Famous 21st Century Martial Artists

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Find out more about the greatest 21st Century Martial Artists, including Ronda Rousey, José Aldo, Brock Lesnar, Chuck Norris and Chris Weidman.
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 1 
Chuck Norris
(Martial Artist and Actor Best Known for His Action Movies)
Chuck Norris
26
Birthdate: March 10, 1940
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ryan, Oklahoma, United States

A black belt in Tang Soo Do, Brazilian jiu jitsu and Judo, Chuck Norris is an American martial artist, screenwriter and a popular action film star. He has won many martial arts championships. He later founded his own discipline, Chun Kuk Do. He has also written books on martial arts, philosophy, politics, Christianity, plus Western novels and biography.

 2 
Donnie Yen
(Actor and Director Known for His Roles in the 2008 Film ‘Ip Man’ and the 2002 Film ‘Hero')
Donnie Yen
14
Birthdate: July 27, 1963
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Guangzhou, Guangdong, China

Donnie Yen is a Hong Kong martial artist, actor, stuntman, action choreographer, director, and producer. He has won several wushu tournaments and is credited for introducing mixed martial arts to mainstream Asian cinema. He is also credited with introducing UFC champion Zhang Weili to MMA. Donnie Yen has won several awards like Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards.

 3 
Jackie Chan
(One of the Most Popular Action Film Stars of All Time Known for His 'Slapstick Acrobatic' Fighting Style)
Jackie Chan
12
Birthdate: April 7, 1954
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Jackie Chan is a martial artist, actor, film director, screenwriter and singer and is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing and innovative stunts in his films, which he performs himself. Rumble in the Bronx, Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour are some of his popular Hollywood films. He has a widespread following in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.

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 4 
Jean-Claude Van Damme
(Actor and Martial Artist Best Known for His Martial Arts Action Movies ‘Bloodsport’, ‘Cyborg’ and ‘Kickboxer’)
Jean-Claude Van Damme
2
Birthdate: October 18, 1960
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium

Belgian actor,Jean-Claude Van Damme is best known for a string of martial arts films. He started his career as a karate fighter and competed in a number full-contact and semi-contact matches. Later he took up acting and became a star with the 1988 Hollywood film, Bloodsport. Cyborg, Lionheart, Double Impact and Universal Soldier are some of his notable films.

 5 
Matt Hughes
(One of the Greatest Fighters in the History of MMA)
Matt Hughes
8
Birthdate: October 13, 1973
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hillsboro, Illinois, United States

Matt Hughes is a retired mixed martial artist widely considered one of the greatest fighters in the history of MMA. He is a two-time UFC Welterweight Champion. He is also counted among the greatest welterweight fighters of all time. His autobiography, Made in America, is a New York Times bestseller. He hosts the hunting program Trophy Hunters TV. 

 6 
Jet Li
(Actor and Martial Artist Who was All-Around Youth Champion in the National Wushu Competition)
Jet Li
10
Birthdate: April 26, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Beijing, China

Jet Li is one of the most popular Asian actors to have made it big in the American film industry. A martial artist and former Wushu champion, he won a national championship before retiring from competitive Wushu to focus on his acting career. Also a well-known philanthropist, Jet Li is closely associated with the Red Cross Society of China.

 7 
Scott Adkins
(Actor who gained noteriety for his role as Yuri Boyka in the 2006 film Undisputed 2)
Scott Adkins
22
Birthdate: June 17, 1976
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Sutton Coldfield

Scott Adkins is an English actor, producer, and screenwriter. He is a trained gymnast and martial artist and is best known for his action films. He played Casey Bowman in the film Ninja and its sequel Ninja: Shadow of a Tear. He considers Jean-Claude Van Damme to be his idol and has appeared in four films with him.  

 8 
Bolo Yeung
(Hong Kong Bodybuilder, Martial Artist and Actor)
Bolo Yeung
10
Birthdate: July 3, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Guangzhou, China

Bolo Yeung is a Hong Kong retired competitive bodybuilder and martial arts film actor. He is best known for his performance in popular films like Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport. He has also played lead roles in films like Ironheart, which is regarded as a cult classic. As a bodybuilder, Yeung held the Mr. Hong Kong title for ten years.  

