In a recent interview for Graciemag’s Brazilian print edition, the world’s absolute no-gi king, Gordon Ryan, fielded questions by our staff and readers — not all of them friendly. Not dodging any of them, Ryan discussed how he trains, what he thinks about while fighting, and how he sees his rivals.
Here’s an excerpt of that interview conducted by Marcelo Dunlop.
GRACIEMAG: Who would be your biggest rival today?
GORDON RYAN: My biggest rival I’d say is for sure Felipe [Pena, aka Preguiça]. He’s the only person who legitimately beat me twice at black belt. I feel I had pretty much all of the submission attempts in the 1st match, which lasted over 40 minutes. But then, of course, he hit the beautiful back-take off my ashi garami. Then the 2nd match I feel like I 100% dictated the pace of the match until again he hit the same back-take as the 1st match with under 2 minutes left. I think at this point Felipe will be the only competitive match for me with without the gi. And one of the only guys whose game is good enough to compete against me under any rule set.
You often say that Coach John Danaher has a unique view of jiu-jitsu. What was the concept taught by John that changed your life?
Danaher looks at the sport in a completely different way than anyone else. Everyone else has “their favorite moves” where they put you in their preferred attacking positions and use their favorite moves/tricks from there. But if you look at a lot of these guys at black belt world level, once you actually take them out of their comfort zone and put them in a position they’re not used to, they actually don’t know what to do. So John’s whole approach to the sport is a series of systems designed to put these guys in positions they’re not used to, which are the same positions we live in on a daily basis. And with this approach we were easily able to overcome world-level athletes winning at black belt since before we started training in under 5 years’ time.
What did you learn fighting Yuri in the 2018 No Gi Worlds’ absolute final?
Finals with Yuri was kind of disappointing. I beat him 11-0 earlier in the day, submitted him twice before that — once in EBI OT and once at Kasai. So I thought I’d be able to finish him on that day. But he was able to make some good adjustments to stall better in the finals. If there was anything to learn it was that Brazilians get really mad when refs don’t give them the calls they want. [Laughs.] If Yuri would have won by advantage, all the haters would have said I suck. But I win by advantage and all the Brazilians at the event were crying the refs robbed Yuri. [Laughs.] When in IBJJF history has a ref ever robbed a Brazilian and given the American a win? Literally never. Maybe I just won the match? Could it be possible a gringo is actually good at this sport?