Just like football, baseball, and basketball, the sport of MMA is a combat sport and has it's own specific equipment for effectiveness and safety.

The main purpose of MMA gear and equipment is to provide safety for the fighter who is training. This article will cover both the essential MMA equipment as well as the optional MMA equipment you need to get before you start your training.
Essential MMA Equipment

MMA Training gloves: There is a difference between MMA fighting gloves and training gloves. Training gloves have more protection and foam to protect the knuckles and wrists.

Mouthpiece: No fighter should ever get into the ring or octagon without a mouthpiece. This piece of equipment should be required for any type of contact.

Groin Protection: This is very important for the men who are getting into the ring or octagon. You can pickup this up your local sports store.

MMA Headgear: The head gear for Mixed Martial Arts is different than the headgear for sparring head gear for Taekwondo. So, make sure you purchase headgear specifically made for mixed martial arts.
MMA Fighting Gloves:

Most MMA organization typically require between 4oz. and 6oz. MMA gloves.

Handwraps: Most fighters don't realize the importance of handwraps. However, in order to stay away from hand and wrist injuries handwraps are an essential piece of equipment.

MMA Shorts: These shorts are made specifically for Mixed Martial Arts. The higher quality shorts have extra grip in the groin and inside leg area in order to cinch in those submissions and arm bars.

Rash guard or MMA Shirt: Rash guards style shirts are better for training since they keep the sweat away from the skin of the fighter, however if you can't get a rash guard just get a standard MMA shirt. These are made to manage the sweat you will produce while training unlike a typical shirt made of cotton.
Optional MMA Equipment

Shin Guards: These help to protect your shins and upper foot area while also protecting the person you are sparring with.

Muay Thai Pads: These are fantastic for training in order to increase your skills in tracking and pinpoint accuracy. However, the down side of these pads is that you need a partner to hold them.
You can get this gear online or at your local MMA store if you have one. It is best to buy the higher quality equipment at first so that you don't have to continue purchasing them again and again.

Author's Bio: 

Travis S. Lutter is an American mixed martial artist who won the The Ultimate Fighter 4 reality show. His UFC record, not including his exhibition wins on The Ultimate Fighter 4, is 2–4. He is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Carlos Machado. http://teamlutternews.com