Karate has proven to be a significant force in mixed martial arts. The UFC has witnessed some remarkable karate fighters. While some karatekas have brought impeccable timing and damaging strikes, others have benefited greatly from the conditioning that comes with the rigorous training that karate demands.
Over the years, the UFC has seen several karate practitioners rise to the top of their respective weight classes, using their skills to secure wins and leave a lasting impact on the sport.
|Kyokushin Karate – 9th Dan Black Belt|
|Kyokushin Karate (NKA) – 4th Dan Black Belt|
|Sei Budo Kai Karate – 7th Dan Black Belt|
|Full-Contact Karate (USA) – 2nd Dan Black Belt|
|Oyama Karate – 4th Dan Black Belt|
Gerard Gordeau is a pioneering Dutch mixed martial artist and kickboxer who played a significant role in the formative years of the UFC. With a martial arts background that incorporates Kyokushin karate and savate, Gordeau effectively employed his striking skills in competition.
Gordeau’s claim to fame came during the inaugural UFC event, UFC 1, in 1993, when he made it to the finals after two dominant victories. Although he was defeated by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu icon Royce Gracie in the final bout, Gordeau’s performance highlighted the potential and effectiveness of karate within the new sport of MMA.
While Gordeau’s MMA career may have been brief, his involvement in the early stages of the UFC laid the groundwork for subsequent generations of karate fighters to showcase and develop their striking abilities in the cage.
|Ashihara Karate – 6th Dan Black Belt|
|Kyokushin Budokai Karate – 9th Dan Black Belt|
Semmy Schilt, a towering Dutch fighter standing at 6’11”, is a highly accomplished kickboxer and mixed martial artist. With a background in Ashihara karate, Schilt has developed a striking style capitalizing on his exceptional reach and powerful kicks.
Schilt’s martial arts career began with full-contact karate. He became a two-time Daido Juku Hokutoki champion and a two-time IBK (International Budo Kai) European Champion.
In addition to his karate success, Schilt also competed in MMA, fighting in organizations such as Pancrase, Pride, and the UFC. Schilt fought only two fights in the UFC but became a multiple-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, establishing himself as one of history’s most dominant heavyweight kickboxers.
His karate-based striking and imposing physical presence made him a formidable opponent in the MMA arena as well. Schilt retired from professional competition in 2013 as a legend of the sport.
|Kyokushin Karate – 5th Dan Black Belt|
Bas Rutten is a retired mixed martial artist and kickboxer known for his karate-based style and impressive record of 28 wins and 4 losses. Rutten’s karate background is based on Kyokushin karate, a full-contact style emphasizing powerful strikes and conditioning. He is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Rutten’s striking is both powerful and technical, and he uses his karate background to set up his kicks and punches. He is known for his devastating liver kicks, which have spectacularly finished many of his fights. Rutten is also a skilled grappler, particularly emphasizing submissions, such as the guillotine choke.
Rutten’s success in the sport of MMA has earned him a place in the UFC Hall of Fame, and his legacy as one of the best fighters in the sport’s history is well-deserved. His karate-based style and impressive striking have made him one of the most exciting fighters to watch, and his technical skills have earned him respect from his peers and fans alike.
|Kyokushin Karate – 3rd Dan Black Belt|
Georges St-Pierre is considered to be one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time, and his karate background has played a significant role in his success. St-Pierre is a former UFC welterweight champion with a record of 26 wins and two losses. His karate style is based on Kyokushin karate, which emphasizes strong, full-contact strikes and rigorous training.
St-Pierre’s striking is precise and powerful, and he used his karate background to set up his takedowns and grappling. His footwork and timing are excellent, allowing him to avoid strikes and create openings for his own attacks. St-Pierre’s karate has made him one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC, and his success in the sport has cemented his legacy as one of the best fighters of all time.
|Kyokushin Karate – Black Belt|
|Okinawa-Kenpo Karate – Black Belt|
Katsunori Kikuno is a Japanese mixed martial artist renowned for his distinctive and potent striking style, deeply rooted in his training in Okinawan Kenpo Karate and Kyokushin Karate. Kikuno began his professional MMA career in 2006, eventually competing in DEEP, DREAM, and the UFC organizations.
