. Collectors will be able to identify who wore the gloves they purchased and for which bout.

Though officially debuting at UFC 302, the new gloves were secretly tested on season seven of Dana White's Contender Series. With the UFC going to such lengths to thoroughly test their equipment before formally introducing it to the promotion, it's hard to fathom that fighters were once able to bring their own gloves and were told on the night of the fight, sometimes cage side, whether they were allowed to wear them or not. From Jimmerson wearing one boxing glove at UFC 1 to Makhachev and Poirier sporting the redesigned gold gloves for the first time, gloves in the UFC have come a long way.


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