Gordon Ryan Gi, No Gi, No Problem

It’s been about two years since the jiu-jitsu world took notice of Gordon Ryan. Back in Issue 45, we profiled Gordon shortly after his EBI 6 performance where he took the belt along with $25K. Since then Gordon has gone on to win an ADCC championship which propelled him into the rarified air of the grappling community. Gordon has become a polarizing figure in jiu-jitsu: he’s brash, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and is always quick to remind the competition that they’re all “F**ked”. Not long ago, the gi world was put on notice when Gordon proclaimed that he was going to win a gi world championship. He picked up a gi sponsor (Hypnotik), put the gi back on (he actually used to train in the gi when he first started jiu-jitsu), and has begun going to work. If you read our last interview with Gordon, you’d know he has a tremendous work ethic and has sacrificed a lot, including a normal life. Right out of high school, he began the life of train, eat, sleep, train, and repeat. With success comes greater expectations. Gordon’s not afraid to earn his self-proclaimed title as King Ryan. We managed to get some time with Gordon at the Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC as he was training for his ACB Super Fight with Vinny Magalhaes. Along with his girlfriend Nathalia Santoro, Gordon demonstrates some techniques in and out of the gi that we think you’ll find useful. He also gives us a look at what life’s like these days and what his subjects can expect from the new king.

JJM: So, first question is gonna be how has your life changed since winning EBI?

So, EBI 6, specifically, was really the breakout tournament that got me into the scene. Before that, I was just a local guy who had won some local things; I’d beaten some big names, but I never really had my name inserted among the guys who were the top competitors at the time.

The first absolute that I won was really when people started to know who I was and that was my path to competing against the best guys and eventually winning against top level competitors.

When’s your first gi competition?

I’m not too sure when just yet. I have a bunch of no-gi matches right now with ACB, and whenever I feel comfortable, I’m gonna jump into some random IBJJF tournaments probably. A random open here or there, and just get comfortable competing. My goal right now is just to get enough moves where I feel comfortable going into competition and then getting comfortable with competing in the gi and learning and adapting to the new rule sets. Then going in and attacking the top guys next year. So, I wanna just get comfortable competing in the gi this year, and then 2019 I wanna come in and fight all the top guys.

Who are your training partners these days?

My training partners have changed. For no-gi, they’re still relatively the same. We have Jason Rau, we have Oliver Taza, my brother Nicky Ryan sometimes. And a lot of the big guys, the Jason Lees, we have Marlon. A lot of the big guys.

But the gi, it’s kind of just Brian Glick. He’s a big part of it and one of John’s original black belts. Also Garry St. Ledger who’s like an Olympic level judo player and also a black belt in jiu-jitsu. A lot of the big guys are putting on the gi now for me. Big Marlon, Jason, and a few other guys are really helping me out in gi training.

Is Nicky in the gi yet?

No. Nicky’s just training no-gi. He’s looking to become the best no-gi grappler in the world, and then I’m pretty sure he wants to move to the gi. I’m not sure if he wants to fight MMA, but I’m pretty sure he wants to eventually move to gi competition.

What do you like and don’t like about training gi versus no-gi?

I pretty much hate everything about training gi and love everything about training no-gi. Right now, I’m at a point where I feel interested in learning about the new gripping skills and all of the little intricacies and nuances in the gi, but I’m at a point where I only really know the stuff that John teaches me. So, if I get to a position that I’m not familiar with, I’m just like, “Alright, I have no idea what grips to make from here.”

Versus no-gi, I feel like no matter what position I’m in, I know exactly what to do. I know exactly where my hands should be, where my feet should be, what my goals are from each position. But in the gi, I just don’t have that. I just have a few moves that I’m good at and once I get past those moves, there’s not really much there.

So, right now it’s just learning gripping sequences and then eventually building systems off those sequences. But it’s coming along.

Right now what’s your favorite thing about gi? I know you hate it, but if you had to pick one thing you really do like about it? Or is there nothing?

My favorite thing, I think I’d say about training the gi, is the additional gripping that you get to use to not only control your partner but also to do the submissions. There’s a lot more ways to control the limbs. There’s a lot more strangle holds with the gi. And there’s just a lot more grips in general that you can use to control your partner. In no-gi, there’s a bunch of things you can do, but with the gi, there’s always something extra that you can do to trap them, trap the arm, trap the leg, or go for strangles.

Is there anyway that you’ve found your game has changed by incorporating the gi?

Yeah, my game has definitely changed with guard passing. A lot of my guard passing no-gi is just to negate someone’s guard at the leg pummel. But with the gi, just feeding the lapel through the legs or grabbing a simple cuff grip on my pants completely negates all my leg pummeling. So, I had to adjust my guard passing a lot, using a lot of either going into Half Guard and using the formal lapel feed under the face as a cross face and going to pass like that. I’m using a lot of the long step passes, a lot of torreando passes, and things like that. My guard passing has definitely changed. It’s a lot more outside loose passing than it is just leg pummeling over the top.

Have you helped Garry (Tonon) do any of his MMA training?

Yeah, so initially when we started, we were both doing MMA drills and then Gary kind of got to the point where he had to spar everyday to really get into the camp because he just has only been training for a few months, so he would spar everyday up until the camp. And when he started sparring every day, then I kind of stopped doing MMA drills, but it just started back up again and after the Vinny match, at least, I’m looking forward to getting back into the MMA drills.

So, what does the future in the next few years look like for you?

The future for me is just to get comfortable competing in the gi against top level guys. Then next year going in and competing against top level guys. I’m going to hopefully compete in the gi next year with ACB as well as no-gi. Then after that I want to win Black Belt Worlds [IBJJF] in the gi. Once I win Worlds, I want to start fighting MMA. So, however long it takes me to win Gi Worlds is a determining factor on when I start fighting. Or I’ll just never win Gi Worlds, and then eventually I’ll be like, “Okay, I’m just going to fight anyway.” So, we’ll see how that goes.

What’s the immediate future look like?

I’m excited for this next match coming up with Vinny (Magalhaes). I know you guys haven’t seen me compete too often in the last few months because ACB hasn’t had any no-gi jiu-jitsu events, but the no-gi season for ACB is coming up, so I’m going to have the Vinny match.  I’m pretty much just going to fight once a month until the end of the year. So, I’m excited for that.

Cool, well good luck in the future Gordon, we’re sure you’re going to have a long reign.

Haha, thanks.

Pass to the Back

This pass to the back is created by the fact that Nathalia goes for an underhook on Gordan after he’s reached across and gotten control of the back of her head.

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