What sets Kikuno apart is his unorthodox stance, crisp punches, and his signature “crescent kick” – a looping kick aimed at his opponent’s head.Drawing from his diverse karate background, Kikuno’s striking approach is unique, blending traditional martial arts techniques with modern MMA strategies.
Kikuno has faced several top fighters throughout his career, including Tony Ferguson. Unfortunately for Kikuno, El Cucuy was at his prime then, and Kod Kikuno in the first round. Kikuno’s commitment to his karate roots and innovative approach to striking has made him a standout figure in MMA.
|Shotokan Karate – 3rd Dan Black Belt|
Lyoto Machida is a former UFC light heavyweight champion with an impressive record of 26 wins and 12 losses. Machida’s karate background has played a significant role in his success. He is known for his elusive style and ability to strike accurately. He has defeated some of the best fighters in the world, including Randy Couture, Rashad Evans, and Dan Henderson.
Machida’s style is based on Shotokan karate, a traditional style that emphasizes quick, powerful strikes and evasive footwork. He has incorporated this style into his MMA game, using his distance management to frustrate opponents and set up his strikes.
Machida’s “Machida Karate” has become famous for its unique approach to MMA. His success in the UFC has solidified his place as one of the best karate fighters in the sport’s history.
|Tetsushin-Ryū Kempo Karate – 5th Degree Black Belt|
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is a highly skilled karate fighter and has been one of the most successful fighters in the UFC. Stephen Thomson is practically the poster boy when you think of “UFC karate.” He has a record of 17 wins and six losses.
He has defeated some of the best fighters in the world, including Jorge Masvidal and Robert Whittaker. Thompson’s karate style is based on Kenpo karate, emphasizing fast, powerful strikes and quick footwork. Thompson’s movement is fluid and unpredictable, making it difficult for opponents to read his strikes.
He uses a variety of kicks and punches to keep his opponents at bay, and his timing is impeccable. He utilizes the classic karate stance, enabling him to land interesting and unpredictable kicks. Thompson’s karate background has helped him to become one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, and his striking prowess has made him a fan favorite.
|Kyokushin Karate – 2nd Degree Black Belt|
Uriah Hall, hailing from Spanish Town, Jamaica, is a gifted mixed martial artist recognized for his electrifying striking skills and spinning techniques. Hall began training in martial arts at a young age, eventually earning a black belt in Kyokushin karate.
His striking style is characterized by fluid movement, powerful kicks, and unpredictable angles. Hall gained widespread attention during his time on The Ultimate Fighter 17, scoring a series of highlight-reel knockouts, earning him a spot in the UFC.
Throughout his career, Hall has faced some of the top contenders in the middleweight division, with notable victories over Gegard Mousasi, Chris Weidman (where Chris Weidman broke his leg on the tough Uriah Hall), and Anderson Silva. Despite facing setbacks, Hall’s dedication to improvement and dynamic striking ability keep him relevant in the competitive middleweight division.
|Gōjū-Ryū Karate – Black Belt|
Bobby Knuckles, the fan-favorite Aussie, is a highly skilled karate fighter and former UFC middleweight champion. Robert Whittaker has a record of 24 wins and 6 losses and is known for his precise striking and excellent footwork. Whittaker’s karate background is based on Goju-Ryu karate, which he has adapted to MMA.
Whittaker’s striking is technical, explosive, and powerful, and he uses his karate background to set up his punches and kicks. His excellent footwork and timing make it difficult for opponents to land strikes and create openings. Whittaker’s karate has made him one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC, and his success in the sport has solidified his place as one of the best.
Bobby Knuckles is a fighter who is beloved by fans all around the world. He has a down-to-earth personality and a workman-like attitude that has endeared him to many fans. His style is a perfect blend of technique and aggression, and he is always willing to put on a show for his fans.
Whittaker’s journey to the top of the UFC has been marked by perseverance and hard work, and his success has made him one of the most respected fighters in the sport. His two wars with Yoel Romero will always be remembered by everyone.
|Kempo Karate – Black Belt|
Frank Mir is a former UFC heavyweight champion and a highly skilled mixed martial artist with a diverse background in martial arts. Mir has a record of 19 wins and 13 losses and is known for his striking and grappling abilities. Mir’s karate background is based on Shotokan karate, which he adapted to MMA and other martial arts disciplines.
