Garry Tonon Predicts He’ll Finish Martin Nguyen Inside Three Rounds
Garry Tonon, a member of the infamous “Danaher Death Squad”, earned his ranks in the world of BJJ with notable wins at prestigious events and tournaments such as Eddie Bravo Invitational, Metamoris, Polaris and IBJJF. The 28-year-old New Jersey native and No-Gi specialist indeed belongs to the contemporary BJJ elite.
However, his journey as a martial artist didn’t stop there. “The Lion Killer” has transitioned to the sport of MMA and is currently competing in ONE Championship. Not only that, but he is aiming for the title in the featherweight division and recently called out the champion.
Speaking to MMA Junkie, Tonon spoke about his debut, transition to MMA and his future ambitions.
‘The Lion Killer’ made his ONE Championship debut against Richard Corminal at ONE: Iron Will, which resulted in a spectacular TKO finish during the first round of the fight. This was a risky strategy for such a renowned grappler, but he managed to pull it off despite the pressure of competing in MMA for the first-time.
“It was really exciting for me; I was glad I was able to pull that off,” Tonon admitted. “It’s not like that was 100 percent guaranteed. Those skills I was working on were brand new.
“Man, there were a lot of elements going into that first fight that made that an especially mentally shaky thing for me, because there were so many unknowns, there were so many questions. I’d never even competed under a ruleset like that before, where you’re allowed to do so many different things. So would the smart move probably have been to use the skills I was already fairly confident in? Probably, but I don’t know, man. I get so excited, honestly, by the new things that I am learning at any given point in time, I often will try to carry them over into whatever competition I’m doing, even if they’re 100 percent not perfect yet. I want to try it out in a real scenario.”
However, even though he craves challenges, the risks he is willing to take are calculated, and he would use his exceptional grappling if the fight turned out to be too dangerous in the stand-up.
“If something had happened in that fight that made me say to myself, ‘All right, you’re in more danger than you thought you were in. These skills that you’re trying are not 100 percent ready yet. You need to fall back on what you’re good at,’ I think I would have,” Tonon said. “I don’t think I would have been stupid enough to get knocked down a bunch of times and just keep trying to stay stand up and risk getting knocked out and lose the fight. But at the same time, I think it was worthwhile for me to at least give it a shot. That’s what I did, and it ended up working really well.”
Transition to MMA
Winning his MMA debut by way of ground and pound, Tonon proved that he is more than just a notorious grappler who is fighting in the cage. Still, he explained that the road he took to become an all-around MMA fighter wasn’t easy.
“It’s been pretty difficult, especially at the beginning,” Tonon explained. “It’s very hard to go from feeling like you’ve gotten really good at something, then transitioning to a new skill where you don’t feel that way. Of course jiu-jitsu plays an integral role in mixed martial arts, but to say that it’s the same thing is insane – it’s obviously not. It was definitely a difficult transition.
“There’s a lot of skills, things like shootboxing, fence wrestling and things, that didn’t 100 percent come naturally. I had to learn a lot of new information, I had to practice a lot and create new habits. I had to completely change the way I think of even the grappling aspect of things, because your goals are a little bit different compared to when you’re in a jiu-jitsu match. There are different things to think about, like getting punched in the face, for instance! It’s been a fun ride.”
Tonon finds it fun and challenging to learn new dimensions of fighting that come with MMA, even though the initial transition was paved with many hardships.
“It’s kind of cool to all of a sudden be able to tackle a bunch of new problems. Every day I go into the gym and I struggle with something, and there’s something new to overcome and something new to learn in pursuit of that. The more you train, the more you cover all of those bases and then, almost towards the end, those problems become a little bit smaller, they become a little bit easier to figure out. It’s more of a sharpening after a while, rather than building an entirely new knife. Doing mixed martial arts and having no background whatsoever other than the grappling aspect was kind of like building an entirely new knife. It’s a little bit more exciting than just the sharpening aspect.
