Garry Tonon may be a relative unknown to the broader mixed martial arts audience. Still, to those who follow sport jiu-jitsu and the global sport, he is one of the most exciting figures going today.
Tonon has an exciting, attacking submission game that is as enthralling as any we have seen before. Now that he has made the transition into mixed martial arts, his striking is becoming a threat as well.
If you are just now coming around on this exciting rising star, now is a great time to sit back and catch up on who exactly Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon is and how he became an undefeated star in ONE Championship’s featherweight division.
While training under the watchful eyes of Tom deBlass and Ricardo Almeida, Tonon advanced quickly as a jiu-jitsu standout. He captured his first international title as a teenager in the blue-belt division at the 2008 World Championships (h/t BJJHeroes). He received his black belt in 2013. After he received his black belt, Tonon began training with the wizard — John Danaher. In the blue basement with the Danaher Death Squad, Tonon trains with the likes of Gordon Ryan, Nicky Rodriguez and more world-class grapplers.
In 2014, the American competed on the Metamoris grappling shows and picked up two victories. In 2015, he won his two bouts in Polaris against noted grappling stars Marcin Held and Masakazu Imanari. Defeating Imanari by heel hook grabbed the attention of the MMA community. He continued to roll in Metamoris and Polaris in 2016 with wins over Ralek Gracie, Rousimar Palhares, and Gilbert Burns. In terms of high-profile victories, 2017 may have been Tonon’s best as he defeated both Shinya Aoki and Dillion Danis.
The list of names “The Lion Killer” was defeating made the MMA community call for his transition into the sport. Tonon had been winning tournaments such as the Eddie Bravo Invitational during this span while also competing in the super fights.
His excellence on the mat finally led him into the world of mixed martial arts in 2018 when he debuted in ONE Championship.
When Tonon stepped onto the canvas for his first professional MMA bout, many expected him to take the contest to the ground immediately. Instead, Tonon used his time against Richard Corminal to display his impressive striking and ground and pound. He finished the bout with punches and elbows at 3:40 of the second round.
He would return to action four months later at ONE: Reign of Kings against Rahul Raju. Although Raju showed himself well early, the takedowns and pressure of “The Lion Killer” were simply too much to handle. Raju tapped to a rear-naked choke at 3:27 of the third round.
In his third and final contest of 2018, Tonon breezed past Sung Jong Lee at ONE: Heart of a Lion with a second-round guillotine choke. The performance elevated Tonon into the thick of the featherweight division’s title race.
Garry Tonon is Looking for Gold
Having made a dominant run in 2018, 2019 was the year Tonon announced himself as a contender.
ONE’s biggest event at the time, A New Era, saw the Renzo Gracie Academy product finish Anthony Engelen by TKO at 4:12 of the first round. He maximized his presence on ONE’s platform to not only have a first-round finish but the showcase of his evolving striking.
Less than two months later, Tonon stepped back inside the ONE Circle against Yoshiki Nakahara. In just 55 seconds, the American finished with a heel hook. After going 5-0 with five finishes, it became apparent that the American was ready for his shot at gold.
In 2020, Tonon sits on the precipice of a title shot. The world-class submission artist has added to his game to become a well-rounded athlete making him a danger no matter where the action takes place. Should a meeting with ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen take place, it will be a can’t-miss affair.