 9 
Tony Jaa
(Actor)
Tony Jaa
8
Birthdate: February 5, 1976
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Surin, Thailand
 10 
Dolph Lundgren
(Starred in Rocky IV as The Imposing Soviet Boxer 'Ivan Drago')
Dolph Lundgren
6
Birthdate: November 3, 1957
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Spånga, Sweden

Swedish actor, Dolph Lundgre,n is mainly known as an action hero. He gained recognition with the 1985 Hollywood film Rocky IV and then went on to do many action and thriller movies like Joshua Tree, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Bridge of Dragons, Universal Soldier, Diamond Dogs and The Expendables. He has also directed several films like Missionary Man and Icarus.

 11 
Shannon Lee
(Actress, Martial Artist & Businesswoman - The Only Living Child of Bruce Lee)
Shannon Lee
6
Birthdate: April 19, 1969
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Shannon Lee is the daughter of the most popular martial artist of all time, Bruce Lee. She followed in her father's footsteps to become an actress and martial artist. Shannon Lee is credited with upholding her father's legacy by serving as the president of the Bruce Lee Foundation. She is also the executive producer of Warrior, a series based on her father’s idea.

 12 
Michael Jai White
(The First African American to Portray a Major Comic Book Superhero in a Major Motion Picture)
Michael Jai White
6
Birthdate: November 10, 1967
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Michael Jai White is an American martial artist and actor. When he portrayed Al Simmons in the film Spawn, White became one of the first black actors to play a major comic book superhero in the history of American film industry. Known for his martial arts skills, White has played leading roles in popular action films like Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

 13 
Quinton Jackson
(American Mixed Martial Artist, Actor and Former Professional Wrestler)
Quinton Jackson
8
Birthdate: June 20, 1978
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Quinton Jackson is a mixed martial artist and former professional wrestler turned actor. He is famous for his eccentric personality traits and aggressive style of fighting. He is credited with making MMA a popular sport worldwide. As an actor, he has appeared in a few films, including Miss March and Bad Guys. He is a controversial person. 

 14 
Jason Scott Lee
(Best Known for Playing ‘Mowgli’ in ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Bruce Lee’ in ‘Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’)
Jason Scott Lee
6
Birthdate: November 19, 1966
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Jason Scott Lee is one of the most popular American actors and martial artists of Asian descent. In recognition of his work and the positive image he has created for Asians in America, the Asian-American magazine website Goldsea ranked him seventh in its list of The 130 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time.

 15 
Martin Kove
(Actor Who is Best known for The Karate Kid (1984))
Martin Kove
10
Birthdate: March 6, 1946
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
 16 
Alistair Overeem
(Heavyweight Mixed Martial Artist, Kickboxer)
Alistair Overeem
10
Birthdate: May 17, 1980
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England, United Kingdom
 17 
Iko Uwais
(Actor)
Iko Uwais
6
Birthdate: February 12, 1983
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Jakarta, Indonesia
 18 
Cat Zingano
(Mixed martial artist)
Cat Zingano
11
Birthdate: July 1, 1982
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Winona, Minnesota, United States

Mixed martial artist Cat Zingano, who currently represents Bellator MMA, is a world champion in the bantamweight and flyweight divisions and had begun training in martial arts at 12. A brown belt and a world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, she also teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Thai, and wrestling.

 19 
Sammo Hung
(Hong Kong Actor, Martial Artist, Producer and Director)
Sammo Hung
4
Birthdate: January 7, 1952
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: British Hong Kong

Sammo Hung is a Hong Kong actor, filmmaker, and martial artist. He is best known for his work in martial arts films and played an important role in commencing the Hong Kong New Wave movement of the late-1970s and 1980s. He is also credited with helping many of his fellow actors establish themselves in the Hong Kong film industry.

