Taekwondo is one of the most explosive and fan-friendly styles of martial arts. However, it is one of the less common martial arts backgrounds for MMA fighters.
Taekwondo has a strong focus on kicking, whether it’s spinning kicks, flying kicks, or any other dramatic kicking-based attack you might imagine. These techniques can be flashy and look amazing when executed, but they often leave openings for outs and counterattacks.
In order for a fighter to effectively use Taekwondo in MMA, he must not only be a true master of martial art, but also a master of adaptability. In the following list, we detail three fighters who were able to take taekwondo and modify it to be competitive in the UFC.
3 of the best Taekwondo fighters in the UFC:
# 3 Rose Namajunas
Current UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas could arguably be considered one of the most complete female MMA fighters on the entire UFC roster. However, her MMA journey started with Taekwondo, and that still has a clear influence on how she fights in the UFC.
Namajunas started training Taekwondo at the age of five. She soon realized that she had the aptitude for it and was able to earn her black in just four years. It should be noted that Namajunas subsequently also obtained a black belt in jiu-jitsu and karate. She now trains with Trevor Wittman, one of MMA’s greatest minds, who has helped her integrate her traditional martial arts experience into a modern MMA style.
Namajunas’ title-winning Weli Zhang’s knockout was incredibly characteristic of a Taekwondo fighter, catching the former champion with a round head kick that had virtually no wind-up.
# 2 Yair Rodriguez
While fighters like Namajunas add their taekwondo skills to their arsenal of weapons to use in an MMA fight, for Yair Rodriguez that is his sole purpose. “El Pantera” also started taekwondo at the age of five and the martial art has been the sole focus of his life since.
The Mexican featherweight is a highlight of the human walk. He will regularly use wheel kicks, tornado kicks, and spinning kicks, often with brutal effect.
Unfortunately, injuries prevented Rodriguez from truly reaching his potential. But he’s in good shape now and will be looking to put in a truly spectacular performance in his next fight for the UFC.
# 1 Anthony Pettis
Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis. Has there ever been a more appropriate nickname? In his prime, Pettis was almost untouchable. One of the main reasons for this was Pettis’ experience in taekwondo. ‘Showtime’ had already achieved third degree black belt rank at the age of eighteen and this was immediately evident in his style when he transitioned to MMA.
Prior to signing for the UFC, Pettis was a champion at the WEC, where he landed the legendary “Showtime Kick” against Benson Henderson, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. The moment of magic can be seen below:
Pettis went on to win the UFC lightweight title and constantly had fans on the edge of their seats. He is now in the twilight of his career, competing in the PFL. However, even in his last performance in the UFC, Pettis landed an impressive wheel kick against Alex Morono, showing that his taekwondo roots are still there even after all these years.