The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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12  reranks 16,745 votes 2,686 voters 98,944 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
  • 12 ReRanks
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Score
  1. 1
    Up 1454
    Down 169

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Bruce Lee

    1940 More
    100
  2. 2
    Up 681
    Down 296
    1963 More
    88
  3. 3
    Up 691
    Down 268
    1954 More
    79
  4. 4
    Up 650
    Down 141
    1893 More
    74
  5. 5
    Up 433
    Down 339
    1940 More
    68
  6. 6
    Up 416
    Down 167
    66
  7. 7
    Up 339
    Down 250
    1976 More
    64
  8. 8
    Up 261
    Down 274
    1960 More
    62
  9. 9
    Up 338
    Down 245
    1975 More
    59
  10. 10
    Up 225
    Down 180
    1966 More
    56
  11. 11
    Up 318
    Down 142
    54
  12. 12
    Up 227
    Down 166
    1981 More
    52
  13. 13
    Up 228
    Down 261
    1952 More
    51
  14. 14
    Up 197
    Down 160
    1967 More
    50
  15. 15
    Up 204
    Down 124
    1942 More
    50
  16. 16
    Up 157
    Down 116
    49
  17. 17
    Up 115
    Down 126
    1963 More
    45
  18. 18
    Up 131
    Down 101
    45
  19. 19
    Up 110
    Down 87
    1913 More
    45
  20. 20
    Up 122
    Down 148
    1969 More
    45
  21. 21
    Up 99
    Down 126
    1978 More
    44
  22. 22
    Up 124
    Down 127
    1965 More
    43
  23. 23
    Up 126
    Down 121
    1974 More
    43
  24. 24
    Up 121
    Down 110

    Jason Statham

    42
  25. 25
    Up 85
    Down 136
    1976 More
    41
  26. 26
    Up 110
    Down 120
    1978 More
    41
  27. 27
    Up 68
    Down 116
    1973 More
    40
  28. 28
    Up 64
    Down 95
    1976 More
    37
  29. 29
    Up 64
    Down 97
    1977 More
    37
  30. 30
    Up 123
    Down 40

    ranked low on reranks
    Morihei Ueshiba

    1883 More
    36
  31. 31
    Up 70
    Down 81
    1982 More
    35
  32. 32
    Up 70
    Down 78
    1972 More
    35
  33. 33
    Up 76
    Down 100
    34
  34. 34
    Up 43
    Down 98
    1979 More
    33
  35. 35
    Up 102
    Down 49

    ranked low on reranks
    Huo Yuanjia

    33
  36. 36
    Up 44
    Down 105
    1964 More
    33
  37. 37
    Up 53
    Down 84
    1970 More
    32
  38. 38
    Up 27
    Down 76

    often listed
    Pat Miletich

    1966 More
    32
  39. 39
    Up 33
    Down 53

    often listed
    Andi Hug

    32
  40. 40
    Up 83
    Down 47
    1860 More
    31
  41. 41
    Up 83
    Down 47

    Masutatsu Oyama

    31
  42. 42
    Up 73
    Down 39
    1799 More
    31
  43. 43
    Up 44
    Down 82

    often listed
    Benson Henderson

    1983 More
    31
  44. 44
    Up 68
    Down 41

    Gichin Funakoshi

    30
  45. 45
    Up 28
    Down 58

    often listed
    Shinya Aoki

    1983 More
    30
  46. 46
    Up 36
    Down 78

    often listed
    Quinton Jackson

    1978 More
    30
  47. 47
    Up 56
    Down 32
    1984 More
    29
  48. 48
    Up 54
    Down 36
    29
  49. 49
    Up 52
    Down 35
    28
  50. 50
    Up 41
    Down 21
    1946 More
    28
  51. 65 +

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