Garry Tonon on best MMA grapplers; 'Khabib, Maia and me' 

Garry Tonon says he, Khabib and Maia are MMA's best grapplers
Garry Tonon says he, Khabib and Maia are MMA's best grapplers
Andrew Whitelaw

Garry Tonon believes he is the best grappler in mixed martial arts alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov and Demian Maia. Tonon has won multiple Brazilian jiu-jitsu world titles and is 6-0 in MMA since turning pro in 2018.

With five of those six wins coming via submission or TKO, Tonon's rise has secured him a featherweight title shot against Thanh Le at ONE: X.

Tonon is one of several decorated grapplers who are currently thriving in MMA, and he exclusively told SportsKeeda that he belongs in the elite conversation.

According to Tonon:

"Before Khabib retired I would have definitely said Khabib. He definitely submits people. Even though he's not like a jiu-jitsu guy per se. He just beat everybody. Using grappling. His ability to control people on the ground was second to none. Now that he's retired, Demian Maia is still a big one. Maybe he didn't win the championship but he got pretty damn close. Past that you could probably start pointing to guys like me."

Winning a ONE world title would certainly strengthen Tonon's claim. He's currently ranked No.2 at featherweight following his unanimous decision victory over Koyomi Matsushima at ONE: Big Bang a year ago.

When Tonon does finally get to face Le for the belt it should be a fascinating clash of styles. The champion has knocked out all four opponents inside the ONE Circle since arriving from Legacy Fighting Alliance in 2019. Two of those wins came against former ONE champions in Martin Nguyen and Kotetsu Boku.

Gary Tonon is immpressed with Christian Lee

Until recently, Christian Lee was ranked in the top 5 at featherweight. The 23-year-old challenged Nguyen for the title in 2018. After losing a split decision, he soon moved up to lightweight and hasn't returned to the division since.

Despite losing his lightweight title to Ok Rae Yoon in September, Lee holds the record for most wins in the promotion (15), most finishes (14), and knockouts (10). With Lee now removed from the featherweight rankings, it's unlikely him and Tonon will get to face-off anytime soon. Regardless, 'The Lion Killer' has taken notice of Lee's achievements:

"I definitely think that Christian Lee was impressing me quite a bit," said Tonon. "He lost a judges decision but prior to that he was on a pretty big tear. He worked his way up pretty quickly, he was beating a lot of really tough guys. I remember one of my early fights seeing Timofey Nastyukhin hitting pads and saying 'Damn, this is a monster!' So for Christian to show his skillset, I think it says something man."

No.2-ranked featherweight Kim Jae Woong is another fighter Tonon said he's impressed by. 'The Fighting God' has racked up back-to-back knockout victories, including a first-round TKO against Nguyen in September. Given his current form, it's likely that the Korean will be next in line to fight the winner of Tonon vs. Le.

Watch Sportskeeda's exclusive interview with Gary Tonon below:


Edited by John Cunningham
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