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!
list ordered by

1
6,761 698
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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2
3,288 1,372
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jackie Chan age 61

3
3,310 1,221
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jet Li age 52

4
3,191 621
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yip Man Died at 79 (1893-1972)

5
2,071 1,422
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Norris age 75

6
2,497 656
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

7
1,252 1,061
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

8
981 781
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

9
1,486 840
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Muhammad Ali age 75

10
1,384 1,150
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

11
1,663 583
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

12
895 664
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Royce Gracie age 51

13
1,299 728
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

14
873 811
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

15
1,171 682
Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham

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16
799 269
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Morihei Ueshiba Died at 86 (1883-1969)

17
929 512
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

18
1,187 959
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Steven Seagal age 63

19
600 250
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia

20
426 438
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
kylebairdsen added Ronda Rousey age 30

21
521 342
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

22
437 204
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama

23
479 345
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Hélio Gracie Died at 96 (1913-2009)

24
313 177
Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Barry Bird added Brandon Lee

25
381 216
Jigoro Kano is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jigoro Kano Died at 78 (1860-1938)

26
328 182
Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

27
458 472
Randy Couture is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Randy Couture age 54

28
303 157
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)

29
566 397
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Mike Tyson age 51

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30
339 169
Bolo Yeung is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bolo Yeung age 69

31
402 374
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bas Rutten age 52

32
455 498
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Liddell age 48

33
250 157
Chojun Miyagi is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

34
46 231
Chris Leben is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
geyyy added Chris Leben age 37

35
229 130
Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

36
286 181
Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi

37
252 170
Choi Hong Hi is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

38
370 341
Lyoto Machida is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Lyoto Machida age 39

39
120 112
Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Joe Lewis age 30

40
148 351
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

41
269 234
Cung Le is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Cung Le age 43

42
298 372
B.J. Penn is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
B.J. Penn age 39

43
170 162
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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44
272 348
Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

45
225 372
Wanderlei Silva is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

46
71 43
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
xiaoli-song added Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)

47
216 296
Jose Aldo is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

48
222 330
Matt Hughes is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Matt Hughes age 44

49
211 306
Cain Velasquez is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

50
208 290
Ken Shamrock is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ken Shamrock age 53