mma The Best Martial Artists in History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
90.1k votes 13.9k voters 454.5k views 182 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!

1
7,671 850
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bruce Lee Died at 33 (1940-1973)

2
3,779 1,647
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jackie Chan age 64

3
3,791 1,419
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jet Li age 55

4
3,664 733
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yip Man Died at 79 (1893-1972)

5
2,398 1,676
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Norris age 78

6
2,933 799
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

7
1,452 1,279
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

8
1,221 978
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

9
1,764 999
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Muhammad Ali age 76

10
1,577 1,303
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

11
1,886 665
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

12
1,517 826
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

13
1,030 751
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Royce Gracie age 52

14
971 907
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

10 Most Devastating Moves in Martial Arts

15
1,067 588
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

16
1,298 768
Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham

17
933 321
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Morihei Ueshiba Died at 86 (1883-1969)

18
717 295
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia

19
1,320 1,141
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Steven Seagal age 66

20
626 379
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

21
545 609
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 NBC Dramas

22
534 228
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama

23
448 229
Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Barry Bird added Brandon Lee

24
406 205
Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

25
547 384
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Hélio Gracie Died at 96 (1913-2009)

26
439 239
Jigoro Kano is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jigoro Kano Died at 78 (1860-1938)

27
362 180
Yang Lu-ch'an is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yang Lu-ch'an Died at 73 (1799-1872)

28
413 201
Bolo Yeung is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bolo Yeung age 72

MMA's Greatest Heavyweights Of All Time

29
526 513
Randy Couture is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Randy Couture age 55

30
689 475
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Mike Tyson age 52

31
455 411
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bas Rutten age 53

32
302 178
Chojun Miyagi is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

33
514 542
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Liddell age 49

34
278 152
Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

35
327 207
Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi

The Creepiest Sports Mascots

36
164 139
Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Joe Lewis age 31

37
281 190
Choi Hong Hi is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

38
57 286
Chris Leben is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
geyyy added Chris Leben age 38

39
408 371
Lyoto Machida is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Lyoto Machida age 40

40
200 430
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

41
300 264
Cung Le is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Cung Le age 46

42
217 188
Don the Dragon Wilson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Don the Dragon Wilson

The Best Current Middleweights Fighting in Bellator

43
109 60
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
xiaoli-song added Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)

44
328 405
B.J. Penn is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
B.J. Penn age 40

45
303 376
Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

46
247 403
Wanderlei Silva is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

47
240 331
Jose Aldo is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

48
239 334
Cain Velasquez is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

49
243 359
Matt Hughes is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Matt Hughes age 45

50
240 322
Ken Shamrock is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Ken Shamrock age 54