Best Athletes The Best Martial Artists in History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
105.7k votes 16.3k voters 489.7k views 174 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
8,964 1,009
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 33 (1940-1973)
2
4,490 1,943
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 65
3
4,363 1,649
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 56
4
4,330 863
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 79 (1893-1972)
5
3,455 913
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
6
2,770 1,947
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 79
7
1,650 1,474
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
8
1,435 1,142
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
9
2,114 1,166
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 77
10
2,177 769
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
11
1,772 1,476
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
12
1,779 953
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
13
1,201 831
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 53
14
1,099 994
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
15
1,263 667
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
16
1,088 369
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 86 (1883-1969)
17
1,504 892
Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham
18
851 348
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia
19
728 431
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
20
1,447 1,366
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 67
21
591 297
Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Barry Bird added
22
638 265
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama
23
523 237
Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
24
654 803
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
kylebairdsen added age 32
25
636 420
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 96 (1913-2009)