What to look for, when buying an BJJ / MMA rash guard

So you’re looking to buy a BJJ or MMA rash guard? Well it’s a bit of a jungle out there, so I wanted to write a quick guide. To start with, i should mention that it’s hard for me to be completely impartial, you are after all reading a blog from the producer of his own MMA / BJJ branded rash guards, (we also have some IBJFF legal belt color rash guards) and so it’s hard not to toot my own horn, as I obviously believe in my own product. But I’ll try to be impartial and impart some general wisdom.

So, first things first: You‘ll probably do fine with almost any rash guard, even the cheap ones. One of my favorite rash guards (and the one that inspired the rubberized waistband on my own rash guards), was a no-name store brand from a  California surf shop that has since gone bankrupt. I‘ve never myself tried on compression shirts from walmart or other discount stores, but from what i‘ve heard, they will serve just fine, and cost a GOOD amount less than any MMA / BJJ brand name rash guards.

So if you can get a generic rash guard at a big box retail store for less than 10$, why would you pay upwards of 70$ for a BJJ or MMA rash guard? I would argue that the answer is the same as with all other brand name clothing: To look good.

I think that there is for sure, also an element of build quality, and some rash guards do have completely unique features that you will not find in the ultra-generic ones, but as far as just a functional compression shirt to get you through training? A generic one will probably be fine. However if pure functionality was all everyone thought about, then everyone would be wearing cargo shorts and sport buzzcuts. Trends and styles exist on the mat just as it does outside of it, and this is usually the major motivator to get an MMA / BJJ branded rash guard.

So to answer the question „What to look for when buying a rash guard?“, my #1 answer would be „A design you really like“. There are however, a few things that you want to check for, to make sure that you are buying a good quality product as well.

The main things to look for in a BJJ /MMA branded rash guard

1)      Stitching. In general you want your rash guard to have flatlock/overlock stitching, preferably with 4 or 5 threads. You will most likely find this on all higher echelon rash guards (and often the lower as well), but it‘s still always nice to make sure that the stitching is of a high quality. For reference you can see the different kinds of stitching (details can vary of course) over at Husqvarnas website (http://www.husqvarnaviking.com/mediafiles/huskylock09/us/stitches/

Example of flatlock stitching on an odin IBJJF belt rash guard

2)      You want to make sure that there are no stitches in the armpit. Some rash guards have the seams meet in the middle of the armpit, which can be extremely uncomfortable, especially on a very tight fitting rash guard, as the seams can result in irritation and rashes in your armpit. It‘s usually ok with stitches around the armpit, as long as it‘s not in a friction area. Take a look at the image below for explenation, on the left is Odin’s new IBJJF brown belt rash guard, and on the right is a generic rashguard. The belt rashguard dips it’s stitching down in the armpit to avoid irritation in major friction zones, while the generic one crosses it’s stitching right in the armpit.

Armpit stitches on rash guards

3)      This is more of a personal preference, but with tight fitting material in general, i find that neck tags can be incredibly irritating, as they tend to be made out of slightly thick and abrasive material that rubs against your neck while training. I‘ve owned some great rash guards, where this small detail left me really disliking it, and putting it at the back of my rotation. It‘s a shame if such a small thing ruins your experience. I know not everyone has such strong feelings about it, but be aware that it can be a factor.

4)      Material; the most important part here is, for lack of a better word, „flimsyness“. You want to hit a right balance between a material thick enough to take some abuse, but light enough so that it won‘t leave you sweating like crazy (soft is a nice bonus as well). Also note that different types of material have different stretch, how much stretch you want in your material can be a personal preference, but i prefer it to be more stretchy rather than less.
Also note that pilling can be an issue, and i have heard from some reviewers that ours are prone to it. Personally i have not had this problem to any real extent (rash guards/compresison wear in general is prone to it though), but then again my only velcro is in my shorts, and i‘ve made a habit out of always closing the velcro enclosure when I‘m not wearing them, especially during a wash cycle. But if you train MMA (gloves and shinpads tend to have a lot of velcro), and notice that your rash guard tend to pill, you might want to find a rash guard that is extra resistant to pilling.

5)      This last bit is more self promotional than the rest, as it‘s something that not many outside of our design has. That is, some method of resisting the dreaded „roll“ of the rash guard. If you have rather large hips like me, you may have noticed that many rash guards tend to roll up, exposing your belly, when rolling. Not many rashguards have any mechanism counteracting this, but we have inserted a rubberized elastic band in the waist, which clings to your hips and stops the rash guard from rolling up. As far as i can tell, we are the only ones in the market currently doing this.
I should mention, that i have seen some surf brands, such as O´Neill, use a loop at the front of the waistline, that loops into your shorts drawstring, but i did not have much success with this system, (it still rolls up, but clings slightly to your drawstring, making it look a bit silly).

Rubberized grip at hem of rash guard

And that‘s it! Many rash guards fill many of these criteria, and i would of course recommend that you check out our designs, as i feel that they satisfy them all (although i would not classify them as overly resistant to pilling).

Let me know what you think, and if there are some other attributes that you look for in your MMA / BJJ branded rash guards!