Action films have been inspiring the minds of children and adults for decades. In fact if you’re reading this, it would be safe to say that your love of combat sports was heavily influenced by, if not born from, the glory, honour, choreography, speed, power and sheer beauty of the martial arts displayed in cinemas all over the world.

All of these men are masters of their respective art forms and in some cases more than one. Through their skills, disciplines and philosophies they’ve changed the film industry. But most importantly they’ve influenced and created the very existence of what we now know as Mixed Martial Arts. After intense research, I’ve come up with a list of the top 5 Actions stars who could have, should have and most likely would have competed in the Mixed Martial Arts. Check it out…

#5 - Steven Seagal

Assuming both Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida were dead serious when they claimed that their front kick technique was perfected with the help of “Master” Seagal, though reluctant, I’ll allow him a spot on this list. However, Seagal’s recent involvement with MMA has been ill received and mocked, which is well deserved due to his un-athletic appearance and lack of real/documented combat experience.

I’ve researched Aikido many times, I’ve watched many demonstrations and I’ve concluded that it doesn’t seem to be a very practical martial art for the octagon or for one on one application. It was a martial art form created for the battlefield, designed to dispatch or redirect the attacks of multiple opponents at a time. With that said, Seagal DID earn his 7th Dan Black belt in Aikido from a legit sensei, and was also the very first westerner in history to own his own dojo and train students in Japan, so what the hell do I know?

Who knows! Maybe with a few less cheeseburgers and some discipline, Seagal could’ve been the greatest fighter who ever lived…

#4 - Michael Jai White

Starting martial arts training at the age of eight, White has become a well respected and extremely accomplished martial artist. He holds eight black belts in Shotokan, Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Kobudo, Goju Ryu, Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin.

White ended up choosing to go into film, amassing an impressive body of work, with roles in films such as The Dark Knight, Universal Soldier, Spawn, Exit Wounds, Mortal Kombat Legacy and many more.

At the age of 45, no one will ever know how well White could have truly been had he chosen to try his hand at MMA. But based on his flawless physique and his extensive training/experience, I believe that he had some serious potential. With that said, you can find a ton of great videos of him on youtube, but this one in particular is by far my favorite and the most interesting.

It’s a very effective karate technique known as the “Non-telegraphic Punch” that showcases just how fast and intelligent Michael Jai White truly is. Bruce Lee perfected it, Lyoto Machida currently uses it, and more MMA fighters should be implementing this into their skill set.

#3 - Chuck Norris

On November 24, 1968, Norris won the Professional Middleweight Karate champion title, which he held for six consecutive years. In 1969, he won Karate's triple crown for the most tournament wins of the year, and was awarded the Fighter of the Year award by Black Belt Magazine.

Norris is trained in Shotokan, Kenpo, Shito-Ryu, Tang Soo Do and Judo, he’s been awarded a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by the Machado family and finally made combat history in 1990, becoming the first Westerner in the documented history of Tae Kwon Do to be given the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master.

Like many martial artists found on this list, Chuck Norris chose to pursue a career in film, landing roles on the big screen and TV shows such as Way Of The Dragon, Walker Texas Ranger and many more. Norris can also be credited with developing his own martial art known as Chun Kuk Do, a korean-based, hybrid martial art based primarily on Tang Soo Do, but also includes elements from Shotokan, Isshin Ryu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Muay Thai.

But more important than any of that, is the endless supply of exaggerated memes and absurd viral humour simply known as “The Chuck Norris Facts”. I can only imagine how many more jokes would have been written had he fought in the UFC. Just remember, Chuck Norris once impregnated a woman just by staring at her, and then he counted to infinity… Twice.

#2 - Bruce Lee

What else can be said about this man that hasn’t already been said? He’s influenced, changed and revolutionized every aspect of combat and the martial arts. Philosophy, technique, form, nutrition, mentality, spirituality, discipline. He is the reason why MMA fighters train, fight, look and think the way that they do. Whether influenced directly or indirectly, the evidence of his impact on modern martial arts can be seen in almost every professional modern fighter, including stars like Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and many of the men on this list.

 I’ve designed this list so that it favours factual, documented, cold hard evidence of combat experience. Which is the only glaring issue preventing Bruce Lee from being #1 on this list. His legend is filled with off the record reports, comments and hearsay spoken by a myriad of witnesses ranging from close friends and family members, to almost complete strangers. Due to the fact that video footage was never taken of these legendary behind the scenes exchanges, nor any of these bouts fully sanctioned and documented, it is simply impossible to conclude whether the stories were accurate or simply an exaggeration of his true abilities.

With very little actual professional and documented combat experience, I can’t in good faith rank Bruce Lee higher than this. But I’ll tell you what, if the reports and comments submitted by the witnesses of what took place are accurate, than Bruce Lee could possibly have been the greatest martial artist that ever lived.

#1 - Jean Claude Van Damme

Jean Claude Van Damme is #1 on my list for the simple reason that he is undoubtedly the fighter with the most undisputed, real –world, career success in combat sports on this list. We’re also talking about a guy who got soo pissed off that he challenged Steven Seagal to a fight, while the both of them were attending a party at Sylvester Stallone’s villa in Miami.

According to Stallone, Seagal had been talking soo much smack that Van Damme challenged him to fight right then and there in the backyard, causing Seagal to provide a poor excuse and then conveniently Houdini himself right out of the party. The last time something THAT badass happened, Forrest Griffin was on the canvas with palms to the sky begging for mercy.

Van Damme began martial arts training at the age of ten, enrolled by his father into Shotokan karate. His styles consist of kickboxing, Shotokan karate, Muay Thai and Taekwondo. He eventually earned his black belt in karate and then started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title.

From 1976 to 1982, Van Damme fought in 19 full-contact kick-boxing matches, and compiled a record of 18 wins, with 18 knockouts and 1 defeat. In his very first full-contact match, a 16 year old Van Damme knocked out Toon Van Oostrum in 46 seconds of the first round. His only career defeat came by way of disqualification via an accidental kick to a downed opponent, who could no longer continue and was awarded the victory.

Jean-Claude was only knocked down once in his entire 8-year career. In a fight which took place in Tampa Bay, Florida, Sherman Bergman landed a powerful left hook sending Van Damme to the canvas. However, Van Damme got up, and with an axe-kick, knocked Bergman out in 56 seconds of the first round.

Recently Van Damme was scheduled to fight professional Thai Fighter and former boxing Olympic gold-medalist Somluck Kamsing in 2011, which was then rescheduled for 2012, but never came to fruition. He was hoping to become the first man over the age of 50 to ever compete in a kick-boxing match, claiming “It’s kind of dangerous, but life is short”.

Honorable Mentions…

Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Jackie Chan, Tony Jaa.

Well that’s my list. Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Who did I miss? And who would be in your top 5?