The Top 5 action stars who could have competed in Mixed Martial Arts


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?

  • how about jack black, i think he is a kick himself practitioner, or justin bieber, he win a fight against a rabbit in a music video and has some cool tattoos.

    • with out bruce lee, van damme wouldnt have a career

      • Do you mean chuck norris?

        • Phillip Rhee from Best of the Best. He holds the rank of 6th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, 3rd degree black belt in Hap Ki Do and 1st degree black belt in Kendo. He is also skilled in Wing Chun and Boxing and was highly regarded for his wrestling.

    • Authors opinions are well-reasoned, but the part about aikido no being an effective martial art are totally inaccurate. Alot of the techniques used in aikido would be illegal in the ring and for damn good reason. If you're foolish enough to take it lightly on the street there's a great chance you'll be recovering for the rest of your life.

      • Yea I'm really glad they banned the stare of death from being in MMA, on the street if someone Seagal locks eyes with you, may as well accept your time is up.

  • Scott Adkins anyone??

  • Hey that was a pretty good read. Van Damme was one of my favorites growing up, blood sport and the quest are classics! Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon! Man I grew up with 2 brothers and we kicked each others asses after watching these movies! Thanks for paying homage.

  • Cung Le is the only one to prove he can do both well

    • I think he belongs in the fighter turned actor section right?

      • Technically so do JCVD, Chuck and Bruce. Unless your talking about only MMA.

        What about Seagal? Sensei Seagal has told the world he has been fighting his entire life so shouldn't he be counted as a fighter first and hollywood all-star second?
        (Please don't take the last paragraph seriously… please)

  • Are you sure about JCVD records ? Can you give official source ? Quite surprised , there where so much technical mistakes in bis first movies.


      Kickboxing Record 18-1
      Semi-Contact Record 44-4

    • Because his movies weren't base on technique. They were based on theatrics.

    • Pretty much everything you see in a film is not real martial art techniques or at least not ones used for competition (some exceptions such as Never Back Down).
      They use certain styles that are primarily used only for film making because they look fancy in action sequences.

      If you want to watch guys using their technique, watch videos of them practicing or competing.
      Van Damme was recently in a video with GSP training techniques and in his old coked up state he still looked crisp.

      I recently watched The Dark Knight Rises again and even though it is an amazing film, the hyped up fight scenes to me look so fake.

      Problem with watching real fighting (combat sports) is that it is painful obvious when it's not realistic.

  • Jean Claude Van Damme – Hell no. I grew up loving some of his movies, but as I got older, they have become more comical than anything else. He is way too slow. He fights in slow motion in my opinion.

    Chuck Norris? Haha – Who knows. I never quite understood the hype about him as a martial artist.

    Steven Seagal could be okay, but his moves are too illegal for the cage

    Jackie Chan – Who knows.

    Jason Statham – Nope

    Jet Li – Hmm – I have to toss a coin first

    Iko Uwais – maybe (The Raid Redemption – one of the best movies ever made)

    Donnie Yen – I don't know, but I'd like to say maybe. He is my favorite by the way.

    Michael Jai White – Haha – maybe

    Tony Jaa – maybe if he can work on his ground game.

    Scott Adkins – Definitely, but he'll need to train more.

    Bruce Lee – Hell yeah.

    • Flip a coin for Jet Li*

    • @underdoggreatness :
      Even id I mainly agree with you

      Chuck : 8th degree Taekwondo black belt, Brown belt in bjj . It s more than a lot of fighters.

      Tony Jaa : what do you know about id ground game ? He s not a Muay thaï practionner but a kun khmer ( pradal serrey ) and trust me there is à huge difference !

      • @ K's – I knew he was a brown belt in bjj, but I didn't about the Taekwondo part.

        What's the difference between Muay Thai and PS? From what I've heard in the past, it seems like kk (PS) is a little more dangerous than Muay Thai. That said, they are very similar to each other.

        @ K F – Donnie Yen is a beast.

    • @Underdog glad someone named Donnie Yen. Think it's hard to look past a guy who is a lifelong martial artist in multiple disciplines, including a 6th Dan black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do.

  • My personal list of influenting martial art actors:
    1. Jackie Chan
    2. Van Damme (Bloodsport, the idea of early MMA)
    3. Chuck Norris
    4. Bruce Lee
    5. Tony Jaa
    6. Samo Hung and Yuen Biao (Winners and Sinners, an all these Police movies Hongkong)
    7. Dolph Lundgreen
    I'm not saying that they would have had sucess in MMA… just a personal thing

    • If that's a list of people who have influenced martial arts… Then Bruce Lee should be at the top. That is undeniable.

      There would be no Jackie Chan if Bruce Lee didn't exist.

