The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
Ultimate List
13  reranks 20,045 votes 3,260 voters 143,043 views more info

The Best Martial Artists in History

List Criteria: Only Martial Arts stars, MMA is fine. No boxers nor fictional characters

The best martial artists in history are some of the most successful, most famous and toughest fighters to ever compete. These tough guys are UFC champions, movie stars and icons in the fighting world. Whether you're a fan of the Chinese greats like Bruce Lee, the MMA front-runners like Chuck Liddell or anywhere in between, it's hard to argue that all of these men are highly skilled in their various disciplines.

Martial arts is one of the widest classifications for combat sports out there. Typically, martial arts describes fighting styles originating in Asia but can describe everything from activities containing strike attacks like tae kwon do, karate, kung fu ad capoeira to grappling activities like judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and even sumo wrestling. It is perhaps the wide range of disciplines that makes mastering martial arts so difficult.

Action movie fans may enjoy seeing stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li compete on the silver screen but some may not know that before these talented men were Hollywood favorites, they were leaders in the Chinese martial arts world. Bruce Lee is arguably one of the best martial artists ever and helped the sport gain popularity. In part, Lee opened the door for tough guys, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, to become some on-screen martial arts legends.

But there's much more to martial arts than what you see in movies. In modern times, the UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the largest mixed martial arts (MMA) company in the world and is home to some of the best MMA fighters to ever compete. UFC Hall of Fame members such as Randy Couture, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrocks have inspired younger fighters like Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko to become some of the toughest professional fighters ever.

Is it fair to compare Bruce Lee to Anderson Silva without having the two men compete head to head? Maybe not but that's where you come in, folks. Tell us which fighters you think are the best in history by voting for your favorite, adding those not listed and re-ranking this list your way below!
List is ranked by a combination of each item's votes & positioning in reranks
  • 13 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
    • Region
  • See list ranked by
</> Rerank List
Score
  1. 1
    Up 1809
    Down 191

    the people's #1 & most listed 1940

    open report item
  2. 2
    Up 841
    Down 345

    1963

    open report item
  3. 3
    Up 852
    Down 313

    1954

    open report item
  4. 4
    Up 805
    Down 162

    1893

    open report item
  5. 5
    Up 547
    Down 391

    1940

    open report item
  6. 6
    Up 372
    Down 295

    1976

    open report item
  7. 7
    Up 522
    Down 186

    ranked low on reranks

    open report item
  8. 8
    Up 327
    Down 319

    1960

    open report item
  9. 9
    Up 389
    Down 294

    1975

    open report item
  10. 10
    Up 267
    Down 200

    1967

    open report item
  11. 11
    Up 270
    Down 217

    1966

    open report item
  12. 12
    Up 399
    Down 163

    ranked low on reranks

    open report item
  13. 13
    Up 296
    Down 311

    1952

    open report item
  14. 14
    Up 265
    Down 196

    1981

    open report item
  15. 15
    Up 200
    Down 138

    open report item
  16. 16
    Up 273
    Down 168

    1942

    open report item
  17. 17
    Up 144
    Down 151

    1963

    open report item
  18. 18
    Up 138
    Down 103

    1913

    open report item
  19. 19
    Up 151
    Down 114

    open report item
  20. 20
    Up 143
    Down 175

    1969

    open report item
  21. 21
    Up 117
    Down 150

    1978

    open report item
  22. 22
    Up 173
    Down 140

    Jason Statham

    open report item
  23. 23
    Up 140
    Down 147

    1965

    open report item
  24. 24
    Up 135
    Down 143

    1974

    open report item
  25. 25
    Up 131
    Down 139

    1978

    open report item
  26. 26
    Up 99
    Down 159

    1976

    open report item
  27. 27
    Up 81
    Down 136

    1973

    open report item
  28. 28
    Up 79
    Down 102

    1982

    open report item
  29. 29
    Up 157
    Down 46

    ranked low on reranks 1883

    open report item
  30. 30
    Up 72
    Down 118

    1977

    open report item
  31. 31
    Up 69
    Down 114

    1976

    open report item
  32. 32
    Up 89
    Down 89

    1972

    open report item
  33. 33
    Up 83
    Down 114

    open report item
  34. 34
    Up 26
    Down 30

    new! 1966

    open report item
  35. 35
    Up 59
    Down 121

    1964

    open report item
  36. 36
    Up 49
    Down 115

    1979

    open report item
  37. 37
    Up 124
    Down 53

    ranked low on reranks Huo Yuanjia

    open report item
  38. 38
    Up 19
    Down 66

    1964

    open report item
  39. 39
    Up 30
    Down 89

    1966

    open report item
  40. 40
    Up 57
    Down 97

    often listed & ranked high on reranks 1970

    open report item
  41. 41
    Up 101
    Down 52

    1860

    open report item
  42. 42
    Up 37
    Down 62

    open report item
  43. 43
    Up 92
    Down 53

    Masutatsu Oyama

    open report item
  44. 44
    Up 84
    Down 43

    ranked low on reranks 1799

    open report item
  45. 45
    Up 45
    Down 90

    often listed & ranked high on reranks 1983

    open report item
  46. 46
    Up 79
    Down 45

    Gichin Funakoshi

    open report item
  47. 47
    Up 31
    Down 68

    often listed 1983

    open report item
  48. 48
    Up 26
    Down 63

    1958

    open report item
  49. 49
    Up 58
    Down 26

    ranked low on reranks 1946

    open report item
  50. 50
    Up 65
    Down 37

    1984

    open report item
  51. 64 +

    Something missing? Add it!

Is this list missing something?
RANKERS WHO ADDED ITEMS

items 1 - 50 of 63

think you can do better?

Rerank This List
why?

got a blog or website?

embed this list
why?

viewers of this list also saw

more popular lists