The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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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 some of the greatest fighters like 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!
  • 15 ReRanks
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  1. 43
    Up 131
    Down 63

    1799

    open
  2. 38
    Up 153
    Down 79

    1860

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  3. 19
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    Down 85

    ranked low on reranks 1883

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  4. 4
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    1893

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  5. 23
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    1913

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  6. 57
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    1931

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  7. 55
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    1931

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  8. 66
    Up 39
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    ranked low on reranks & added by Richard777 1936

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  9. 1
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    the people's #1 & most listed 1940

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  10. 5
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    1940

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  11. 12
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    1942

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  12. 47
    Up 115
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    1946

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  13. 14
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    1952

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  14. 3
    Up 1385
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    1954

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  15. 63
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    added by Richard777 1956

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  16. 54
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    1958

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  17. 8
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    1960

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  18. 2
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    1963

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  19. 17
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    1963

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  20. 35
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    1964

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  21. 42
    Up 38
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    1964

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  22. 25
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    1965

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  23. 29
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    1966

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  24. 45
    Up 51
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    often listed 1966

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  25. 10
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    1966

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  26. 11
    Up 504
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    1967

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  27. 20
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks 1969

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  28. 46
    Up 82
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    1970

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  29. 34
    Up 135
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    1972

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  30. 28
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    1973

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  31. 67
    Up 38
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    often listed & ranked high on reranks 1974

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  32. 30
    Up 168
    Down 209

    1974

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  33. 9
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    Down 421

    1975

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  34. 41
    Up 46
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    1975

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  35. 33
    Up 104
    Down 164

    1976

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  36. 7
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    1976

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  37. 27
    Up 138
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    1976

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  38. 32
    Up 106
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    1977

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  39. 24
    Up 175
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    1978

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  40. 52
    Up 62
    Down 141

    often listed 1978

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  41. 26
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    1978

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  42. 39
    Up 72
    Down 166

    1979

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  43. 56
    Up 28
    Down 98

    often listed 1980

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  44. 15
    Up 402
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    1981

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  45. 31
    Up 123
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    1982

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  46. 50
    Up 52
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    1983

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  47. 49
    Up 65
    Down 131

    1983

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  48. 48
    Up 119
    Down 61

    1984

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  49. 65
    Up 17
    Down 105

    often listed & ranked high on reranks

    open
  50. 36
    Up 116
    Down 159

    open
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