Why Do UFC Fighters Touch Gloves At the Beginning of a Fight?

Why Do UFC Fighters Touch Gloves At the Beginning of the Fight

Watching the UFC events, you can often see UFC fighters touching gloves before or at the start of a match. You maybe wonder, why do they do this? What the glove touch represents in the UFC?

UFC fighters touch gloves at the start of a match as a sign of respect. This “professional courtesy” has always been a part of combat sports, and it marks the true sportsmanship between two athletes, which also sends a positive message about the sport.

Keep reading this article to learn more about glove touching in the UFC and many other sportsmanship gestures in MMA.

History and origins of touching gloves in MMA

The exact origins of glove touching in combat sports are not clear. There is no evidence of the exact moment or event when athletes started doing this. Most experts and historians agree this sportsmanship act comes from boxing.

This is a logical assumption as boxing is one of the oldest sports that has been around since ancient times. And back in those days, boxing was the only sport where contestants wore gloves, or at least had their hands wrapped. Wrestling was also present, but due to a lack of gloves, the contestants used to shake each other hands before the match to show respect.

In ancient or medieval times, martial arts events were barbaric slugfests without rules, and very dangerous. Though sports have changed a lot in terms of rules and safety, one thing has remained the same: respect between the athletes.

What does glove touching mean in UFC?

The glove touch is a sportsmanship gesture and a sign of respect athletes show to one another that transcends any verbal language. Or in other words, it shows that there are no hard personal feelings between the two athletes. What’s about to unfold when a match starts in terms of damage and injuries is just a part of the job.

In most cases, there is no animosity between the contestants, nor do they have a reason to hate each other. Both parties are skilled martial artists who love to compete and win. They are trying their best to rise to the top, earn money and provide for their families.

They just stand in each other’s way on their journey to becoming top-level athletes and champions, so there is often no need for any personal “hate”. Both athletes know how hard it is to spend months in the gym training hard, going through weight cuts, and how brave you have to be to put your health on the line in front of the millions of people watching. So touching gloves is a sportsmanship move and the least they can do to show respect to one another.

In most common scenarios, UFC fighters touch gloves:

  • Before the match officially starts after the referee gives them final instructions.
  • At the beginning of the match in the opening seconds
  • During the match
  • After the match

Do you have to touch gloves in UFC?

Touching gloves is not a written rule. Though fighters touch gloves in just about every match, they are not obligated to do this. It’s up to each UFC fighter to decide whether or not they are going to accept it.

UFC fighters refuse to touch gloves usually when there is a big animosity between them. Apart from the lack of respect, this also sends the message to the viewers that their rivalry is indeed “for real”.

One of the best examples is the fight between former friends that became fierce enemies, Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington. The two refused to touch gloves before their fight at UFC 272. In fact, they hate each other so much that the rivalry continued after the bout was over.

The other good example was Diaz vs. McGregor, one of the most iconic rivalries in UFC history. Both fighters refused to touch gloves before the match and had to be separated by security. However, they showed respect to one another after the match was over.

Although this is a sign of “disrespect”, seeing both fighters refusing to touch gloves adds to the drama. It gets viewers’ attention and probably elevates their heart rate because this usually means the match is going to be packed with action.

Touching gloves before the fight

Watching the UFC events, you will see fighters touching gloves two times before the match starts. The first touch comes right after the fighter’s introduction is over. The referee would ask both fighters to come to square off one last time in the center of the octagon to give them final instructions.

The referee will finish with the phrase “touch gloves if you want and go back to your corner”, which is the moment the glove touch happens.

When the clock starts ticking and the match officially starts, fighters would usually bump fists in the center once again and start to compete. They also may touch gloves at the beginning of every round, or might even do at the end of it.

Touching gloves during a fight

UFC fighters do not touch gloves just before and after the match, they also do this during an intense battle as well. Though this does not happen in every fight, fighters may touch gloves to acknowledge a specific situation.

For example, when a fighter gets knocked down and nearly gets finished but manages to recover, their opponent might go for a glove touch to acknowledge their toughness. Or, they might do it to apologize after landing an illegal strike.

In the other scenario, they do it after an exciting sequence in which both fighters have hit each other with hard blows, but neither of the two got hurt, so they touch gloves out of sheer excitement and adrenalin rushing through their veins.

Either way, it is always nice to see fighters touching gloves during the battle because it clearly shows they are having a lot of fun, and are respecting each other. Also, some fighters might refuse to do it, not because they are disrespectful, but rather see this gest as a distraction, which is understandable considering the circumstances.

Faking the glove touch

Although it does not happen that often, faking the glove touch to get an advantage is considered a lack of sportsmanship. Not just in MMA, but in combat sports in general. Yes, glove touch is not a rule and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to or if you see it as a distraction.

However, capitalizing on someone’s willingness to show you respect and honor is not morally right. It sends a bad message about you as an athlete, and these fighters are usually not liked by the fans. On the other side, faking the glove touch is not illegal, and when done right, can give you a big advantage.

When the opponent reaches to touch gloves, they are leaving themselves exposed and vulnerable to strikes. They are also relaxed and not fully focused because they don’t expect to be tricked and blasted with a full-blown shot. And this scenario has happened a couple of times throughout UFC history.

The best example was the match between two upcoming fighters, Erick Silva and Nordine Taleb at UFC 196. In the first round, Silva reached to touch gloves and Taleb “fell” for it by dropping his hands.

However, instead of the glove touch, Taleb got the right hand straight in the face. Still, he managed to keep his composure and win a dominant decision while Silva received a negative backlash from the fans.

Other Ways Fighters Show Respect

Glove touch is just one of many sportsmanship gestures UFC fighters use to show respect to their opponents.

Instead of touching gloves, they might give each other a hug before or during the match, especially if they are close friends. Next, you can also see them bow down to the opponent at the end of the match, usually to give respect to the veteran of the game.

Another great example of sportsmanship in UFC is when a fighter decides not to throw follow-up shots after knocking the opponent out. In MMA, the match does not get stopped until the referee steps in. So when a fighter gets knocked out cold, the opponent has the right to step in and land some more punches on the knocked-out fighter, which looks brutal.

If you would like to know more about KO, I wrote about it in a recent article.

Respectful fighters would, in most faces, back away immediately after seeing that the opponent is unconscious, and allow the referee to focus on helping the hurt fighter. Follow-up shots are the ones that often do the most damage, and all MMA athletes are well aware of that fact.

How to Touch Gloves in UFC 4 Game?

UFC 4 is a very realistic game where players can also perform a glove touch by using the LT trigger on Xbox One, or the L2 button on the PS4 console. Players are enabled to do this right after the referee starts the match and both fighters would move slowly toward one another to touch gloves.

Final Thoughts on UFC Glove Touch

Sportsmanship and fair play are very important in the UFC and MMA in general. Any type of sportsmanship gesture sends a positive message and helps the company portray the sport in the right way.

Even if they refuse to touch gloves at the start, it’s always nice to see the respect between the fighters after the battle. MMA is not a street fight, it is a legitimate sport that embraces strong values.

Yes, cage fighting is an intense and aggressive sport where people hurt each other for money and fame. But fighters are normal people with good manners, families, hobbies, and interests. They are professionals who know how to separate competition and personal feelings and bad emotions.

They are well aware of what it takes to be a fighter, and how much courage it takes to put your pride and health on the line in front of millions of watching and these small sportsmanship gestures are how they acknowledge that.

Images by Jamison Hiner from flickr

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