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
6,769 700
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
3,290 1,379
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jackie Chan age 61

3
3,312 1,225
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jet Li age 52

4
3,196 622
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Yip Man Died at 79 (1893-1972)

5
2,074 1,423
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Chuck Norris age 75

6
2,502 656
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

7
1,254 1,064
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

8
986 782
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

9
1,488 843
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Muhammad Ali age 75

10
1,385 1,154
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

11
1,664 583
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

12
895 666
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Royce Gracie age 51

13
1,300 729
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

14
874 813
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

15
1,172 684
Jason Statham is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Jason Statham

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16
801 269
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Morihei Ueshiba Died at 86 (1883-1969)

17
930 513
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

18
1,187 961
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Steven Seagal age 63

19
602 250
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Huo Yuanjia

20
426 440
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
kylebairdsen added Ronda Rousey age 30

21
523 342
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

22
438 204
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama

23
480 346
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Hélio Gracie Died at 96 (1913-2009)

24
314 177
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
460 472
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
567 399
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
340 169
Bolo Yeung is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bolo Yeung age 69

31
403 374
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Bas Rutten age 52

32
457 498
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
287 181
Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi

36
229 130
Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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
120 113
Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Joe Lewis age 30

40
148 353
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

41
270 234
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
171 162
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
273 348
Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

45
72 43
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
xiaoli-song added Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)

46
225 373
Wanderlei Silva is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History

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
211 307
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