The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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12  reranks 16,673 votes 2,678 voters 98,509 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. 42
    Up 73
    Down 38
    1799 More
    31
  2. 40
    Up 82
    Down 47
    1860 More
    31
  3. 30
    Up 122
    Down 40

    ranked low on reranks
    Morihei Ueshiba

    1883 More
    36
  4. 4
    Up 647
    Down 141
    1893 More
    74
  5. 19
    Up 110
    Down 87
    1913 More
    45
  6. 56
    Up 38
    Down 36
    1931 More
    26
  7. 54
    Up 33
    Down 24
    1931 More
    27
  8. 1
    Up 1450
    Down 169

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Bruce Lee

    1940 More
    100
  9. 5
    Up 431
    Down 337
    1940 More
    68
  10. 15
    Up 201
    Down 124
    1942 More
    49
  11. 49
    Up 41
    Down 20
    1946 More
    29
  12. 13
    Up 227
    Down 260
    1952 More
    51
  13. 3
    Up 687
    Down 267
    1954 More
    79
  14. 51
    Up 19
    Down 58
    1958 More
    28
  15. 8
    Up 259
    Down 272
    1960 More
    62
  16. 2
    Up 677
    Down 296
    1963 More
    88
  17. 17
    Up 115
    Down 126
    1963 More
    46
  18. 36
    Up 44
    Down 104
    1964 More
    33
  19. 52
    Up 15
    Down 52
    1964 More
    28
  20. 23
    Up 122
    Down 127
    1965 More
    43
  21. 38
    Up 27
    Down 75

    often listed
    Pat Miletich

    1966 More
    32
  22. 10
    Up 224
    Down 179
    1966 More
    56
  23. 14
    Up 195
    Down 160
    1967 More
    50
  24. 20
    Up 122
    Down 148
    1969 More
    45
  25. 37
    Up 53
    Down 83
    1970 More
    33
  26. 32
    Up 70
    Down 77
    1972 More
    35
  27. 27
    Up 68
    Down 115
    1973 More
    40
  28. 63
    Up 16
    Down 116

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Kimbo Slice

    1974 More
    21
  29. 22
    Up 126
    Down 120
    1974 More
    43
  30. 9
    Up 337
    Down 244
    1975 More
    59
  31. 55
    Up 20
    Down 72
    1975 More
    26
  32. 28
    Up 64
    Down 94
    1976 More
    37
  33. 7
    Up 339
    Down 249
    1976 More
    64
  34. 26
    Up 85
    Down 135
    1976 More
    41
  35. 29
    Up 64
    Down 96
    1977 More
    37
  36. 21
    Up 99
    Down 126
    1978 More
    44
  37. 46
    Up 36
    Down 77

    often listed
    Quinton Jackson

    1978 More
    30
  38. 25
    Up 110
    Down 119
    1978 More
    41
  39. 35
    Up 43
    Down 98
    1979 More
    33
  40. 57
    Up 12
    Down 55
    1980 More
    26
  41. 12
    Up 227
    Down 165
    1981 More
    52
  42. 31
    Up 70
    Down 81
    1982 More
    35
  43. 45
    Up 28
    Down 57

    often listed
    Shinya Aoki

    1983 More
    30
  44. 43
    Up 44
    Down 81

    often listed
    Benson Henderson

    1983 More
    31
  45. 47
    Up 55
    Down 32
    1984 More
    29
  46. 61
    Up 10
    Down 61

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Dennis Siver

    25
  47. 33
    Up 76
    Down 99
    35
  48. 39
    Up 33
    Down 52

    often listed
    Andi Hug

    32
  49. 53
    Up 14
    Down 49
    28
  50. 16
    Up 157
    Down 116
    49
  51. 65 +

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