Kung Fu’s Role in MMA

Written by Nick Blanchard. If you want to read more from him, head on over to themmaguru.com. 

Kung Fu is one of the world’s oldest martial arts, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see it in today’s highest level MMA competitions. From Roy Nelson to Anderson Silva, some of the UFC’s biggest stars over the years have employed Kung Fu as part of their overall fighting strategy.


One reason Kung Fu has been so influential in the world of MMA is that it’s such an effective martial art in a variety of settings from the streets to the octagon. Unlike some other martial arts, Kung Fu’s core techniques are well suited for competition. For example, Krav Maga relies on techniques that aren’t legal in the MMA ruleset, and many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves involve using the Jiu Jitsu gi to choke your opponent.


Kung Fu originated for hunting and self-defense needs in ancient China. During the Xia Dynasty, it was developed as a full-fledged martial arts system used by Chinese soldiers. Kung Fu has long been a part of Chinese culture, and it’s popularity grew in the west when Americans became enthralled by martial arts legend Bruce Lee’s incredible movies.


Today’s MMA stars have credited Bruce Lee and his Kung Fu skills as the reason they picked up martial arts. Future UFC hall-of-famer Kenny Florian spoke of Lee, “Bruce Lee was my first hero growing up. I was a huge kung fu fan and me and my brothers would watch kung fu movies every weekend. For me, I didn’t see him as a mixed martial artist, but as the ultimate martial artist.”


In the past few years, Russian Dagestani fighters have scored an incredible level of success in the UFC - most notably Khabib Nurmagomedov, the current Lightweight Champion. Many of these Dagestani athletes have a background in Kung Fu. Welterweight Muslim Salikhov for example is a multiple-time Kung Fu world champion and goes by the nickname “King of Kung Fu.” The Kung Fu style these fighters are bringing to MMA is exciting to watch, and fans are loving it.


One of the most exciting Kung Fu fighters in MMA history was former Strikeforce middleweight champion and perennial UFC contender Cung Le. Le was the only American athlete to ever win 3 medals at the Wushu World Championships, and his MMA highlight reel goes on for days. He famously broke Frank Shamrock’s arm with a Kung Fu style kick that won him the Strikeforce championship as well as “Fight of the Year 2008.”


Many casual UFC fans might think that Kung Fu is a martial art reserved for the movies, but that's simply not the case. Kung Fu is an effective martial art that serves as the backbone of the strategy for some of MMA's top stars.