Throughout history, there have been many claims as to what constitutes the "Ultimate Martial Art" or what "style" is the best.It's a question that simply cannot be answered when considering all variables.What may be best for one person will not be best for another.We are all individuals first & one size does not fit all.The same logic can be applied to environmental & tactical considerations as well. I've found that people tend to cling to their first Art with feverous devotion.Indeed, once someone has been indoctrinated into the philosophy & dogma of a given style, it's hard to change their mind.The style is almost looked at like a religion and is put before the individuality of the Human Being themselves.
And what is your goal? MMA fighting certainly requires a different style of fighting than armed combat.You also have various sporting competitions,self-defense,Combatives,reality-based,fitness styles etc. that all have a different purpose.Once you identify your goal or needs,then you can start looking for the right training. The various sporting styles are easy since they are a sport & have well established rules,so there really isn't many decisions to be made.The same applies to "fitness" oriented Martial Arts.Mixed Martial Arts is a much more complex entity because of the greater diversity involved, but it is still a sport irregardless of what anyone claims,although many of the methods used are very applicable to real world situations.
Martial Arts were originally designed to be used in self-defense & in combat & that is where my sole interest lies.I firmly believe that an eclectic approach is by far the best approach to use when putting together a skill set that will suit you in any real world situation.The first thing that must be done is to look at your physicality(body type). A 300 pound 6 foot 6inch tall man will defend himself very differently than a 5 foot tall 100 lb Woman. Also look at who you'll likely be defending against as that will dictate your strategy and tactics.The petite Woman can't rely on movements that require a lot of power just as the tall man thin man shouldn't try techniques that are better suited to a stocky shorter man.
For "real fighting",I would look first to "Combatives" or "Close Quarter Combat",which is basically a a name for what the Military calls their Hybrid unarmed defense systems.It changes & evolves over time,but the classic WWII teachings of Rex Applegate & William Fairbairn are still very relevant today.Matt Larson is the modern equivalent,but I personally feel his methods incorporate too much sport and much prefer the teachings of J.Kelly McCann & Michael Janich in terms of modern Combatives Instructor's.Paladin Press offers an endless catalog of books & DvD's on Combatives by these Men.
However,Combatives is not the be all end all.It is generally fairly simple & designed to get you up & fighting quickly.It's a good foundation to build upon,but there's plenty more to learn.For Ground Grappling,I like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,Russian Sambo as well as Freestyle Wrestling. Again,only taking elements applicable to real fighting.Traditional Judo & Jiu Jitsu have much to offer as well and many of the techniques used today in MMA are from these two systems & they have more options available to keep the fight standing than the Ground systems.Krav Maga is brilliant in it's simplicity and directness as is all of the Israeli methods.Aikido & traditional karate's footwork has benefits for long range fighting,but most of the hand movements are not practical.Kickboxing & Muay Thai shouldn't be ignored for some of the ballistic techniques used are much more powerful than snapping or controlled techniques but you have to learn when & how they should be used.
Bottom line is there is no one Ultimate Martial Art,so always keep an open mind & remain the eternal student.