 20 
Cub Swanson
(Featherweight Mixed martial artist)
Cub Swanson
5
Birthdate: November 2, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Palm Springs, California, United States

Cub Swanson is a professional mixed martial artist, currently affiliated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he competes in the Featherweight division. He has been awarded "Fight of the Night" honors ten times. Industry experts consider him to be one of the most entertaining MMA fighters of all time. He is married to model and TV host Kenda Perez. 

 21 
Eve Torres
(Female wrestler, bikini model, and dancer.)
Eve Torres
7
Birthdate: August 21, 1984
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States
 22 
Lewis Tan
(Actor)
Lewis Tan
3
Birthdate: February 4, 1987
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Manchester, England, UK
 23 
Ip Chun
(Martial artist in the style of Wing Chun)
Ip Chun
5
Birthdate: July 10, 1924
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Foshan, China
 24 
Bruce Buffer
(Announcer, Kickboxer)
Bruce Buffer
7
Birthdate: May 21, 1957
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tulsa

Known for his popular catchphrase “It's time!," Bruce Buffer, the well-known MMA ring announcer, initially worked in the telemarketing industry. He and his half-brother, announcer Michael Buffer, whom Bruce had no clue about till he was an adult, now run The Buffer Partnership, a company to grow their brand value.

 25 
Joe Taslim
(Indonesian Actor and Martial Artist Known for His Films: ‘The Raid’, ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and ‘Mortal Kombat’)
Joe Taslim
7
Birthdate: June 23, 1981
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Palembang, Indonesia

Indonesian actor and martial art expert Joe Taslim is best known for his appearances in the films The Raid: Redemption and Fast and Furious 6. He was previously part of the Indonesian national judo team and had won several championships. He has also played Li Yong in the series Warrior.

 26 
Wong Jack Man
(Known for His Controversial Duel With Bruce Lee in 1964)
Wong Jack Man
3
Birthdate: 1941 AD
Birthplace: Hong Kong
Died: December 26, 2018

Chinese martial artist Wong Jack-man is best remembered for his duel with Bruce Lee in 1964. The duel was mired in controversy, as it was held privately in Oakland. There are different accounts of the fight, and Wong released his own version in the Chinese newspaper Chinese Pacific Weekly.

 27 
Matt Serra
(Mixed martial artist)
Matt Serra
5
Birthdate: June 2, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: East Meadow

Former mixed martial artist and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Matt Sera began his career in 1999, successfully competing in several championships before joining Ultimate Fighting Championship, winning a total of 11 bouts till 2010. Currently the co-owner of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school, he has also appeared in television productions like Chris Weidman: Untitled Documentary and Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight.

 28 
Jason Miller
(Mixed Martial Artist and the Host of MTV’s Reality Series 'Bully Beatdown')
Jason Miller
5
Birthdate: December 24, 1980
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Fayetteville, North Carolina, United States

MMA fighter Jason Miller, or Mayhem Miller, has been in the news for his frequent run-ins with the law. Arrested multiple times, he was behind bars again in 2021 for domestic violence. Expelled from school for fighting, he grew up to be a UFC champion and hosted Bully Beatdown.

 29 
Jim Kelly
(Martial Artist and Actor Known for His Action Films ‘Enter the Dragon’ and ‘Black Belt Jones’)
Jim Kelly
5
Birthdate: May 5, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, Kentucky, United States
Died: June 29, 2013

Athlete and martial artist Jim Kelly won hearts with his Afro hairstyle and his roles in action film such as Enter the Dragon and Black Belt Jones. Apart from films, he also excelled in karate, winning contests such as the International Middle Weight Karate Championship. He has also played professional tennis.

 30 
Eddie Bravo
(Writer)
Eddie Bravo
9
Birthdate: May 15, 1970
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Santa Ana

Born Edgar Cano, martial arts instructor Eddie Bravo later took up the last name of his stepfather. A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he has also launched the grappling tournament Eddie Bravo Invitational. He also developed his own signature style of martial arts, known as the 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.

