The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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13  reranks 18,115 votes 2,980 voters 123,604 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
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    • Men
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Score
  1. 43
    Up 79
    Down 39

    ranked low on reranks
    Yang Lu-ch'an

    1799 More
    32
  2. 40
    Up 93
    Down 47
    1860 More
    33
  3. 29
    Up 141
    Down 41

    ranked low on reranks
    Morihei Ueshiba

    1883 More
    37
  4. 4
    Up 725
    Down 155
    1893 More
    74
  5. 18
    Up 124
    Down 90
    1913 More
    46
  6. 58
    Up 38
    Down 36
    1931 More
    27
  7. 55
    Up 34
    Down 24
    1931 More
    28
  8. 1
    Up 1625
    Down 181

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Bruce Lee

    1940 More
    100
  9. 5
    Up 499
    Down 358
    1940 More
    70
  10. 15
    Up 238
    Down 138
    1942 More
    51
  11. 50
    Up 50
    Down 22
    1946 More
    30
  12. 14
    Up 261
    Down 283
    1952 More
    52
  13. 3
    Up 781
    Down 287
    1954 More
    80
  14. 53
    Up 20
    Down 60
    1958 More
    29
  15. 8
    Up 294
    Down 286
    1960 More
    63
  16. 2
    Up 766
    Down 324
    1963 More
    88
  17. 17
    Up 128
    Down 132
    1963 More
    46
  18. 37
    Up 49
    Down 111
    1964 More
    33
  19. 38
    Up 17
    Down 56
    1964 More
    33
  20. 22
    Up 133
    Down 132
    1965 More
    44
  21. 34
    Up 12
    Down 13
    1966 More
    34
  22. 41
    Up 29
    Down 80

    often listed
    Pat Miletich

    1966 More
    33
  23. 11
    Up 247
    Down 195
    1966 More
    56
  24. 66
    Up 0
    Down 1
    1967 More
    25
  25. 10
    Up 234
    Down 179
    1967 More
    56
  26. 20
    Up 131
    Down 153
    1969 More
    45
  27. 39
    Up 56
    Down 87
    1970 More
    33
  28. 32
    Up 77
    Down 81
    1972 More
    36
  29. 27
    Up 74
    Down 119
    1973 More
    41
  30. 63
    Up 0
    Down 0
    1973 More
    25
  31. 67
    Up 18
    Down 117

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Kimbo Slice

    1974 More
    23
  32. 64
    Up 0
    Down 0
    1974 More
    25
  33. 24
    Up 131
    Down 129
    1974 More
    43
  34. 9
    Up 365
    Down 262
    1975 More
    59
  35. 57
    Up 20
    Down 72
    1975 More
    27
  36. 31
    Up 67
    Down 100
    1976 More
    37
  37. 6
    Up 356
    Down 268
    1976 More
    69
  38. 26
    Up 91
    Down 142
    1976 More
    42
  39. 60
    Up 1
    Down 0
    1977 More
    26
  40. 30
    Up 68
    Down 102
    1977 More
    37
  41. 21
    Up 108
    Down 133
    1978 More
    44
  42. 49
    Up 37
    Down 83

    often listed
    Quinton Jackson

    1978 More
    30
  43. 25
    Up 117
    Down 125
    1978 More
    42
  44. 36
    Up 46
    Down 103
    1979 More
    34
  45. 56
    Up 14
    Down 57
    1980 More
    27
  46. 13
    Up 241
    Down 176
    1981 More
    52
  47. 28
    Up 73
    Down 87
    1982 More
    40
  48. 65
    Up 0
    Down 0
    1982 More
    25
  49. 47
    Up 30
    Down 61

    often listed
    Shinya Aoki

    1983 More
    31
  50. 45
    Up 45
    Down 84

    often listed
    Benson Henderson

    1983 More
    31
  51. 70 +

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