“As far as the transition’s concerned, it was definitely very disorientating at first, a lot of hardship. But the more I do it, the more comfortable it gets, and I’m kind of in a phase now where I’m probably going to be happiest about my training, because I have so much to learn, but I have enough prerequisite skills now in mixed martial arts to keep myself safe. I’m not going to have as many days where I go into the gym and just get pummeled to death where I can’t defend myself like I did when I first started. But I’m not at the point where I know so much that it’s like, ‘Ah yeah, I’m just sharpening some skills,’ and there’s not so much to learn.”
Looking to the Top
Tonon is interpreting his position in the featherweight division in an interesting way. He believes that it makes more sense calling out the champion, Martin Nguyen, rather than fighting other contenders.
“The next opponent I’m going to fight, even if it wasn’t for the title, it’s going to be somebody that’s either fought for the title before, or is just about to do it,” he said. “And fighting somebody like me, who’s undefeated, who brings a lot of question marks to the table, I don’t think it’s a smart fight for a lot of these guys and I honestly can’t blame them for being a little hesitant to go, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll take that Garry Tonon fight,’ because there’s a little less to gain and a little bit more to risk now for these guys.
“But as far as the titleholder’s concerned, Martin, I would say he probably has to look at what I’m doing and say, ‘All right, it’s inevitable. I’m going to have to fight this guy sometime in the near future. Whether it’s tomorrow or two years from now, I’m going to be fighting this guy. He’s getting better, it’s quite clear he is developing his skills. If I fight him two years from now, or a year from now, it’s only going to be harder than it would be if I fought him right now.’
“So I’m thinking to might have a better chance of calling out the titleholder than I do somebody that’s underneath him who’s a contender for the title, because he’ll look at it as an opportunity to beat me . I’m willing to risk that, because I’m very confident in what I do and I work really really hard. So hopefully that works out for me.”
Analysing the Champion
Tonon considers Nguyen as a very tough opponent, because the champion doesn’t seem to have any holes in his game. However, he doesn’t think that “The Situ-Asian” is unbeatable.
“If things went his way [in the Bibiano Fernandes fight], we’re looking at a three-division champion. We’re dealing with a really tough dude here. That’s a really hard thing to do,” he said. “I think he has done a whole lot in this sport and in this organisation and really proved himself. Anybody that doesn’t acknowledge that this is a really difficult contest for me is crazy. They just didn’t do their research if that’s the case.
“I’ve been watching him my entire career. There are some athletes in mixed martial arts where you can point to a direct hole and you can say, ‘Hey, that guy’s just not really very good in that particular area.’ I really would have a tough time saying that about Martin. He’s been successful from everywhere. I will say this, though. In his fights he seems very fallible. It’s not that invincibility you see from a Khabib [Nurmagomedov], for example. I don’t see the same type of qualities in Martin from that sense. I see a really tough dude who’s overcome a lot of hardships in a lot of different areas.”
That being said, Tonon is confident that he can exploit some openings in a potential fight with Nguyen, which would enable him to come out victorious.
“There’s going to be opportunities to win in many different areas. It’s a question of whether or not I’m able to execute when I have those opportunities during the fight, and I really think I’m going to be able to do that,” he said. “I’m prepared in a lot of different dimensions of mixed martial arts, and I’m prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. We’ll see on fight night.
“I would like to believe inside three rounds that I’m either able to get a submission or a TKO. I haven’t been known to knock anybody out cold on the feet yet. I believe I could do it, but I have no proof of that yet. So I’ll say I’ll get a submission or TKO inside three rounds. There’s a lot of question marks for me, but that’s what I would say.”
Garry Tonon is undefeated in his MMA career with 5 wins all coming by stoppage. He wants to face ONE’s first ‘champ-champ’ Martin Nguyen (13-3) in his next fight. As the current coronavirus pandemic is hindering the organisation of all future public events, the planning of this possible matchup becomes rather difficult as well. For now, all ONE Championship events will be held behind closed doors.
Would you like to see the fight between Garry Tonon face Martin Nguyen? And who do you think would win?