martial arts The Best Martial Artists in History  

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List Rules 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 some of the greatest fighters like 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 ordered by

1
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Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bruce Lee Died at 33 (1940-1973)

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2
+ - 3,164 1,294
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jackie Chan age 61

3
+ - 3,173 1,161
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jet Li age 52

4
+ - 3,039 591
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yip Man Died at 79 (1893-1972)

5
+ - 1,995 1,335
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Norris age 75

6
+ - 2,344 624
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

7
+ - 1,194 1,005
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

8
+ - 924 736
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

9
+ - 1,400 797
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Muhammad Ali age 75

10
+ - 1,309 1,095
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

11
+ - 1,589 555
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

12
+ - 850 635
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Royce Gracie age 51

13
+ - 1,232 695
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

14
+ - 838 780
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

15
+ - 1,116 642
Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham

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16
+ - 754 254
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Morihei Ueshiba Died at 86 (1883-1969)

17
+ - 881 482
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

18
+ - 1,139 909
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Steven Seagal age 63

19
+ - 570 233
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia

20
+ - 399 387
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ronda Rousey age 28

21
+ - 481 334
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

22
+ - 280 149
Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

23
+ - 402 195
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama

24
+ - 445 331
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Hélio Gracie Died at 96 (1913-2009)

25
+ - 358 206
Jigoro Kano is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jigoro Kano Died at 78 (1860-1938)

26
+ - 303 175
Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

27
+ - 290 149
Yang Lu-ch'an is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yang Lu-ch'an Died at 73 (1799-1872)

28
+ - 436 456
Randy Couture is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Randy Couture age 54

29
+ - 526 375
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Mike Tyson age 51

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30
+ - 381 361
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bas Rutten age 50

31
+ - 439 482
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Liddell age 48

32
+ - 310 158
Bolo Yeung is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bolo Yeung age 69

33
+ - 41 210
Chris Leben is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chris Leben age 37

34
+ - 232 151
Chojun Miyagi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

35
+ - 273 175
Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi

36
+ - 215 125
Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

37
+ - 243 165
Choi Hong Hi is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

38
+ - 357 336
Lyoto Machida is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Lyoto Machida age 39

39
+ - 135 324
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

40
+ - 100 110
Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Joe Lewis age 28

41
+ - 288 363
B.J. Penn is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
B.J. Penn age 37

42
+ - 257 230
Cung Le is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Cung Le age 45

43
+ - 157 155
Don the Dragon Wilson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Don the Dragon Wilson

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44
+ - 262 343
Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

45
+ - 216 362
Wanderlei Silva is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

46
+ - 209 287
Jose Aldo is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

47
+ - 59 40
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)

48
+ - 205 297
Cain Velasquez is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

49
+ - 213 323
Matt Hughes is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Matt Hughes age 44

50
+ - 197 280
Ken Shamrock is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ken Shamrock age 53