Home Fighting Techniques How Would Bruce Lee Fare in MMA?

How Would Bruce Lee Fare in MMA?


Bruce Lee in his prime would be a challenge for any fighter of any weight because of his ability to maximize his abilities. He was 5’7” and usually weighed about 145, but was recorded as heavy as 165, which would make him eligible for the Featherweight and Lightweight classes, according to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Through Lee’s teachings as a martial arts instructor we can gain some insight on how he might fair in MMA.


For the sake of argument, let’s take a stab at two prime fighters in the UFC. Lee would likely face Jose Aldo (24-1) or Anthony Pettis (17-2) from the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions respectively. Pettis stands 3 inches taller than Lee at 5’10” and has major wins such as the then-undefeated Thiago “Minu” Meller at Gold Fighters Championship I on May 20, 2006. However, Aldo has a better record than Pettis, twice as many knockouts (14) and has defended his title 5 times, so if you were a promoter trying to beat Lee, you might want to get Jose Aldo.


Lee spawned his own brand of fighting called Jeet Kune Do or JKD. It was a fighting style and a way of life for him that involved minimal movement, maximum accuracy with extreme quickness. JKD followers operate with straightforward movements of the following tools as he called them; kicking, punching, trapping and grappling. Then these fighting situations, or tools, are all tied together with techniques that insure fluidity between them. Lee referred to this as “style without style” or “the art of fighting without fighting.

People often say that fighting is similar to dancing and “style without style” and “fighting without fighting” sounds a bit like “dance like no one is watching” or “the less you do, the more you do, don’t think, just keep dancing.” And Bruce Lee often looked as though he was dancing. Like he was getting ready to do a bicycle kick like Liu Kang.

Jeet Kune Do is a philosophy with guiding thoughts that was named for the act of interception and attacking your opponent while he is about to attack. Similar to Jujitsu’s philosophy of using the opponent’s force against him instead of confronting it with your own force. Since both Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis both have a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background both fighters would make a great match.

He believed that combat was spontaneous, and that a martial artist cannot predict what will happen but only how to react to it and that a good martial artist is “like water”, moving with fluidly and without hesitation.

Bruce Lee

Out of JKD’s 5 methods of attack. Aldo and Pettis would have the biggest problem with “Attack by Combination” and “Attack by Drawing”. Attack by Combination is a series of punches and or kicks that sets up an opponent to receive a knockout blow. Attack by Drawing is the act of luring an opponent into thinking they have the upper hand, so they can strike, then attacking their weak point as they begin to strike.

If Aldo and Pettis could survive Lee’s Attack’s by Combination and Attacks by Drawing, they would then have to deal with his methods of “totality” Lee preached “totality” or the ability to utilize what is useful and discard what is not. It’s not based on how a certain technique may look or feel, or how accurately the artist can mimic a motion. If a technique was not beneficial in combat, it would be discarded.

The case is the same in almost every sport. One player might have a sweet looking jumper, but that’s all it is “sweet looking”, but then the other players like Larry Bird, who’s “over the head” form, or Reggie Miller’s “hand crossed form” is more efficient. Lee firmly believed that only through “honestly expressing oneself, without lying to oneself” would be the only way to find out what works for them.

Jeet Kune Do seeks to waste no time or movement and teaches that the simplest things work best, as it goes in Wing Chun. Economy of motion is the ultimate goal for JKD fighters since energy and time are so crucial in physical confrontations.

If Aldo or Pettis fought Lee 100 times, what would their record be?