While the very essence of MMA is deeply rooted in traditional martial arts, we rarely see practitioners of such styles competing at the top of the sport in the UFC. More often than not, we see fighters using a full mix of styles, taking the most useful pieces from several martial arts.
This is to be expected given that the sport is literally called mixed martial arts. However, there are a few UFC fighters who remain practitioners of a traditional martial art despite competing in MMA. These fighters have adapted their styles but remain true to their origins.
In the following list, we’ll go over five of these UFC fighters, past and present. The criteria for being on this list are that said fighter has extensive experience in a traditional martial art such as karate or taekwondo, and has brought that style to the UFC. Although they can adapt their style, they should still use the key principles of what makes this martial art unique.
The first honorable mentions go to Michelle Waterson, Giga Chikadze and Anthony Pettis.
5 UFC fighters who adapted a traditional martial art to modern MMA
# 5 UFC welterweight Georges St-Pierre – Karate Kyokushin
Georges St-Pierre is well known for having one of the most comprehensive MMA games in UFC history. However, this was later in GSP’s career. When he first arrived at the UFC, St-Pierre’s Kyokushin karate roots were incredibly obvious to those watching.
St-Pierre is a full contact karate black belt, more commonly known as Kyokushin. He retained aspects of this martial art throughout his career as a UFC fighter. In particular, it showed in his large arsenal of kicks. GSP excelled in the side kick to the body, as well as a rotating side kick, which could hit the midsection or head.
These are two classic karate building blocks, much like the explosiveness GSP would burst into from an otherwise static position. These techniques later became mere weapons in St-Pierre’s arsenal rather than a focal point of his style. GSP later became a wrestler which is the only reason he’s not higher on this list.