Garry Lee Tonon: The Lion Killer

Garry Lee Tonon: The Lion Killer

Without a doubt one of the most exciting grapplers of the last decade has been Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon. Since he exploded onto the scene with his performance at ADCC 2013, he had made his mark in pro grappling.

For those of you that don’t know the history of Garry Lee Tonon, this article is for you. We’re going to give you the complete history of the original Danaher Death Squad member. Everything from his introduction to BJJ, how he became an elite competitor, and his new journey into MMA.


Tonon's Introduction To BJJ

When Garry was 14, he had a friend that trained Jiu Jitsu and MMA. One day this friend invited Garry to a local Jiu Jitsu tournament and Garry was captivated by the competition.

Garry Tonon had already been wrestling since fifth grade, so it was a natural transition to want to train Jiu Jitsu.

He immediately got the bug to train and soon started training at his friend’s gym. Garry Lee Tonon liked the training, but the gym was more MMA based and wanted to train more for sport BJJ competition.

As luck would have it, Garry found a promotional pamphlet for an academy called Ocean County BJJ(OCBJJ). This academy was just a few minutes from his New Jersey home, so the stars sort of aligned for him to train there.

OCBJJ owner Tom deBlass, a Renzo Gracie black belt, welcomed the young Garry and immediately took him under his wing. Garry Lee Tonon quickly became one of deBlass’ most dedicated students training at least two times a day. 

Garry Lee Tonon Meets Ricardo Almeida

After a year of training nearly everyday, Garry’s instructor Tom saw Garry had the dedication to be an elite grappler. So, deBlass started taking Garry with him to train with his friend and teammate Ricardo Almeida

Almeida is a highly respected grappler winning multiple world champions, a UFC veteran, and a renowned coach. After Garry started cross training with deBlass and Almeida his game went to another level.

Thanks to his dedication and cross training between the two academies, Garry Lee Tonon won the 2008 worlds at blue belt.

Garry Meets John Danaher

For the first five years of Garry’s training his main focus was on Gi competition. But his drive as a competitor, he wanted more and started to gear his training more for No Gi competitions.

On the local northeast grappling circuit, he saw a grappler named Eddie Cummings dominate competitions dominate with foot locks. Tonon learned that Cummings trained at Renzo Gracie’s school in New York under infamous BJJ coach John Danaher.

With the support of deBlass, Tonon started making trips to NYC to train with Danaher and Tonon. He started to get an affinity for learning leglocks, so this was the beginnings of the Danaher Death Squad(DDS).

Tonon Earns His Black Belt

After 8 years of nonstop training and winning multiple tournaments, Garry was awarded for his dedication. His coaches deBlass and Almeida awarded Garry with his black belt in BJJ in September of 2013. Pretty soon after this the grappling world would become well aware of who Garry is.

Garry-Tonon-black belt

ADCC 2013

Before earning his black belt, Garry won an ADCC qualifying event. Punching his ticket to the most prestigious submission grappling event in the world.

At the event in China, Garry would be part of some of the best grappling performances ever. After winning his first match, he then went against betting favorite Kron Gracie. Kron is the son of the legend Rickson Gracie and was picked to win the tournament. 

The match they had is considered by many to be one of the greatest grappling matches out there. They went back and forth with Kron getting an armbar fully locked in, but somehow Garry escaped.

After he escaped, he took Kron down and took his back, putting him up on points with only a minute left. Then Kron in the last few seconds got out, took Garry’s back and submitted him in the final seconds of the match. This was easily one the best match of the night!

The next day, Garry surprised everyone again and stepped in as an injury replacement in the absolute division.

He would face Cyborg Abreu that easily outweighed Tonon by at least 50lbs. Garry showed a lot of heart, but would lose a decision to Abreu.

Even though he didn’t win a medal at the competition, Garry earned immense respect from the BJJ community. He was one even ground with the most famous Gracie’s son and put on a show against one of the best in the world! Though he may not have won the matches, he has gained a ton of fans, motivating him to push to improve even further and become one of the best in the grappling circuit.

Garry Wins Gold Everywhere

After his impressive performance at the 2013 ADCC tournament, Garry has been on an insane tear. For the last 6 years, Garry has won numerous BJJ tournaments.

Coming off his ADCC performance, he would go on to win the inaugural 170lb EBI event in 2014. The next year, he would win the tournament again and also win the 155lb EBI tournament. Using the patented DDS leglock system.

Also in 2015, he won his first IBJJF No Gi Pans championship at black belt. Along with multiple super fights at Polaris events, Five Grappling, and Grappler’s Quest that year.

In 2016, he would continue to win multiple super fights and then add the 205lb EBI title to his resume. 2017, same thing winning multiple super fights and getting his record 5th EBI title.

Tonon Debuts In MMA

Having accomplished nearly everything he could accomplish in BJJ competitions, Garry set his sights on MMA. Since Danaher was the BJJ coach for numerous UFC fighters including Georges St Pierre, the transition was an obvious one. Also since his other coaches deBlass and Almeida were also MMA veterans and know the sport well.

With his impressive BJJ resume, Garry was signed by ONE FC, the second biggest fight promotion in the world right under the UFC. Controlling the fight sports market in Asia.

Garry started training striking and became very proficient at it. Mixing with his world class grappling ability made it a deadly combination.

In 2018, he had his first three fights finishing all of them by TKO and submission. 2019, was the same story competing in 2 MMA fights and finishing them, as well.

As of now Garry is 5-0 in MMA and with a few more wins, we could see him fight for the 155lb ONE FC championship soon enough.


What's Next for Garry Tonon?

At 28 years old, Garry is in the prime of his competitive years. He could easily stay on top of the grappling and MMA scenes for the next decade.

Being one of the few that have won world championships in BJJ along with major championships in MMA. Maybe he may even set his sights fighting in the UFC someday? Who knows for sure, but one thing is for certain and that is Garry is well on his way on being considered one of the world’s best grapplers.