Famous American Martial Artists

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Find out more about the greatest American Martial Artists, including Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar, Chuck Norris, Chris Weidman and Gina Carano.
Vote for Your Favourite American Martial Artists
 1 
Bruce Lee
(The Most Influential Martial Artist of All Time)
Bruce Lee
42
Birthdate: November 27, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
Died: July 20, 1973

An iconic actor and martial artist, Bruce Lee, in his short life, gained international fame and developed his own form of martial arts, Jeet Kune Do. In films, he debuted as a child actor and became a huge Hollywood star after the release of his last film Enter the Dragon.

 2 
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.

 3 
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.

 4 
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.

 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 
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. 

 7 
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.

 8 
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.

 9 
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
 10 
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.

 11 
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. 

 12 
Eve Torres
(Female wrestler, bikini model, and dancer.)
Eve Torres
7
Birthdate: August 21, 1984
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denver, Colorado, United States
 13 
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.

 14 
Brandon Lee
(American Actor, Martial Artist and Son of Film Star Bruce Lee )
Brandon Lee
0
Birthdate: February 1, 1965
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Oakland, California, United States
Died: March 31, 1993

The son of the legendary martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee followed in his father’s footsteps. Trained in martial arts, he made his film debut in the 1980s and became a successful star in his own right. He was accidentally wounded while filming The Crow and died. The film, dedicated to him, became a hit.

 15 
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.

 16 
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.

 17 
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.

 18 
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.

 19 
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.

 20 
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.

 21 
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. 

 22 
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.

 23 
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.

 24 
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. 

 25 
Ben Rothwell
(Mixed martial artist, Kickboxer)
Ben Rothwell
5
Birthdate: October 17, 1981
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kenosha

A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Ben Rothwell represents UFC as a heavyweight. Nicknamed Big Ben, he gained weight as a child due to an illness and ended up fighting a lot, eventually taking up martial arts as a career. He and his wife now co-own a martial arts school.

 26 
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.

 27 
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.

 28 
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.

 29 
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. 

 30 
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.

 31 
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.

 32 
Chuck Zito
(Actor, Boxer)
Chuck Zito
3
Birthdate: March 1, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Bronx, New York, United States
 33 
Josh Thomson
(Mixed martial artist)
Josh Thomson
5
Birthdate: September 21, 1978
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Jose

MMA podcaster Josh Thomson, popularly known as The Punk, was previously a professional mixed martial artist and has represented promotion such as Bellator MMA, PRIDE, and UFC. He is best known for his bouts against Gilbert Melendez. The Strikeforce lightweight champion has previously worked in construction.

 34 
Gene LeBell
(Stunt Performer and Former Professional Wrestler Nicknamed 'Godfather of Grappling')
Gene LeBell
3
Birthdate: October 9, 1932
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Known as the Godfather of Grappling, Gene LeBell is a renowned martial artist and stuntman who has appeared in countless movies such as Raging Bull and Men in Black II. After mastering judo and winning several big tournaments, he excelled in wrestling, too. He has also penned  several books.

 35 
Michael Dudikoff
(American Actor Known for His Lead Roles in the 'American Ninja' and 'Bounty Hunters' Film Series)
Michael Dudikoff
5
Birthdate: October 8, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Redondo Beach, California, United States

Best known for his roles in films such as American Warrior and Bachelor Party, Michael Dudikoff is also a martial artist, well-versed in Brazilian Jujitsu, Judo, Karate, and Aikido. A child psychology major, he has also worked in real estate and loves designing homes and bronze sculpturing.

 36 
Robin Shou
(Marital arts actor who played Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat film franchise)
Robin Shou
5
Birthdate: July 17, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Hong Kong
 37 
Jim Miller
(mixed martial artist)
Jim Miller
5
Birthdate: August 30, 1983
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Sparta Township, New Jersey, United States

Jim Miller is an American mixed martial artist who competes in the UFC. Miller holds the record for most wins in the lightweight division of the UFC and has third-most wins in the history of the promotion. Renowned for his power and technique, Jim Miller has won seven Fight of the Night awards in his UFC career so far.

 38 
Benny Urquidez
(Kickboxer and Karate Champion who Achieved Six World Titles in Five different Weight Divisions)
Benny Urquidez
2
Birthdate: June 20, 1952
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tarzana, Los Angeles, California, United States

Benny Urquidez is an American actor, martial arts choreographer, and kickboxer. One of the pioneers of full-contact karate in the United States, Urquidez held six world titles in five weight divisions during his illustrious 27-year career. In 1978, he was named Competitor of the Year by Black Belt magazine. Benny Urquidez has also played important roles in films like 1408.

