Abstract Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) has been widely used as a bearing material for artificial joint replacement over forty years. It is usually crosslinked by gamma rays irradiation before its implantation into human body. In this study, UHMWPE and UHMWPE/nano-hydroxyapatite (n-HA) composite were prepared by vacuum hot-pressing method. The prepared materials were irradiated by gamma rays in vacuum and molten heat treated in vacuum just after irradiation. The effect of filling n-HA with gamma irradiation on tribological properties of UHMWPE was investigated by using friction and wear experimental machine (model MM-200) under deionized water lubrication. Micro-morphology of worn surface was observed by metallographic microscope. Contact angle and hardness of the materials were also measured. The results show that contact angle and hardness are changed by filling n-HA and gamma irradiation. Friction coefficient and wear rate under deionized water lubrication are reduced by filling n-HA. While friction coefficient is increased and wear rate is reduced significantly by gamma irradiation. The worn surface of unfilled material is mainly characterized as adhesive wear and abrasive wear, and that of n-HA filled material is mainly characterized as abrasive wear. After gamma irradiation, the degrees of adhesive and abrasive wear for unfilled material and abrasive wear of n-HA filled material are significantly reduced. Unfilled and filled materials after irradiation are mainly shown as slight fatigue wear. The results indicate that UHMWPE and UHMWPE/n-HA irradiated at the dose of 150 kGy can be used as bearing materials in artificial joints for its excellent wear resistance compared to original UHMWPE.