The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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The Best Martial Artists in History

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

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  Name
Score
  1. 40
    Up 56
    Down 31
    1799 More
    35
  2. 39
    Up 64
    Down 38
    1860 More
    35
  3. 32
    Up 90
    Down 29

    ranked low on reranks
    Morihei Ueshiba

    1883 More
    40
  4. 4
    Up 490
    Down 108

    ranked low on reranks
    Yip Man

    1893 More
    80
  5. 16
    Up 81
    Down 65

    ranked high on reranks
    Hélio Gracie

    1913 More
    55
  6. 52
    Up 35
    Down 35
    1931 More
    31
  7. 51
    Up 28
    Down 23
    1931 More
    31
  8. 1
    Up 1108
    Down 128

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Bruce Lee

    1940 More
    100
  9. 6
    Up 326
    Down 272

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Chuck Norris

    1940 More
    71
  10. 12
    Up 125
    Down 76
    1942 More
    59
  11. 50
    Up 23
    Down 13
    1946 More
    32
  12. 14
    Up 170
    Down 203

    often listed &controversial
    Steven Seagal

    1952 More
    56
  13. 3
    Up 516
    Down 208
    1954 More
    83
  14. 58
    Up 18
    Down 56

    often listed
    Dan Severn

    1958 More
    28
  15. 9
    Up 194
    Down 210

    often listed &controversial
    Jean-Claude Van Damme

    1960 More
    65
  16. 2
    Up 511
    Down 230

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Jet Li

    1963 More
    88
  17. 21
    Up 85
    Down 101
    1963 More
    50
  18. 38
    Up 38
    Down 86

    often listed &controversial
    Ken Shamrock

    1964 More
    35
  19. 54
    Up 15
    Down 50

    often listed
    Mark Coleman

    1964 More
    29
  20. 19
    Up 98
    Down 105
    1965 More
    52
  21. 44
    Up 20
    Down 62

    often listed
    Pat Miletich

    1966 More
    34
  22. 11
    Up 176
    Down 146

    often listed
    Royce Gracie

    1966 More
    61
  23. 15
    Up 146
    Down 128

    controversial
    Michael Jai White

    1967 More
    56
  24. 22
    Up 99
    Down 123
    1969 More
    50
  25. 33
    Up 43
    Down 63

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Dan Henderson

    1970 More
    39
  26. 34
    Up 54
    Down 67

    ranked low on reranks
    Cung Le

    1972 More
    38
  27. 27
    Up 54
    Down 95

    often listed &controversial
    Matt Hughes

    1973 More
    43
  28. 68
    Up 12
    Down 108

    controversial
    Kimbo Slice

    1974 More
    18
  29. 20
    Up 99
    Down 96
    1974 More
    51
  30. 8
    Up 270
    Down 197
    1975 More
    65
  31. 64
    Up 20
    Down 67
    1975 More
    26
  32. 30
    Up 55
    Down 74
    1976 More
    42
  33. 7
    Up 278
    Down 193
    1976 More
    71
  34. 25
    Up 72
    Down 111

    often listed &controversial
    Wanderlei Silva

    1976 More
    47
  35. 63
    Up 17
    Down 34

    about to drop off
    Floyd Mayweather Jr.

    1977 More
    27
  36. 31
    Up 49
    Down 77

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Vitor Belfort

    1977 More
    41
  37. 23
    Up 80
    Down 105

    controversial
    B.J. Penn

    1978 More
    49
  38. 45
    Up 31
    Down 62

    often listed
    Quinton Jackson

    1978 More
    33
  39. 24
    Up 87
    Down 98
    1978 More
    49
  40. 35
    Up 37
    Down 75

    often listed
    Frank Mir

    1979 More
    37
  41. 65
    Up 10
    Down 51
    1980 More
    26
  42. 13
    Up 175
    Down 130
    1981 More
    59
  43. 28
    Up 54
    Down 62
    1982 More
    43
  44. 49
    Up 23
    Down 47

    often listed
    Shinya Aoki

    1983 More
    32
  45. 42
    Up 36
    Down 67

    ranked high on reranks
    Benson Henderson

    1983 More
    34
  46. 46
    Up 39
    Down 24
    1984 More
    33
  47. 67
    Up 8
    Down 59
    22
  48. 29
    Up 62
    Down 81
    43
  49. 41
    Up 24
    Down 40
    35
  50. 60
    Up 11
    Down 45

    often listed
    Daniel Larusso

    28
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