Exclusive: Garry Tonon talks about his next challenge, coach Danaher, Sambo and more
Garry 'The Lion Killer' Tonon is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Tom de Blass and Ricardo Almeida. He earned important medals including titles at the IBJJF World and Pan American Championships. He is also a five-time Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) Champion and Known as a No Gi specialist. He has worked consistently with coach John Danaher at Renzo Gracie Academy at NYC.
Tonon recently shook the world in his professional MMA debut by beating the heavy hitting Richard Corminal with a TKO victory in the second round of the bout. He is to face the 'Kerala Krusher' Rahul K Raju next in Manila, Philippines during the ONE: Reign of the Kings event on July 27th.
This is an MMA bout between one of the best Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the world and an experienced well-rounded mixed martial artist. The top Indian Prospect, Raju is a striker with way more experience in MMA than his opponent Tonon. Tonon has high-level BJJ and his newly acquired striking prowess, which can be a game changer.
Garry Tonon is in Manila for his fight against the 'Kerala Krusher'. He has made weight and is ready for the fight. Even on a very busy day before the fight night, The Lion Killer was kind enough to provide answers for some of my questions regarding his next challenge, Coach Danaher, Sambo, and more.
You shook the world in your MMA debut at ONE Championship. What are your thoughts on your second fight against Raju in Manila?
Tonon: I'm feeling a lot more confident leading into it, I had a lot of training in total and I get better and better every day. The experience of fighting the first time was a lot of shocks and was very nervous and everything like that, things are starting to calm down a little bit more everytime I spar and every time I fight I think. So I think this time I'll look a little bit calmer and collected and I am excited about this fight. It's just a different opponent and different challenge.
You have some of the best minds in the sports like Mr. Danaher at your corner. How big of a difference does that make in this fight?
Tonon: I absolutely believe it makes a difference, maybe not necessarily who is in the corner for the fight because it's pretty hard to hear whats going on at your corner but it's really helpful to have John Danaher in there and Tom DeBlass, I have my sparring partner Jon Bianco. But I think the biggest difference is the coaching I have leading up to the fight.
So far people only know that John Danaher is so knowledgeable about Jiu-Jitsu and they know a little bit about his MMA knowledge from him coaching other athletes like Georges St-Pierre (GSP). And now I'll be the first athlete that John has produced in terms of mixed martial arts where he gets to work with me every day, so it will be a good test for people to see what he can do with me as an athlete in my development time by getting to see him every day.
Normally, with most of his athletes, they don't get to train with him full time. Guys like GSP, they gotta go back and forth between Montreal and go to places, maybe he gets to train with him once a week during a fight camp or twice a week tops. But he gets to see me every day of the week and is constantly working with me on drills and sparring etc.
Are you concerned about Raju's KO Power and striking experience? Do you see him as a legit threat?
Tonon: Yeah, I'm definitely concerned about Raju's power, striking experience and experience in general in MMA, everybody has so much more experience than me. In terms of striking and things, most of the fights he gets TKO victories on the ground. So, I see him push forward into the clinch and try to take people down and work to finish from there. So, it's interesting, but I don't know if he is trying to take that strategy with me or not considering the danger that I might pose to him on the ground.
But, yeah he is definitely a real threat, but definitely in a different way than my last opponent. I think there is more threat of a TKO than there is of a knockout on the feet, like with my last opponent who threw big heavy overhands. I don't see Raju throwing strikes quite like that with such bad intentions on the feet, I see more of that on the ground so it will be an interesting challenge.
Raju, in an interview with Sportskeeda, had warned you regarding the repercussions of choosing to fight him on the feet, do you have anything to say about that?
Tonon: I haven't seen that interview where he says that it will be dangerous for me to try to challenge him on feet. but, hey man, that's what I'm in this game for, I'm trying to learn, I'm trying to get better and by all means, I'm going to spend some time on the feet and get that experience moving forward. So I'm excited to know what he has to offer, maybe he'll be very dangerous on the feet and I'll have to come up with a new strategy.
What is your contract with ONE FC? Can we see you inside the UFC in the near future? Or you prefer fighting in Asia? Any special reasons for that?
Tonon: I can't really disclose information about my contract with ONE Championships, It's part of the stipulations of the agreement, but ultimately it's a long-term contract and even if it wasn't I'm not really interested in going anywhere else. They take good care of me and I really appreciate everything that they do for me and everything they are as an organization. I enjoy traveling around Asia and getting to fight in all these different places that I probably would never have got to visit before.
There's a lot of reasons why I fight for ONE, but the main reasons are that they have developed a very good relationship with me, moving into, signing me as a fighter, they started with talking about having a grappling match. And we got to know each other, their organization and the people that work for them and they felt like a really good fit and they were really gonna take care of me. I don't think I would be happier working with anybody else and I am very happy with them and I am looking forward to my future in that organization.
Which BJJ phenom would you like to fight in MMA? Maia? Ortega? Dillon? Or is it anybody else?
Tonon: In terms of fighting someone who is highly skilled at Jiu-Jitsu, there are definitely lot of guys out there who I would love to test myself against. Honestly, I think It's kind of interesting to be paired up with strikers more so than any Jiu-Jitsu guys at the current moment because I get to test the new things I am learning.
There is nobody, particularly that I'm hunting after in the jiu-jitsu world or anything like that. I've mentioned a few times about the idea of fighting Kron (Kron Gracie). since I haven't had an opportunity to have that rematch with him and it will be a really cool Mixed martial arts fight. But the other guys have signed up with other organizations and there's no real point in talking about guys like that.
What do you have to say about the BJJ Vs SAMBO Debate? You are one of the greatest BJJ practitioners to fight in MMA. Will you ever fight Khabib or any high-level Sambo athlete in MMA and establish BJJ's superiority?
Tonon: Honestly, I don't really know too much about Sambo, I have never really studied any matches or anything like that. I've just seen some combat sambo, the kinds of stuff that show up on Instagram feed or something like that. I don't really know too much about the martial art. I think, nowadays any grappling martial arts that doesn't incorporate little bits and pieces from each different martial arts that also does grappling is kind of inefficient at not really keeping up with the times.
I think the important thing is that whatever grappling styles is it that you do, you are incorporating what works, If something works from wrestling, you do that. If something works from Sambo or whatever you want to be that other martial art. I think at this point in human development, with how connected everybody is with social media and everything like that, I think it will be very unlikely that any of these other martial arts didn't adapt to one another's skills that are the most efficient for that particular movement.
So, at this point, I don't think there is much of a reason to debate it. But ultimately you will be debating like the rules of sports when it comes to competition, I don't really think it makes much sense to debate that unless you are planning to fight somebody with what you learned from this martial arts. I'm sure that I'll end up fighting someone who learned Sambo, and I don't necessarily think or claim that Jiu-Jitsu is superior or whatever.
I'm just gonna claim that my grappling is superiority, my submission grappling abilities and that is including any amalgamation of skills from whatever martial arts that people claim Wrestling, Judo, all these different things. I think at this point everybody that's grappling should be taking whats best. And I'll go up against, that I'm sure that is famous for Sambo or whatever, so people will think or it shows Jiu-Jitsu's superiority over Sambo but ultimately it shows my grapplings superiority.
Garry Tonon is one of the best minds in Martial Arts. This Interview was a very educational experience and it was an honor to get an opportunity to speak with him. I thank him again for his time and wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors.
Watch 'Garry Tonon vs Rahul Raju' at ONE: Reign of the Kings event on July 27th in Manila, live on the ONE Super App.