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Do MMA Mats Need An Underlayment?

By Brett Hart Created: July, 2022 - Modified: October, 2023

We sometimes get the question about whether MMA mats need an underlayment. Well… the short answer is “That depends.”

All of Greatmats’ MMA mats are designed so that they can be used without special underlayments. With that being said, there are times when an underlayment can be helpful - especially when it comes to fall protection.

Should You Use An Underlayment With MMA Mats?

Our 1.5 inch thick martial arts puzzle mats do carry a 4 foot critical fall height rating for protection against serious head injuries. They come in the professional 1x1 meter size and the home 2x2 foot option. The rest of the MMA mats have not been tested for this.

Grappling MMA Mats 1-1/2 Inch x 1x1 Meter
Grappling MMA Mats 1x1 meter

Home BJJ Mats 1-1/2 Inch x 2x2 Ft.
Home BJJ Mats 2x2ft

Even with that 4 foot fall height rating, this does not mean it will be comfortable to be thrown onto the mats aggressively - or practice things like sky falls. The mats are still quite firm - a safety feature to allow for quick movements and prevent fighters from sinking into the mats and getting stuck when trying to move.

If you are looking for a mat setup that will allow for more training time on throws on falls, there are a few underlayment options that can increase the fall safety by absorbing more impact and also rebounding after impact.

Foam Roll Underlayment for MMA Mats

Underlayment Options For MMA Mats

  1. Foam Rolls
  2. Commercial Sprung Floors
  3. Homemade Spring Floors

No matter which option you choose, you’ll want to make sure that it will remain completely level underneath your mats. Soft or uneven spots in the subfloor or underlayment can create serious hazards when training in mixed martial arts. It is important to note that while these underlayments do provide more “give” to the floor, they have not been tested for fall heights.

Foam Rolls

Foam Underlayment Rolls

Greatmats offer two options of foam roll underlayments that will work for MMA training. Both options are six feet wide and available in custom-cut lengths and made of cross-linked polyethylene foam - a material well known for its cushion and rebound. The difference between the two options is the thickness. One foam underlayment option is 1.25 inches thick, and the other is 2 inches thick. As a general rule, the thicker the foam the more protection it provides.

These foam rolls are softer than the MMA puzzle mats, but will provide a nice uniform subsurface for which the mats to lay on. This means, no sinking or separating of the puzzle mats at the interlocks - something critically important to prevent hazardous edges from surfacing in the middle of your training space.

If cost is a consideration - especially for a large installation, these will be simple and affordable options as you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $5-$7 per square foot.

Commercial Sprung Floors

sprung floor panel

Commercial sprung floors are generally designed for dancers and will be significantly more expensive. This type of underlayment will require some light construction work as you combine 3.5x3.5 panels that consist of 1 inch thick closed cell foam pads topped by Medium Density Fiberboard. When all is said and done, the sprung subfloor is 1.5-2 inches thick.

While these are perfect for dance, they have not been tested for martial arts use, so there is some risk involved with trying this method.

Greatmats offers these subfloor panels as fully assembled panels and as customizable DIY systems. The subfloors use a WaveLock system that eliminates hard and soft spots in the floor. Plan on these options costing anywhere between $12-$24 per square foot.

Homemade Sprung Floors

If you like the idea of a sprung floor, but can’t bring yourself around to paying the price for a commercial sprung floor, many mixed martial artists have been known to create their own sprung underlayment using cross-linked PE foam blocks, pool noodles, or even used tires and covering them with plywood. You can find video tutorials all over the internet that show you how various people have built these floors. While we cannot vouch for any of these DIY systems, if you’re the adventurous do-it-yourself type, they may be worth checking out.

Underlayment Alternative

If your biggest reason for wanting an MMA floor underlayment is protection against throws, falls and takedowns, there is always the option of using a landing mat or crash mat for these types of activities. They can be thrown down right overtop of your existing mat system. You’ll just need to be sure you know where people will land!

Again, none of these systems guarantee you won’t get injured and there are risks and rewards to each of them. So the most important thing to remember is to practice smart and use high quality MMA mats like those sold at Greatmats. Greatmats has been offering professional quality martial arts mats for roughly 2 decades and its MMA customers have enjoyed using everything from puzzle mats to roll out mats and even folding gym mats to train on.