The Best Martial Artists in History People In Sports
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12  reranks 17,290 votes 2,822 voters 111,882 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
  • 12 ReRanks
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Score
  1. 42
    Up 75
    Down 39
    1799 More
    31
  2. 40
    Up 84
    Down 47
    1860 More
    31
  3. 30
    Up 126
    Down 41

    ranked low on reranks
    Morihei Ueshiba

    1883 More
    36
  4. 4
    Up 682
    Down 148
    1893 More
    74
  5. 18
    Up 116
    Down 87
    1913 More
    45
  6. 57
    Up 38
    Down 36
    1931 More
    26
  7. 54
    Up 33
    Down 24
    1931 More
    27
  8. 1
    Up 1531
    Down 175

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Bruce Lee

    1940 More
    100
  9. 5
    Up 466
    Down 345
    1940 More
    69
  10. 15
    Up 221
    Down 128
    1942 More
    50
  11. 48
    Up 47
    Down 21
    1946 More
    29
  12. 14
    Up 239
    Down 271
    1952 More
    51
  13. 3
    Up 732
    Down 278
    1954 More
    79
  14. 53
    Up 20
    Down 59
    1958 More
    28
  15. 8
    Up 277
    Down 279
    1960 More
    63
  16. 2
    Up 716
    Down 312
    1963 More
    88
  17. 17
    Up 119
    Down 129
    1963 More
    46
  18. 36
    Up 47
    Down 107
    1964 More
    33
  19. 52
    Up 16
    Down 52
    1964 More
    28
  20. 22
    Up 128
    Down 129
    1965 More
    43
  21. 38
    Up 28
    Down 77

    often listed
    Pat Miletich

    1966 More
    32
  22. 10
    Up 236
    Down 187
    1966 More
    56
  23. 11
    Up 216
    Down 168
    1967 More
    55
  24. 20
    Up 126
    Down 151
    1969 More
    45
  25. 37
    Up 54
    Down 85
    1970 More
    32
  26. 32
    Up 74
    Down 79
    1972 More
    35
  27. 27
    Up 70
    Down 117
    1973 More
    40
  28. 61
    Up 17
    Down 116

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Kimbo Slice

    1974 More
    22
  29. 23
    Up 129
    Down 124
    1974 More
    43
  30. 9
    Up 351
    Down 254
    1975 More
    59
  31. 55
    Up 20
    Down 72
    1975 More
    27
  32. 28
    Up 65
    Down 96
    1976 More
    37
  33. 7
    Up 349
    Down 256
    1976 More
    64
  34. 25
    Up 89
    Down 138
    1976 More
    42
  35. 29
    Up 65
    Down 98
    1977 More
    37
  36. 21
    Up 104
    Down 128
    1978 More
    44
  37. 46
    Up 36
    Down 81

    often listed
    Quinton Jackson

    1978 More
    30
  38. 26
    Up 114
    Down 122
    1978 More
    41
  39. 34
    Up 44
    Down 99
    1979 More
    33
  40. 56
    Up 12
    Down 56
    1980 More
    26
  41. 13
    Up 233
    Down 171
    1981 More
    52
  42. 31
    Up 72
    Down 82
    1982 More
    35
  43. 45
    Up 28
    Down 60

    often listed
    Shinya Aoki

    1983 More
    30
  44. 43
    Up 44
    Down 83

    often listed
    Benson Henderson

    1983 More
    31
  45. 47
    Up 58
    Down 32
    1984 More
    29
  46. 60
    Up 10
    Down 61
    25
  47. 33
    Up 76
    Down 100
    34
  48. 39
    Up 34
    Down 54

    often listed
    Andi Hug

    32
  49. 51
    Up 16
    Down 50
    28
  50. 16
    Up 167
    Down 118
    50
  51. 64 +

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