Karate in the UFC

Published on 22 April 2023 at 19:20

When most people think about martial arts in the context of the UFC, it’s likely that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, or boxing come to mind, but there’s one style that’s often overlooked – karate. Though it’s not as prevalent as other styles, there are some UFC fighters who incorporate karate into their game, and in this post, we’ll take a look at some of them.

Before we dive into the fighters themselves, let’s quickly go over what karate is. Karate is a martial art that originated in Okinawa, Japan, and has since spread all over the world. It’s characterized by its emphasis on striking techniques, particularly kicks and punches, and its focus on efficient, effective movements.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the UFC fighters who practice karate.

Lyoto Machida

Lyoto Machida is arguably the most well-known UFC fighter who incorporates karate into his game. Known as “The Dragon,” Machida is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and his karate background has been a major part of his success.

Machida first began practicing karate at the age of three under the guidance of his father, who was also a karate master. He went on to become a black belt in Shotokan karate, and eventually started training in other styles as well, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Machida’s karate influences can be seen in his unique movement style, which emphasizes fluid movements and quick strikes. He’s also known for his use of the front kick, a signature move in karate.

Stephen Thompson

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is another UFC fighter who has a background in karate. Thompson began practicing karate at the age of three, just like Machida, and went on to become a black belt in multiple styles, including Shotokan and Kenpo.

Thompson’s karate influences can be seen in his striking style, which is characterized by lightning-fast kicks and punches. He’s also known for his use of the sidekick, which is another signature karate move.

Thompson’s karate background has translated well to his UFC career, as he’s known for his striking ability and has even been compared to Bruce Lee in his approach to fighting.

Georges St-Pierre

While Georges St-Pierre is often associated with his wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, he actually has a background in karate as well. St-Pierre began practicing Kyokushin karate at the age of seven, and eventually earned a black belt in the style.

While St-Pierre’s karate influences may not be as apparent as those of Machida or Thompson, they can be seen in his footwork and striking technique. St-Pierre is known for his ability to mix up his strikes and use distance to his advantage, both of which are essential skills in karate.

Despite his success in UFC, St-Pierre has continued to train in karate, stating that it’s an important part of his overall martial arts knowledge.

Michelle Waterson

Michelle Waterson, also known as “The Karate Hottie,” has a strong background in karate as well. She began practicing the style at the age of ten and eventually earned a black belt in American Freestyle Karate.

Waterson’s karate influences can be seen in her striking technique, which emphasizes quick, precise movements. She’s also known for her use of the front kick and the sidekick, both of which are signature moves in karate.

Despite suffering some setbacks in her UFC career, Waterson’s karate background has helped her stand out as a unique fighter with a distinct style.


While karate may not be the most prevalent style in the UFC, it’s clear that it can be an effective tool for fighters who incorporate it into their game. Whether it’s the fluid movement style of Machida, the lightning-fast strikes of Thompson, or the precise footwork of St-Pierre and Waterson, karate can provide fighters with a unique advantage.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that no martial art is perfect, and fighters who rely too heavily on any one style can become predictable and vulnerable. However, when used in combination with other styles or as a foundation for a fighter’s overall approach, karate can be a valuable tool in the UFC.

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