      • You could say there'd be no Bruce Lee if someone else didn't exist. Why is lowkick riddled with idiot comments so often?

        • @asskika because Bruce Lee was the one who put martial arts in hollywood and western mainstream success. Also one of Jackie Chan's first roles was in Enter the Dragon as a stunt actor.

          • The likes of Jackie chan, Yun Fat Chow, Jet Li and others would have still been star actors regardless of Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan was a mega star in his own right in south east asia long before he crossed over to western productions. Your argument is as silly as saying there'd be no MMA without Dana White.

      • I think he's saying it's who influenced him personally, not influenced martial arts as a whole.

        • That's exactly what I'm saying. All the current'y successful Chinese action stars are only successful because of the doors that Bruce Lee broke down in the film industry.

          They've been given the opportunities they have because of him and he has been a very obvious influence on them and their style.

          Just like Justin Timberlake wouldn't be the same and may not have existed if it weren't for Michael Jackson.

          • Bryan you are so wrong. If Bruce Lee had never existed the chances are Jackie Chan would still have been a mega star and western audiences affection for matial art films would have grown regardless. Bruce Lee just happened to be there at the time.

  • Mr. T and Hulk Hogan…..if they can have guys like Kimbo and Brock have some (kind of) success, so could they!

  • what about that white power ranger guy? lol
    he is undefeated in mma, right?

  • Bryan…now that you "allowed" Seagal a place i such prestigious list he can finally die in peace….thank you Bryan.

    • LMAO

    • Agree that there are some "stars" that might qualify to the list before Segal, but he is also a kendo master(perhaps not so useful in MMA) and has black belts in both judo and karate. But in any case he would need to train to get rid of that belly 🙂

  • Putting Bruce at #2 and Van Dam at #1 is ludicrous. Van Dam may have done more tournaments (to my knowledge Lee did no competition) but Lee trained the three top kick boxers of his time and a quick scan of what remains of his writings shows that Lee was training in the same basic way that fighters today train as early as the late 60's. There is no way Bruce Lee isn't number one on this list by a galactic distance. BTW Chuck Norris has at least as much full contact experience as Van Dam and he was a student of Bruce's. Lee also trained Joe Lewis and Mike Stone.

    • Correction, I wrote kick boxers. I meant full contact Karate fighters. The style he taught them was more like Muay Thai though.

    • Actually Lee and Norris learned from each other. Lee was trained to only kick to waist height and Norris said, "Why limit yourself?" And before long Lee had some of the best head kicks around (we assume) due to his speed, timing and accuracy but I agree with Lee having little in way of real fights he can't be #1. Norris should be #1 IMO. If you watch footage of him in action you'll see why.

      • It's said Bruce had some success in boxing (don't know if Chinese or Western), I have seen footage of him in fights but as much as I have looked throughout the internet I can't find any records of him fights, just word of mouth and some grainy black and white footage.

        Bruce has to be #1, he was doing armbars and practicing wrestling in America (not sure if Greco or Freestyle) before Royce Gracie was even born!

        • In that case Ip man has to be #1 he was the one who trained Bruce. Check out golden harvest productions. There's dozens of martial art films, some of which (sorry I can't recall the titles) utilise greasing in wrestling. There were many other actors who also studied many styles. Le is better known in the west because he became the face of martial movies for that era but he wasn't alone.

  • Bryan…

    What about Stallone and Schwarzenegger? They look pretty tough in their movies, man. I nominate them as an honorary sixth and seventh, to the list.

    …now where did I put my decadrabolin and growth hormone?

    • If they had a shred of combat training I would have mentioned them lol. Unfortunately over-exaggerated comical boxing and machine guns don't equal fighting skill.

      • Does being on a bunch of PED's count as a connection to MMA today? 🙂

        • @ Evan

          Here's a question, what if you're not on PEDs' now, but you did a whack of them in the past and they made you a monster. It gave you so much power that that, combined with one other skill, made you a big name in MMA and maybe even a Champion of a division.

          Where does that class of animal fall on the scale of loose, un-deserved connections to MMA?

      • @ Bryan

        I was only messin' but, you know that…:-)

        "Live Last-Bullet Is Better" Bumper Stickers should be issued.

  • Some serious balls to be on here here with all the Lee zealots putting him second. I love it.

    JCVD was one of the best kickboxers in the world when he was in competition. That's actual proof of a guy who had insane talent in the fighting world putting it to use. Not philosophies, not stories of training, not teachings, not work out regiments, not work out videos, etc. Real evidence of a bad ass combatant.

    Could Lee have taken out JCVD? Possibly. Would it have been a great striking match up? You betcha.

    • Only thing is when JCVD fought I don't think there was much competition back then, especially in Karate tournaments and stuff like that.
      His kickboxing record is impressive but being the being one of the best competitive martial artists wasn't a big deal back then, only boxing was at a super high level.