Mir’s striking is both powerful and technical, and he uses his karate background to set up his takedowns and grappling. He is a skilled submission artist and has won many of his fights by submission, including some of the most impressive submissions in UFC history.
His striking and grappling abilities make him one of the most versatile fighters in the UFC. His legacy in the sport is cemented as one of the best. Mir’s impressive resume includes victories over some of the biggest names in the sport, including Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
He is also known for his ability to come back from adversity, as he has been able to bounce back from losses and injuries throughout his career.
|Gōjū-Ryū Karate – Black Belt|
Gunnar Nelson is a highly skilled karate fighter and a top contender in the UFC welterweight division. Nelson has a record of 19 wins and five losses and is known for his grappling and striking abilities. Nelson’s striking is both technical and precise, and he uses his karate background to set up his takedowns and grappling.
He is a skilled submission artist and has won many of his fights by submission, including a recent victory over Bryan Barberena via first-round submission. Nelson’s karate has made him one of the most well-rounded fighters in the UFC. His potential for greatness is evident in his recent performances.
Nelson’s martial arts background includes a black belt in Gōjū-ryū Karate and a 3rd-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie. His grappling skills are especially noteworthy, as he can take down and submit some of the best fighters in the world.
He is known for his calm and calculated fighting style, and his ability to stay composed under pressure has helped him to secure many victories in his career.
|Koei-Kan Karate – Black Belt|
Chuck Liddell is a former UFC light heavyweight champion and a highly skilled karate fighter with a diverse background in martial arts. Liddell has a record of 21 wins and 9 losses and is known for his striking and knockout power.
Liddell’s karate background is based on Kempo karate, which he adapted to MMA and other martial arts disciplines. He is also a practitioner of Koei-Kan Karate and holds an impressive 8th Dan black belt in Kajukenbo.
Liddell’s striking is both powerful and technical, and he uses his karate background to set up his punches and kicks. He is particularly known for his devastating overhand right, which has left many opponents frozen and unable to continue. Liddell’s knockout power has made him one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, and his legacy in the sport is cemented as one of the best.
While Liddell did not rely on his karate background as much in his fighting career, his training in Kempo karate, Koei-Kan Karate, and Kajukenbo has undoubtedly influenced his fighting style and approach. His ability to mix striking and grappling has made him a well-rounded fighter, and his knockout power is still talked about by fans to this day.
|American Freestyle Karate – Black Belt|
Known as “The Karate Hottie,” Michelle Waterson is a highly skilled karate fighter and a former Invicta FC atomweight champion. With a record of 18 wins and 10 losses, Waterson is known for her striking and grappling abilities, which she has honed through her training in American Freestyle Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Waterson’s karate background is based on her black belt in American Freestyle Karate, which has helped her develop quick strikes and fluid movement. She has adapted her karate techniques to MMA, using her striking to set up her takedowns and grappling. Her striking is both technical and precise, allowing her to land powerful blows while avoiding her opponent’s attacks.
|Full Contact Karate – Black Belt|
Guy Mezger is a retired mixed martial artist who was an important figure in the early days of the UFC. Born on January 1, 1968, in Houston, Texas, Mezger held titles in both Pancrase and the UFC. A versatile fighter, he was skilled in Kenpo karate, kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Mezger began his martial arts journey with Kenpo karate at the age of 15, later transitioning to professional fighting. His notable victories include wins over Tito Ortiz, Yuki Kondo, and Masakatsu Funaki.
Throughout his career, Mezger’s striking was characterized by quick hands and powerful strikes, using his karate background to set up punches and kicks effectively in the Octagon. Despite being retired, Mezger remains an influential figure in the world of MMA, serving as a coach and mentor to younger fighters.
|Kyokushin Karate – Brown Belt|
Alexander Volkov is a formidable Russian heavyweight competitor in the UFC. Standing at 6’7″ with an 80-inch reach, Volkov uses his height and reach advantage to keep his opponents at bay. His striking style is heavily influenced by his Kyokushin karate background, which he began training in at the age of 12. Volkov later transitioned to MMA, making his professional debut in 2009.
He has competed in various organizations, including Bellator, where he became the heavyweight champion. Notable wins in his career include victories over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, and Alistair Overeem.
