For anyone practicing the arts in MMA, there are a tremendous number of gear and equipment options out there. This is a good thing, of course, as the quality of equipment available for those fighting at every level has only increased over the years. But it has its drawbacks too - namely, shopping becomes exceptionally daunting. Once the basics of comfort and usability are met, what distinguishes one pair of shorts from another?
With this in mind, newer MMA gear company LUTA Sportswear caught my eye. That's because LUTA does have something that distinguishes them from the pack, and it's not what you might expect. With a respectful eye towards the history of MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, LUTA has incorporated into its mission the desire to bring much needed resources to the impoverished favelas of Rio de Janeiro. And they do it by putting their money where their mouth is. Here's LUTA founder Luke Dowdney on the company's mission:
I founded LUTA for three reasons. Having founded Fight for Peace, I also felt there was a real need for advanced, high-performance sportswear with a fight heritage, designed for fighters and anyone else serious about getting fit. I also wanted to pay homage to the positive energy in the favelas and the real strength I'd witnessed while training so many young champions since 2000. Finally, I wanted to support those champions and others like them around the world. That is why half of our profits go to Fight for Peace, a non-profit organisation supporting young people in communities affected by gun crime and violence.
That last part is key and worth repeating - half of LUTA's profits are donated to help the community. For any MMA fan with a socially conscious mind, this should be a big point in LUTA's favor.
Still, while that kind of commitment is highly laudable, it doesn't address the most important question for the consumer - is this gear any good? To answer that question, I checked out a number of rash guards and shorts from LUTA.
The answer? A definitive yes - LUTA's gear is well worth your money.
When it comes to shorts, shirts, rash guards, etc. I generally evaluate products based on one primary criteria - do I ever have to think about my gear while in training? If I don't, then it's working. Because the uncomfortable fit of your shirt is the last thing you want to be focusing on while on the mat. And LUTA passes that test with flying colors.
Up first for me was the LUTA line of rash guards - the MMA Laser-Tech Rash Guard, MMA Performance Rash Guard, and MMA Rash Guard & Base Layer. All worked perfectly. They fit well, allowed my body to breath sufficiently, and included nothing in the interior that caused irritation while rolling. This last point is key, as many rash guards have a bit of interior seam that can create great discomfort over time. In the LUTA line, all were comfortable and felt like little more than a second skin while still protecting me from mat burn.
That discomfort is totally absent from LUTA's product. If there is any hesitation I have, it's that the White Laser-Tech Rash Guard is rather unforgiving in showing your appearance. I'm not overweight, but could lose a pound or 5, and the white fabric here emphasized every one of those extra pounds. If you're in my boat, stick with either of the black options which are just as good and a bit more forgiving.
I also tried out the Combat Pro Shorts - Black. These had the same pluses as the rash guards - lightweight, easy fit, breath-ability, comfort. They also have a nice double layer cover over the Velcro fly. Other shorts I have lack this, resulting in the velcro sometimes rubbing against your lower abdomen as you train - not pleasant. Nice to see LUTA add this small detail to deal with this issue. I used these for no-gi jiu jitsu and had no complaints whatsoever - again, I never once thought about them while training, which is just what I want. When I used them in Muay Thai, the lack of a side cut made high kicks a bit awkward. Overall, I would recommend these enthusiastically for grappling, less so if your primary focus is striking with kicks.
Finally, an important note on sizing. Often, MMA gear runs small and you are encouraged to buy gear a size up from your normal attire. That's not the case with LUTA, as their sizes are comparable to typical clothing size - order what you would order for any other pair of shorts or shirt.
Ultimately, LUTA gets an enthusiastic recommendation from me. In the sea of combat sports gear, LUTA distinguishes themselves from the pack not only by providing a high quality product, but also by selling something that truly makes a difference. Their commitment to quality and their commitment to the community make them a company worth your support.
UPDATE: I previously wrote that LUTA was based in the UK, but they have now added a US location in New York, so you can get domestic pricing and shipping. The NY based branch continues LUTA's socially responsible mission by donating half of profits to "Life Changing Project" - a program that gives funding to 4 NYC gyms committed to helping youth in high-crime, low-income areas. Check the US shop out online at www.luta.us and read more about their NYC program here.
This gear was provided to me at no charge for review purposes. This does not impact my views.