The reasoning behind the 12 to 6 elbow rule is absurd. They banned it because it's a popular way to break bricks in karate and TKD demos. However, you can break bricks just as easily with round elbow strikes, forearm strikes, and palm strikes- all completely legal in MMA. 12-6 elbows are legal in Muay Thai, and have been frequently used for ages. If we're going to make a rule for actual combat, it makes more sense to make that rule based on observation of combat rather than brick breaking.
I tend to agree with Joe Rogan's reasoning for going back to no gloves in mixed martial arts. If you don't think it's a big deal, I can show you how to tape hands to the point that they become unbreakable cudgels by following the guidelines of any major athletic commission. Take those rules away, and I can show you how to load wraps into lethal weapons that can shatter a skull.
The only real argument for tape and gloves in MMA is protecting the hands of the fighters while punching recklessly. We could make that exact same argument about kicking with the foot- except that no good fighter kicks recklessly with their feet. In MMA, all the precision kicks where the ball of the foot, the heel, or the instep are the point of impact are used sparingly and only when there's an clear opening for them, otherwise smart fighters will use their much stronger shins for general roundhouse power kicking. Why don't we use that same logic with hand/arm strikes? Simple- because we've been sociologically conditioned to expect pugilism by about 100 years of padded boxing gloves.
Bareknuckle boxing was the norm until 1892, when fighters started wearing tight leather gloves with no padding to prevent the skin on their hands from bleeding. It wasn't until after 1903 that padded boxing gloves became the standard. Interestingly, the introduction of padded gloves in boxing didn't come from an interest in fighter's safety, it stemmed from an interest in entertaining the crowds and selling more tickets- because the padding protecting boxer's hands meant they would throw more punches, and punch more recklessly without worrying about their opponent blocking or headbutting his oncoming fist with the forehead to injure it. That's exactly what the casual fans wanted to see: lots of big punches and swinging for the fences. In other words, gloves have changed combat sports to meet the demands of the lowest common denominator.
If you've ever come to my MMA class, you've noticed that we wear gloves when we spar. And here's why: #1 It's currently part of the sport, and you absolutely need to train the way you plan to perform. #2 To prevent superficial damage (eg: cuts, abrasions, facial lacerations) during light sparring.
Here's why it's a different thing to use gloves for safety in light contact sparring vs as a weapon in full contact fighting: Light contact sparring is all about control- pulling the punches, tagging your partner rather than trying to smash an opponent. A light, controlled punch with a padded glove gives an experienced puncher immediate sensory feedback about when to withdraw the punch as he feels the foam padding on the glove begin to compress against a training partners head or body. If the position of the strike is correct, both sparring partners understand that the tag to the jaw, etc represents a potentially damaging strike were they to follow through with full force. If used like that, gloves can become a valuable teaching tool to allow fighters to log the hundreds and thousands of hours of sparring required to excel in combat sports with minimum injuries- whereas, repeatedly tagging your sparring partner with bare knuckles will still leave marks, cut the skin, and yes, eventually injure the hands of the puncher too.
Yes, fighters should do some full contact sparring once in a while- extra emphasis on "some", and "once in a while". But there's no way to log hundreds of hours of full contact striking without suffering serious brain injuries- even with the use of big gloves and headgear. The protection that stuff offers to the fighter getting punched is largely aesthetic to prevent cuts, bruising, and abrasions- it does not stop blunt force impact trauma, and in the case of headgear makes the head a larger target that's easier to hit.
A lot of people have told me that every time they wear headgear, that their sparring partners usually hit a lot harder than they do when they spar without headgear. And that's stupid, because it's just amplifying the problem. Again, headgear doesn't slow down your opponent's punches. That fist travelling at 30 miles per hour is still traveling at 30 miles per hour when it collides with an inch of foam covering the side of your head. Your brain still jiggles around the same way it would without that foam in place. The only difference? The punch doesn't leave as much of a mark on the outside.
Now, headgear can also be a valuable training tool IF that foam is used as a metric for when to pull your punches in light sparring, rather than pretending it's a shield for your training partner's brain. So I always cringe a little at amateur fights that require fighters to wear headgear ceremonially in full contact contests.
I get a lot of new students asking about what equipment they need to buy when they sign up for classes, and a lot of them are shocked when my answer is simply this: a mouthguard and groin protection. "But what about five different kinds of gloves, and headgear, and shinguards, and, and, and..." Because they've already been sold on the idea of sparring in a full suit of armor, or the idea of having to buy an expensive equipment package in order to join a gym) You've got to learn how to use that stuff intelligently before it does you more good than harm.
For a fighter who doesn't know any better, these illusions of safety are akin to Dumbo's magic feather that made him believe he could fly, when the whole time he could have soared through the sky without it.