When the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) came with the innovative idea to gather all martial arts around the globe and let their representatives fight in the cage, many of us naturally thought we will finally determine which one is the best! However, reality played out being different. As the years have gone on, we?ve witnessed many styles dominating over the others and in our minds, everything got more confusing. Naturally, new training systems and methods are following the incredible rise of MMA and they mostly consist of four main martial arts:
However, what about traditional martial arts? Over the last two decades, many martial arts proved as ineffective in MMA but some of them have mistakenly fallen into that category! Karate is certainly one of them! If we look more carefully at the history of UFC and modern-day competition, we can see that Karate is more than present! Furthermore, fighters with Karate backgrounds are among the most exciting and successful ones!
Karate techniques used in MMA are constantly evolving and today, many fighters are leaning towards these traditional techniques to enhance their standup game. Set against kickboxers, Karate fighters are more unpredictable, explosive, and could attack from all sorts of angles due to the unconventional movement.
We genuinely feel the importance of Karate has been forgotten among the modern-day fans. That?s why we?re bringing you the best Karate fighters in the history of UFC whose MMA accomplishments helped to put this traditional martial art on the map!
?The Sandman? is one of the early pioneers of UFC. He is the former Pancrase Openweight Champion (Three times) and the 1996 Tournament winner. The most memorable moment of his career came just the year after in 1997 when he defeated the great Tito Ortiz at UFC 13 and went to the history books as a UFC Lightweight tournament winner.
Although many fight fans attribute his success to the previous kickboxing career (22?3), Mezger was a prominent person in the Karate world! He is the 6th Dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate who?s had a stunning martial arts career with a record of 42?1 (40 KO?s!). As a result, he became the 1993 & 1994 World Full-Contact Karate Champion.
Despite the fact that he recently lost his Middleweight belt to Israel Adesanya, Whittaker is still one of the best fighters the Middleweight Division has ever seen. Throughout his MMA career, ?Bobby Knuckles? displayed nothing but sheer violence and became the first Australian UFC Champion. Like Stephen Thompson, Whittaker is heavily relying on his movement and explosiveness. Combined with his natural power, this often results in spectacular knockouts!
However, the roots of his effective fighting style are hiding deep into the traditional martial arts. At the age of seven, his father signed him and his brother in the Goju-ryu Karate school. After eight years of training and receiving a black belt Goju-ryu and Hapikodo, Whittaker switched his focus on MMA.
Although many MMA legends and pioneers have fallen into oblivion, Bas Ruten isn?t one of them! He is holding many records and is directly responsible for the popularization of the liver shot in MMA.
Against the will of his conservative parents, Rutten started his martial arts career as a taekwondo practitioner. After completely dedicating himself to the sport, Bas would receive a 2nd-degree black belt and make a transition to Kyokushin Karate where he holds the 5th-degree black belt as well.
Rutten was also professionally competing in Japanese Wrestling and Kickboxing (14?2) tournaments. Also, he is one of the first-ever ?rounded? mixed martial artists. This mysterious style helped him crown himself with the Pancrase Openweight Championship (three times), King of Pancrase Championship (two title defenses) and UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Liddell is the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and one of the most recognized MMA faces worldwide! ?The Iceman? is directly responsible for the mainstream grows that we?re witnessing today, and surely deserves a lot of credit!
At the age of 12, Liddell started studying Koei-Kan karate and he actually never left it. He would go on earning a black belt in Koei-Kan and the 8th Dan black belt in Kajukenbo! If we take a closer look at his scalp tattoo, we may spot the words ?Koei-Kan? dedicated to his beloved sport.
Like many Karate fighters, Liddell transitioned to kickboxing (22?0) but we?ve all remember him for having incredible MMA career. As a UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Liddell scored four successful title defenses and still holds a record for most knockouts in UFC Light Heavyweight history (10).
Stephen ?Wonderboy? Thompson
When it comes to overall striking in MMA, don?t look any further, ?Wonderboy? is the best! By looking at his wide stance and movement, you?ll instantly realize everything about his background.
Thompson grew up in the martial arts family, and he literally made his first footsteps in the Karate gym. Under the eyes of his father, he started competing in Karate and Kickboxing tournaments. ?Wonderboy? retired undefeated from kickboxing (58?0) and went on to become one of the most popular UFC fighters. To this day, his fighting style is one of the most awkward among the UFC roster. He is always bouncing around hands low and exploding with lightning speed and precision, often catching his opponents off guard! Furthermore, it?s very hard to cut his movement and land anything significant on his chin. At UFC 205 and UFC 209, Thompson failed to take the Welterweight belt out of Tyron Woodley?s hands. However, both fights were very competitive and you should check them out!
Over the years, he remained loyal to his fundamentals and had earned a 6th-degree black belt in Tetsushin-ryu Kempo.
George St. Pierre
The Canadian is famous for always entering the Octagon in gi and headband with Karate symbols. GSP respected his father?s wish by participating in Kyokushin Karate at a young age. Speaking on the Joe Rogan Podcast, GSP stated martial arts helped him to overcome the rough childhood and bullying. By fully dedicating himself to Kyokushin, GSP earned a black belt at just 21! He would go on becoming a 3rd Dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate and a black belt in the hybrid mixture of Judo, Karate, and Muay Thai called Shidokan Karate.
In order to compete in MMA, GSP added many other techniques to his game. However, his overall style is based around Karate, and this remained his trademark for the entire career. Just take a look at his impressive accomplishments:
UFC Middleweight Championship UFC Welterweight Championship Third most consecutive title defenses in UFC history (9) Most wins in UFC title fights (13) (tied with Jon Jones)
From the first moment you have seen the title of this article, we bet you knew the Dragon will be on this list! How not?! Thanks to Lyoto Machida, traditional martial arts like Karate have become the must tool in every fighter standup game! On top of that, Machida is the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion and definitely a very exciting fighter.
Machida was predestined for success! The ?Dragon? is a son of the Shotokan Karate master Yoshizo Machida who is also highly ranked official in the Japanese Karate Association. Lyoto started training Karate at the age of three and just a decade later, he received a black belt! Nowadays, he is a proud owner of the 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan and is spending his time spreading the knowledge on younger generations.
Bet you didn?t know that! The story behind the MMA gloves
What is the first thing you recall while thinking about the mixed martial arts beginnings? Yes, the apparent lack of?
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