Volkov’s fighting style is characterized by powerful kicks, precise punches, and a high fight IQ, making him a dangerous contender in the heavyweight division. He currently has a 36-10 score, with 24 wins coming via knockout.
|Shuri-Ryū Karate – Black Belt|
Sage Northcutt is a young and talented mixed martial artist fighting out of Texas who has gained wide social media attention for his athletic abilities and positive attitude. Northcutt began training in martial arts at a young age, earning black belts in both Shotokan karate and taekwondo. His karate background heavily influences his striking, showcasing quick, powerful strikes and fluid movement.
Northcutt made his UFC debut in 2015, becoming one of the youngest fighters ever signed by the organization. While his UFC career experienced ups and downs, Northcutt continued to develop as a fighter, moving on to compete in other organizations such as ONE Championship.
Unfortunately, Sage was struck down by the hands of the legendary Cosmo Alexandre, where he suffered a fractured skull. However, Sage successfully recovered and will make his return to ONE Championship in the following months. In addition to his fighting career, Northcutt has ventured into acting and modeling, capitalizing on his charismatic personality and marketability.
|Shotokan Karate – 2nd Degree Black Belt|
Kyoji Horiguchi is a highly skilled Japanese mixed martial artist who has succeeded in both the UFC and RIZIN Fighting Federation. Horiguchi’s background in Kyokushin karate has heavily influenced his striking style, emphasizing strong kicks and precise punches.
Horiguchi began his professional MMA career in 2009, eventually signing with the UFC in 2013. After a successful run in the flyweight division, including a title shot against Demetrious Johnson, Horiguchi left the UFC to compete in RIZIN, where he captured the bantamweight championship.
Horiguchi’s dynamic striking and exceptional grappling skills make him a formidable fighter in any organization. He currently holds an impressive 31-5 fight record and is set to make his karate skills put to the test at the upcoming Bellator 295.
|Kenpō Karate – Black Belt|
Justin Scoggins, born in 1992 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is an agile and quick mixed martial artist known for his striking and grappling skills. Scoggins began training in karate at only three years old, focusing on Kenpo karate and later transitioning to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
His striking style showcases elements of his karate background, emphasizing speed, footwork, and powerful kicks. Scoggins made his professional MMA debut in 2012 and signed with the UFC in 2013.
Throughout his UFC career, Scoggins has competed in both the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, where unfortunately, he didn’t succeed. He soon transitioned to Rizin and then took a two-year break to recoup from the losing streak he was on before his last fight.
|Uechi-Ryū Karate – 3rd Degree Black Belt|
This action-man-looking fighter, who could easily be mistaken for a pro bodybuilder, is none other than Natan Levy. Hailing from Israel, Levy has made a name for himself as a formidable mixed martial artist with impressive grappling skills and a solid striking foundation. His chiseled physique and intense work ethic are evident both in and out of the cage.
Levy began his martial arts journey with a background in traditional karate, eventually transitioning to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where he earned a black belt. His well-rounded skill set caught the attention of many as he built an impressive record in the regional MMA scene. Levy’s efforts paid off when he earned a UFC contract after an outstanding performance on Dana White’s Contender Series.
In the octagon, Levy showcases a diverse arsenal of striking techniques, complemented by his grappling abilities, making him a dangerous opponent for anyone in the lightweight division. With a relentless drive to succeed and a tireless work ethic, Natan Levy is poised to make his mark in the world of MMA and become a force to be reckoned with.
|Shitō-Ryū Karate – 3rd Degree Black Belt|
Although not the most successful in the UFC octagon, Seth Petruzelli has earned a special place in the hearts of MMA fans for his memorable performances and fearless fighting spirit. Petruzelli, a well-rounded martial artist with a background in Shitō-ryū karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, has faced some of the biggest names in the sport and never backed down from a challenge.
Petruzelli’s most iconic moment came during a bout against Kimbo Slice in EliteXC: Heat. He scored a stunning 14-second knockout, effectively derailing the hype train surrounding the popular street fighter turned MMA competitor. This victory cemented Petruzelli’s reputation as a dangerous striker who could finish fights instantly.
While in the UFC, Petruzelli faced several tough opponents and experienced mixed results. However, his never-say-die attitude and penchant for exciting fights endeared him to fans worldwide.