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"It doesn’t matter to me if we get the credit for this evolution or not, I really don’t care, but I want to create a similar evolution in MMA."

Now 5-0 as a professional, with all victories coming via stoppage, Garry Tonon has well and truly found his feet in mixed martial arts. As a stalwart of the Danaher Death Squad, the ‘Lion Killer’ is a leglock master, which was more than evident in his last ONE Championship outing, where he finished Yoshiki Nakahara inside the first minute.    

Setting aside his career as a fighter, Garry has another project on his mind: a second jiu jitsu revolution. The era of style clashes saw jiu jitsu reign supreme inside the cage, with strikers and wrestlers alike all falling to the likes of Royce Gracie in early UFC outings. Now days, in order to compete, mixed martial artists train everything – or almost everything…

Tonon and his team have undoubtedly changed the face of submission grappling with their leglock system, but can they have a similar impact within the world of MMA?  We spoke exclusively to Garry about his hopes for jiu jitsu’s second coming in his new sport.     

“You see little sparks here in there with different people, like Palhares, but no one really followed in his footsteps,” says Garry on leglock players making waves inside the cage. “What I’m hoping to do is create a similar situation in MMA as we did in submission grappling. If you look at the way people compete in submission grappling right now compared to seven years ago it is drastically different. We (Danaher Death Squad) changed the sport, and whether people read this interview and chose to say ‘f$%k Garry, it’s all BS; I don’t really care because that’s the truth. The sport is different now because of us; obviously John is where the knowledge came from, but people have seen us putting it into practice. 

“We did things so effectively that people had to acknowledge it’s working and - as much as they may have wanted to resist it – they had to learn it. It doesn’t matter to me if we get the credit for this evolution or not, I really don’t care, but I want to create a similar evolution in MMA. 

“The average MMA athlete doesn’t know anything about leglocks, it’s not part of their training, so I want that to become something of the past. I want it to become something that you literally have to train otherwise there’s a huge change you’re going out to get submitted before you even start. For me, if we can see a similar sort of evolution seven years down the line in MMA that would be great. And I’m not just talking about leglocks actually I’m talking about jiu jitsu as a whole. I want it to be like the early days when a jiu jitsu guy would beat a kick boxer because they didn’t know any jiu jitsu. After that, people had to become somewhat submission aware, so I think we are now due a second level of evolution in the sport where people have to take jiu jitsu a step further in their training. This is kind of a side project of mine, so let’s see. 

“The thing is, my team has to keep bringing this, because it can’t just be me. If it’s just me, people point fingers and I’m just an anomaly like Palhares or Demian Maia. If we have Gordon (Ryan) doing the same thing in MMA one day and then my students can start to represent as well, then it becomes a cultural change – otherwise I’ll just be a flash in the pan.”

Keep an eye on our website for the second half of our interview with Garry Tonon, where we discuss his newfound love for MMA and some of the finer details behind making his jiu jitsu work inside the cage.

May 30, 2019 — Jiu Jitsu Style