The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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13  reranks 19,786 votes 3,216 voters 139,750 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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Score
  1. 44
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    ranked low on reranks 1799

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  2. 41
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    1860

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  3. 29
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    ranked low on reranks 1883

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  4. 4
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    1893

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  5. 18
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    1913

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  6. 58
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    1931

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  7. 57
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    1931

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  8. 1
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    the people's #1 & most listed 1940

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  9. 5
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    1940

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  10. 16
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    1942

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  11. 49
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    ranked low on reranks 1946

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  12. 13
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    1952

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  13. 3
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    1954

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  14. 50
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    1958

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  15. 8
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    1960

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  16. 2
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    1963

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  17. 17
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    1963

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  18. 35
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    1964

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  19. 38
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    1964

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  20. 23
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    1965

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  21. 34
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    new! 1966

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  22. 39
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    1966

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  23. 11
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    1966

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  24. 10
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    1967

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  25. 20
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    1969

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  26. 40
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks 1970

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  27. 32
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    1972

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  28. 27
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    1973

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  29. 62
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks 1974

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  30. 24
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    1974

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  31. 9
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    1975

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  32. 55
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    1975

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  33. 31
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    1976

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  34. 6
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    1976

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  35. 25
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    1976

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  36. 30
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    1977

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  37. 21
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    1978

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  38. 51
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    1978

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  39. 26
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    1978

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  40. 37
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    1979

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  41. 56
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    1980

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  42. 14
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    1981

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  43. 28
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    1982

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  44. 47
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    often listed 1983

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  45. 45
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    often listed 1983

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  46. 48
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    1984

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  47. 60
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  48. 33
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  49. 42
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    often listed

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  50. 54
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  51. 64 +

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