 31 
Antonio Inoki
(Japanese Retired Professional Wrestler and Founder of 'New Japan Pro-Wrestling')
Antonio Inoki
7
Birthdate: November 20, 1943
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Yokohama, Japan

Once a reputed Japanese martial artist and wrestler, Antonio Inoki grew up in Brazil, where he won several contests of shot put, discus, and javelin. At 17, he went to the Japanese Wrestling Association and was mentored by Rikidōzan. He later established the New Japan Pro Wrestling.

 32 
Nicholas Tse
(Hong Kong Actor, Martial Artist and Chef)
Nicholas Tse
3
Birthdate: August 29, 1980
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: British Hong Kong
Known as "Hong Kong’s Bad Boy," Nicholas Tse, son of legendary actors Patrick Tse and Deborah Lee, has had a colorful career, peppered with music, movies, and martial arts. He is also a cook and an entrepreneur, though his Hong Kong bakery has closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
 33 
Jessie Graff
(Stunt-Woman)
Jessie Graff
5
Birthdate: January 12, 1984
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Best known for being a top performer on the obstacles show American Ninja Warrior, stuntwoman and TV star Jessie Graff is a black belt in Taekwondo and is well-versed in other forms of martial arts, too. An aerospace engineering graduate, she has also been a competitive gymnast and a pole vaulter.

 34 
Carlos Gracie
(Martial Artist and Developer of ‘Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’)
Carlos Gracie
3
Birthdate: September 14, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Belém, Pará, Brazil
Died: October 7, 1994

Remembered as a pioneer of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Carlos Gracie was enrolled into wrestling classes to channelize his aggression in childhood. He also followed what is known as the Gracie diet. Thirteen of his 21 children have the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt. He and his family developed the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

 35 
Matt Hamill
(Light heavyweight mixed martial artist who won silver in Greco-Roman Wrestling and a gold at the 2001 Summer Deaflympics)
Matt Hamill
3
Birthdate: October 5, 1976
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Loveland

Though born deaf, Matt Hamill didn’t let his physical disability hinder his progress in mixed martial arts and wrestling. Introduced to wrestling by his wrestling coach father, he won three NCAA Division III wrestling titles. His life inspired the 2011 film The Hammer, named after his nickname.

 36 
Cynthia Rothrock
(American Martial Artist and Actress)
Cynthia Rothrock
7
Birthdate: March 8, 1957
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Cynthia Rothrock was not just a mixed martial artist but has also acted in various martial arts films. The Black Belt Hall of Famer began training in martial arts at 13 and eventually ended up being one of the first women martial artists to be featured on the martial arts magazine covers.

 37 
Billy Blanks
(Actor, Martial Artist and Inventor of the Phenomenally Popular ‘Tae BO’ Fitness System)
Billy Blanks
9
Birthdate: September 1, 1955
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Erie, Pennsylvania, United States

Billy Blanks is a martial artist and fitness personality. He is the creator of the Tae Bo exercise program, a body fitness system that incorporates martial arts techniques. He started attending karate and taekwondo classes when he was 11 and proceeded to become a martial artist. He has also appeared in a few films and TV shows. 

 38 
Benson Henderson
(American Mixed Martial Artist and Former UFC Lightweight Champion)
Benson Henderson
5
Birthdate: November 16, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

Benson Henderson is an MMA fighter who has competed in promotions like WEC and UFC. A former UFC Lightweight Champion, Henderson currently competes for Bellator MMA in their Lightweight division. Henderson is also a former WEC Lightweight Champion. In 2012, he was named Fighter of the Year by ESPN. He also won Fighter of the Year Bazzie Award in 2012.

 39 
Kota Ibushi
(Japanese Professional Wrestler and Martial Artist)
Kota Ibushi
3
Birthdate: May 21, 1982
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Aira, Kagoshima, Japan

Japanese martial artist and wrestler Kota Ibushi stunned his fans when he rejected an offer from All Elite Wrestling, choosing to remain with New Japan Pro-Wrestling instead, as he did not wish to move to the U.S. for good. The IWGP World Heavyweight Champion had initially ditched karate for wrestling.

