mma The Best Martial Artists in History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
88.3k votes 13.7k voters 452.3k views 183 items

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!
list ordered by

1
7,570 837
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bruce Lee Died at 33 (1940-1973)

2
3,705 1,622
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jackie Chan age 64

3
3,725 1,394
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jet Li age 55

4
3,599 722
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yip Man Died at 79 (1893-1972)

5
2,352 1,638
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Norris age 78

6
2,868 782
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

7
1,426 1,245
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

8
1,196 944
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

9
1,735 980
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Muhammad Ali age 76

10
1,856 656
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

11
1,551 1,282
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

12
1,487 815
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

13
1,015 739
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Royce Gracie age 52

14
966 893
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

29 Celebrities Who Quit Being Famous

15
1,049 579
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

16
1,273 757
Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham

17
911 316
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Morihei Ueshiba Died at 86 (1883-1969)

18
697 289
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia

19
1,300 1,124
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Steven Seagal age 66

20
604 378
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

21
533 588
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
kylebairdsen added Ronda Rousey age 31

The Best Current Middleweights Fighting in Bellator

22
521 227
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama

23
431 225
Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Barry Bird added Brandon Lee

24
396 204
Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

25
544 380
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Hélio Gracie Died at 96 (1913-2009)

26
432 238
Jigoro Kano is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jigoro Kano Died at 78 (1860-1938)

27
406 197
Bolo Yeung is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bolo Yeung age 72

28
351 180
Yang Lu-ch'an is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yang Lu-ch'an Died at 73 (1799-1872)

The Best Current Welterweights Fighting in Bellator

29
520 506
Randy Couture is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Randy Couture age 55

30
671 467
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Mike Tyson age 52

31
450 405
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bas Rutten age 53

32
294 177
Chojun Miyagi is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

33
509 533
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Liddell age 49

34
272 151
Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

35
323 204
Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi

The Greatest U.S. Vice Presidents of All Time

36
160 134
Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Joe Lewis age 31

37
278 187
Choi Hong Hi is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

38
57 280
Chris Leben is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
geyyy added Chris Leben age 38

39
404 367
Lyoto Machida is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Lyoto Machida age 40

40
196 422
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

41
298 259
Cung Le is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Cung Le age 46

42
327 398
B.J. Penn is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
B.J. Penn age 40

The Tragic Plane Crash That Almost Destroyed The Entire Professional Wrestling Industry

43
211 185
Don the Dragon Wilson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Don the Dragon Wilson

44
103 57
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
xiaoli-song added Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)

45
301 370
Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

46
244 397
Wanderlei Silva is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

47
238 326
Jose Aldo is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

48
238 328
Cain Velasquez is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

49
242 354
Matt Hughes is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Matt Hughes age 45

50
237 316
Ken Shamrock is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ken Shamrock age 54