Gordon Ryan – The Michael Jordan of BJJ?

Is Gordon Ryan more than just the GOAT of BJJ?

By: Bloody Elbow | 1 month ago

Michael Jordan was more than a player, he was a phenom

As many of us already know Michael Jordan is a pretty well known sports figure. In fact, he’s known as arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.

But it’s really more than that which makes him a worldwide phenomenon. It’s things like; propelling the NBA into a global brand, launching Air Jordans with Nike, some off-court troubles, and taking a break from the sport when he was in his prime only to come back and dominate. I mean, what an incredible ride? Am I right?  

Is Gordon Ryan a comparable phenomenon?

Well, today we are talking about another athlete who’s had a surprisingly similar trajectory. The sport: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The man… Gordon Ryan. I know, it’s pretty bold to compare him to MJ, not Michael Jackson, although he was the King of Pop, and Ryan’s moniker in the world of BJJ is… The King. So there’s that… Plus he’s got the resume to prove it and also my wife thinks he’s very sexy.

Look, Ryan is a polarizing figure known for his incredible skills on the mat and his controversial persona off it; so, let’s explore his journey, and why we think he’s the Michael Jordan of BJJ.

To understand the rise of Gordon Ryan, we need to look back at his early years. Born and raised in Monroe Township, New Jersey, Ryan’s introduction to combat sports came as many of us did, with his older brother kicking the sh*t outta him.

Gordon Ryan’s beginnings

At the age of 15, Ryan began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the guidance of Tom DeBlass, a respected BJJ black belt and MMA fighter. DeBlass recognized Ryan’s talent and began taking him to Renzo Gracies gym in New York for more advanced study. This is where Ryan met his now mentor and long time coach, John Danaher. 

And if you’re not familiar with Danaher, most people describe him as light-hearted, effervescent, and honestly a silly-goose kinda guy. 

And that was his SNL audition, seems like Lorne Michaels really missed out. 

No, but seriously he’s one of the greatest minds and coaches in martial arts. He developed a systematic and methodical approach to leg locks which was out of vogue at the time, until his protege and his team started winning tournaments using this very method. Can you guess who that was? No, not Brian Scalabrine. Our guy: Gordon Ryan!

Now I know what you’re thinking, what does that have to do with Michael Jordan? And why is this poorly constructed comparison even still going? What is it? For the algorithm or something? Well, let’s break into ACT 2, baby and you’ll find out.

Michael Jordan’s the GOAT right?

When Michael Jordan was playing… basketball that is, he was the most dominant player in the league by far. 6× NBA champion, 6× NBA Finals MVP, 5× NBA Most Valuable Player, 14× NBA All-Star, and he currently still holds the record for career regular season scoring average and career playoff scoring average.

I mean, the GOAT. Right? 

Is Gordon Ryan?

Now, Gordon Ryan, he’s pretty good too… you know, five–time ADCC World champion, two-time IBJJF No-Gi World champion and a four-time Eddie Bravo Invitational champion. With 54 consecutive victories, and a record-breaking submission rate of 82%. He’s considered the greatest pound for pound no-gi grappler of all time, but it might be one of those things where you have to see it to believe it. 

If you pull up Gordon Ryan’s record you’ll see an incredible string of wins. But I need to point out a particularly impressive run at the 2022 ADCC World Championships, which is basically the Olympics of Grappling. In a span of 2 days Ryan defeated 4 of the world’s top grapplers to become +99kg division Champion. Heikki Jussila. Rear naked choke. Victor Hugo. 8-0. Roosevelt Souza. Heel Hook. ​​Nick Rodriguez. Heel Hook. He didn’t just beat the competition he dominated them.

But he didn’t just stop there, he had a super fight On. The. Same. Day with… Andre Galvao. Let’s just say if Gordon Ryan is MJ, the Andre Galvao is Magic Johnson. So it was a clash of the titans. And let’s just say… there were fireworks leading up to the fight. But we will get to that later…  

He gets the tap out and wins the belt and everything he had to do to get here was super easy… 

Stepping away

Wait, just kidding, In 2018 and 19 Ryan developed a fungal overgrowth as a side effect from taking antibiotics to treat repeated staph infections. This fungus spread from his intestines and moved into his stomach causing intense bouts of nausea, so much so that Ryan stepped away from competition all together. Retiring in 2021. 

Hmm, it seems like I remember someone else retiring from a sport while they were on top. Michael Jordan

Yes, I realize they retired for different reasons, one for a serious health issue the other for ….. Does anyone know why he decided to play baseball? It’s wild, right? 

They both came back

But when they both returned… Jordan completed his second three-peat and Ryan immediately won the world’s most prestigious BJJ competition, ADCC.

And the thing is he’s still only 27. That’s as many dresses as Katherine Heigl wore in that one movie.

Seems like the world is Gordon Ryan’s oyster, but it hasn’t always been that way… being this big, successful, competitive, this RICH, doesn’t come without its share of controversies. 

Throughout Michael’s career he had his share of bad press, whether it’s from his gambling problems, or snubbing Isiah Thomas from the Dream Team, or his silence over Nike’s Unfair Labor Practices. It wasn’t always a bed of roses. And Gordon Ryan is no different. He has garnered a lot of attention from his stance on steroids, his internet beefs, to the break-up of the Danahar death squad. 

The slap

But one headline that took the internet by storm was the slap heard around the world – No, Brian Scalabrine, that’s just your head superimposed on a competitor in Dana White’s controversial Power Slap League… That’s a totally different video.

And that blew up on the internet and the entire BJJ community was watching closely. I mean people were doing breakdown videos for this “fight.”

I’m sure you’re saying but that sort of stuff must happen all the time, and the truth is…  it doesn’t. Jiu Jitsu translates to the Gentle Art, with foundational principles like humility and self-control, this slap session rubbed a lot of people from the community the wrong way. 

But as they say, you’ve gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet. Cause look, being an elite athlete on top of any sport you have to have personality, flare, and competitive spirit and both of these gentlemen have that in abundance. And the fact is, both have left an indelible mark on their own sport. 

Jordan brought a spotlight back to the NBA. He became synonymous with not only the league but the sport. And Gordon Ryan has followed a similar route. Although BJJ is still a growing sport, Ryan has become its biggest face. He’s brought new eyes and notoriety to the community and with it, more money.

He has been able to leverage his celebrity into closing deals including signing a huge seven figure contract with FloSports and a lucrative series of instructional DVDs. That’s right, instructional DVDs. But before you laugh at the idea of this guy selling discs out of the trunk of his car…

Jordan’s style inspired an entire generation for basketball players, like without MJ there is no Kobe. There’s no Lebron. There’s no Brian Scalabrine.

And Gordon is doing the same for BJJ, his approach to his physique, mentality, and technical acumine is inspiring the next generation of elite grappling stars. And the truth is Ryan’s story isn’t over, he’s only 27, not even close to his prime. We’re already calling him the greatest grappler ever, imagine what he could do in the next 10 years?

Is it crazy to say that he might even eclipse Michael Jordan when it’s all said and done? I mean yeah, that is crazy but who knows!? Gordon. Jordan… Jordan Gordon… The greatest basketball grappler of all time. Look, what I’m trying to say is, this is why Gordon Ryan is the Michael Jordan of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Let us know in the comments below if you agree. Or if you don’t.

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Bloody Elbow
Bloody Elbow

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