      • It's still actual proof though. Not hearsay, or other means of justifying a persons skill.

        Besides, kickboxing is still not the level of boxing so the comparisons to it never really hold weight. It still had a few high profile champions in the era like Don the Dragon Wilson.

  • How about Chuck Zito…the guy who knocked out Van Damme in a nightclub for mouthing off?

  • Where is Yuri Boyka? 😀 Scott Adkins.

  • Just want to start off with great article and original idea, never actually seen one specifically about action stars that could be MMA fighters.

    For me Bruce Lee will always be #1, I grew up on the legend. Years before I ever got in to MMA Bruce was already one of my heroes and to this day still is!
    Even though MMA is my unequaled passion Bruce Lee, along with Muhammad Ali, are bigger heroes in my life than any mixed martial artist but I think it was part of my childhood and it becomes biased.

    I think JCVD, Norris and Jai White are the obvious guys to come next, all legit world class martial artists. They truly are extreme talent that our sport missed out on.

    Steven "Sensei" Seagal is a tough one to decipher, there is no doubt he is a super high level Akido practitioner but whether that would do him any good in MMA is debatable.
    Akido is one of the few big name martial arts, probbaly along with Kung Fu, that haven't really been displayed in MMA.
    You would guess that in his prime someone like Seagal could use Akido in a MMA bout effectively but it is also not crazy to think he would be trying to grab a wrist and instead eats an overhand right to the temple or gets blasted off his feet with a double leg.

    I honestly am not sure but I think Jackie Chan and Jet Li, while both being incredibly high level, are better suited for choreography rather than competition but if they are good competitors please correct me.

    Once again thanks for the article, best forum of discussion Lowkick has had in a while!

    • Thanks man I appreciate it! Was hoping for this to be nothing but entertainment and fun.

      I based the list on hard facts though… So it was impossible for Bruce Lee to be #1. In fact #2 was pushing it, simply because he has ZERO documented and sanctioned combat experience aside from a few amateur Chinese boxing matches at the age of 18-19.

  • I almost forgot, as everyone else has…. what about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson?

    I know he isn't a martial artist but the man is one of the craziest freak athletes on the planet. I remember watching Dana's vlog that covered UFC 116 and The Rock, congratulating on the comeback victory, dwarfed Lesnar in size.

    I know he would need to learn the game but I think everyone on the list would need some proper training in MMA and while the other action stars bring their legendary martial arts backgrounds in to the fray, The Rock would be packing some world class athleticism that would be rivaled by the best of the best athletes in out sport.

    Something annoying is Johnson admits he would've got in to MMA instead of Pro Wrestling if it was big back when he began his career… damn timing!

    • Not only was a freak athlete (one of the best prospects in football before he had injury troubles), but he was insane.

      He has multiple stories in his book of fighting when he was growing up, and in college. One in particular was during a melee while he was at The U (Miami) he tried to reach into one guys mouth and pull out his tongue.

      I think I just got an idea for a related post on Sports stars.


  • I am not buying into the hype of Steven Segal. All I have ever seen from his is bad acting, trashing talking and hyping himself up. There is just something about Segal I have never liked, I was actually cheering for Tommy Lee Jones in Underseige.

    The post up the ^ about the Rock made me think about pro wrestling and does anyone remember the brawl for it all boxing matches they use to have in WWF? Butterbean knocking out Bart Gunn… I will never forget.

  • peter parker spider man

  • Just as a side discussion, what is your favourite ever martial arts battle? Mine is from crouching tiger hidden dragon:

  • Donnie Yen, Michael Jai White, Chuck Norris should top this list… Van Damme also needs to be on it but no Nr.1 cause he doesn't have groundgame like the other 3. Without a doubt Michael Jai White could probably at 45 still enter the UFC and become a champ if he wanted to. He's a TRUE mixed martial artist. Oh and one i'm missing and everyone is sleeping on is: "Wesley Snipes". Many might not know but he's a FREAK martial artist! (5th Degree Black Belt Karate, Black Belt BJJ, Black Belt and other diciplines like Kungfu, Tae Kwondo, Judo.. he's also a Capoeira Master) The man is a beast!

  • Bruce Lee should be number one… He came up with the concept of MIX(ED)ing different MARTIAL ARTS techniques taking whats most useful.

  • When Chuck was asked who would win a fight between him and Bruce, Chuck responded that he was a professional fighter and Bruce Lee was a movie star…

  • Michael Holliday

    My only problem with this list is Chuck. He never actually fought. It was all point sparring, his whole career. So, he has ZERO combat experience. Many people don’t know that, and think his long held title was for fighting.
    If someone already mentioned this, then I apologize.