 39 
Kenny Florian
(American Mixed Martial Artist)
Kenny Florian
5
Birthdate: May 26, 1976
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Westwood, Massachusetts, United States

Kenny Florian is an American former mixed martial artist who competed in the UFC. Florian took part in four different weight classes, becoming only one of the two fighters to do so in the history of the UFC. Florian is regarded as one of the best competitors to have never won a UFC Championship. He currently works as a commentator.

 40 
Gilbert Melendez
(Mixed martial artist, Thai boxer)
Gilbert Melendez
5
Birthdate: April 12, 1982
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Santa Ana, California, United States

Gilbert Melendez is a mixed martial artist best known for his association with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) where he competed in the Lightweight division. A former WEC Lightweight Champion, Gilbert Melendez had also won two Strikeforce Lightweight Championship titles. Melendez also competed in other promotions like Rumble on the Rock, Shooto, and Pride Fighting Championships.

 41 
Jon Fitch
(Mixed martial artist)
Jon Fitch
5
Birthdate: February 24, 1978
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fort Wayne

Retired MMA fighter Jon Fitch is often described by the media as one of the most overlooked and underappreciated martial artists ever. A master in the welterweight division, he also trained Russian MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov but often had disagreements with UFC president Dana White and quit without a UFC belt.

 42 
Rener Gracie
(Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu' Practitioner)
Rener Gracie
7
Birthdate: November 10, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Torrance, California, United States

Part of the Brazilian Gracie family that has pioneered the its own form of martial arts, Rener Gracie has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He has also co-created the Gracie University martial arts curriculum and owns Quikflip Apparel. He is married to three-time WWE Divas Champion Eve Torres.

 43 
Chris Leben
(Mixed martial artist)
Chris Leben
2
Birthdate: July 21, 1980
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Portland

Chris Leben is an American retired mixed martial artist, bare-knuckle boxer, and referee. From 2002 to 2013, Leben was a popular MMA competitor, competing in popular promotions like the UFC where he won four Knockout of the Night awards. Renowned for his powerful left hand and toughness, Chris Leben is also a former WEC Middleweight Champion.

 44 
Emmanuel Yarbrough
(Martial artist)
Emmanuel Yarbrough
4
Birthdate: September 5, 1964
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rahway, New Jersey, United States
Died: December 21, 2015

Emmanuel Yarbrough was an American professional wrestler, martial artist, actor, and football player. Remembered for his achievements as an amateur sumo wrestler, Yarbrough was the heaviest living athlete according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Emmanuel Yarbrough passed away at the age of 51 after suffering a heart attack.

 45 
Keith Jardine
(Mixed martial artist, Actor)
Keith Jardine
7
Birthdate: October 31, 1975
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Butte

Keith Jardine is an American actor and former mixed martial artist. Renowned for his unorthodox attacking style, Jardine took part in promotions like Strikeforce and the UFC. While competing in the UFC, Jardine won two Fight of the Night awards and one Knockout of the Night award. After retiring as a martial artist, Jardine has established himself as an actor.

 46 
Todd Duffee
(Mixed martial artist)
Todd Duffee
5
Birthdate: December 6, 1985
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Evansville

Todd Duffee is an American mixed martial artist and actor. Duffee has competed in some of the world's most popular promotions, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, India's Super Fight League, and Brazil's Jungle Fight. In addition to being a martial artist, Todd Duffee has also played important roles in films like Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown.

 47 
Taimak
(Martial Artist, Actor)
Taimak
2
Birthdate: June 27, 1964
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Taimak is an American actor, martial artist, and stuntman. He is best known for his portrayal of Leroy Green in the 1985 martial arts movie The Last Dragon. An accomplished martial artist, Taimak holds black belts in various martial art forms, such as Jeet Kune Do, Goju Ryu Karate, Hapkido, Wing Chun, Taekwondo, Jujutsu, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

 48 
Phillip Rhee
4
Birthdate: September 7, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Seoul, South Korea
 49 
Nate Marquardt
(Mixed martial artist)
Nate Marquardt
5
Birthdate: April 20, 1979
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lander, Wyoming, United States

Nate Marquardt is a mixed martial artist who has participated in several promotions, including the UFC where he competed in the welterweight and middleweight division. Marquardt won many awards during his time at the UFC. He won one Knockout of the Night and one Fight of the Night. He is a three-time Pancrase Middleweight Champion and former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion.

 50 
Pat Barry
2
Birthdate: July 7, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New Orleans

Pat Barry is an American former kickboxer and mixed martial artist. Renowned for his low kicks, Barry competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the heavyweight division. He has won two Fight of the Night and two Knockout of the Night awards in the UFC. Barry participated in the 2003 World Wushu Championships where he earned a silver medal.