 40 
Frank Dux
(Martial artist, fight choreographer)
Frank Dux
6
Birthdate: April 6, 1956
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Toronto, Canada

Frank Dux is a Canadian martial artist and fight choreographer. He began his training in ninjutsu as a teenager. He claims he served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve for a few years and was awarded the Medal of Honor; however, this claim is disputed. He later founded his own school of ninjutsu called Dux Ryu Ninjutsu. 

 41 
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira
(Retired Mixed Martial Artist)
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira
5
Birthdate: June 2, 1976
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vitória da Conquista, Brazil
 42 
Sonny Chiba
(Japanese Actor and Martial Artist Known for His Role in the 1974 Film 'The Street Fighter')
Sonny Chiba
3
Birthdate: January 22, 1939
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Fukuoka, Japan
Died: August 19, 2021

Sadao Maeda, better known as Sonny Chiba, was initially a talented gymnast, aspiring to be part of the Japanese Olympic team, though a back injury ended his sports career. Trained in martial arts, he later soared to fame with movies such as The Street Fighter. He died of COVID-19 at age 82.

 43 
Joseph Benavidez
(Mixed martial artist)
Joseph Benavidez
3
Birthdate: July 31, 1984
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Antonio

WEC bantamweight fighter Joseph Benavidez had a 15-year career in combat sports, which included several top bantamweight and flyweight championship wins. Initially a screen printer in Mexico, he began his career with small boxing shows and began wrestling at age 16. He has also battled drug and alcohol abuse.

 44 
Richard Sandrak
(American Former Bodybuilder and Martial Artist )
Richard Sandrak
3
Birthdate: April 15, 1992
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ukraine

Known as the Little Hercules and the Mini-Schwarzenegger, Ukraine-born Richard Sandrak became a sensation with his unusually muscular body as a child. It is believed he hailed from an abusive family. He later quit bodybuilding to become a Hollywood stuntman. He inspired the documentary The World's Strongest Boy.

 45 
Jake Shields
(Mixed martial artist)
Jake Shields
5
Birthdate: January 9, 1979
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Summertown, Tennessee, United States

Jake Shields is an American mixed martial artist who competes in the Professional Fighters League (PFL). Shields has also participated in other popular promotions like Rumble on the Rock, Elite Xtreme Combat, Strikeforce, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Jake Shields is a former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. He is also a former EliteXC Welterweight Champion.

 46 
Josh Barnett
(Heavyweight MMA & the Youngest Ever UFC Heavyweight Champion)
Josh Barnett
7
Birthdate: November 10, 1977
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

Josh Barnett is a mixed martial artist, submission grappler, and professional wrestler. He is currently signed to Bellator MMA. In the past, he was associated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. As a wrestler, he made his in-ring debut in 2003. He calls himself a catch wrestler. 

 47 
Cung Le
(Actor & Mixed Martial Artist Known for His Role in the 2012 Film ‘The Man with the Iron Fists’)
Cung Le
3
Birthdate: May 25, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Cung Le is a Vietnamese-born American actor, retired kickboxer, Sanshou fighter, and mixed martial artist. He has competed in popular promotions, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). A former International Kickboxing World Champion in the Light Heavyweight division, Cung Le has an impressive record of 17–0 in kickboxing. He is also a former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion.

 48 
Darren Shahlavi
(Actor & Stunt Performer)
Darren Shahlavi
3
Birthdate: August 5, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Stockport, Cheshire, England
Died: January 14, 2015
 49 
Brandon Vera
(Mixed martial artist, Military personnel)
Brandon Vera
5
Birthdate: October 10, 1977
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Norfolk

Born in the US to an Italian mother and a Filipino father, Brandon Vera, better known as The Truth, initially joined college on an athletic scholarship but dropped out to join the US Airforce soon. The black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has also appeared on shows such as Kamandag and Magpakailanman.

 50 
Chuck Zito
(Actor, Boxer)
Chuck Zito
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States