best athletes The Best Martial Artists in History  

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List Rules 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!

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Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bruce Lee Died at 33 (1940-1973)

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Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jackie Chan age 61

3
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Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jet Li age 52

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Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yip Man Died at 79 (1893-1972)

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Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Norris age 75

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donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Muhammad Ali age 75

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Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Royce Gracie age 51

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Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham

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Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Morihei Ueshiba Died at 86 (1883-1969)

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scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Steven Seagal age 63

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+ - 551 229
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia

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+ - 392 353
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ronda Rousey age 28

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Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama

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Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Hélio Gracie Died at 96 (1913-2009)

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Jigoro Kano is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jigoro Kano Died at 78 (1860-1938)

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Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Randy Couture is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Randy Couture age 54

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Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Mike Tyson age 51

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Yang Lu-ch'an is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yang Lu-ch'an Died at 73 (1799-1872)

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Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Liddell age 48

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Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bas Rutten age 50

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Bolo Yeung is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bolo Yeung age 69

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Chris Leben is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chris Leben age 37

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Chojun Miyagi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi

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Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Lyoto Machida is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Lyoto Machida age 39

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Choi Hong Hi is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Joe Lewis age 28

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B.J. Penn is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
B.J. Penn age 37

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Cung Le is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Cung Le age 45

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Don the Dragon Wilson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Don the Dragon Wilson

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Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Wanderlei Silva is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Jose Aldo is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Cain Velasquez is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)

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Matt Hughes is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Matt Hughes age 44

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Ken Shamrock is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ken Shamrock age 51