Elite grappling superstar Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon is ready to make an impact on his professional cage debut.
The multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion signed for ONE Championship earlier this year, and will make his full ONE debut at ONE: IRON WILL against Richard “Notorious” Corminal in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday, 24 March.
Tonon’s debut is the topic of much anticipation and discussion heading into the huge event in Thailand, with the American arriving in ONE Championship with a grappling resume that few in the world of martial arts can match.
It’s those countless hours spent on the mats and in tournaments that have given Tonon the confidence to believe he’ll claim victory on his maiden outing under ONE rules.
“Overall, when I watch the things that he (Corminal) does, it does not appear to me that he is classically trained in any genre of martial arts,” Tonon told ONE Championship.
“It does not look to me that he is a boxer, or a kickboxer, or a grappler. It looks like he has skills of all of those things, but none at an elite level. I am prepared for all of those skills, but grappling is definitely my best attribute. I am prepared for pretty much anything.”
Tonon’s grappling credentials are significant – he’s a three-time IBJJF World champion and four-time Eddie Bravo Invitational Champion – and he’s already showcased those skills to the ONE Championship fans in a special Grappling Super-Match against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki.
He submitted “Tobikan Judan” via heel hook inside eight minutes at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES. It was an experience that Tonon says will stand him in good stead when he returns to the ONE cage for his full debut on 24 March.
“It was a huge adrenaline rush,” he said.
“The biggest thing that troubled me the most when grappling with him was his ability to use the cage. It is not something that I really get an opportunity to do very much. We do have a cage at Renzo [Gracie Academy], but it is not really something I do with grappling. It really showed his experience using the cage in general.
“When I got in there, I knew there was a big difference in my IQ in cage awareness, as far as compared to where he was, and he used that to stifle me for most of the match until I finally got a leg entrance. That was the biggest shock when that happened. But overall, it was a great experience.”
Having achieved virtually everything there is to achieve in submission grappling, Tonon had toyed with the idea of switching to the cage, but he never quite pulled the trigger and made the switch – until now.
He admits the match with Aoki proved the turning point, and finally convinced him to take the plunge and make the move.
“I have been looking to get into it for a while. I just was not 100 percent sure when it would happen,” he said.
“I knew after two or three years of grappling that it was something that I was interested in getting involved in, but I always wanted to have a good handle on what I was doing with Brazilian jiu-jitsu first.
“When I say good handle, my definition is a little different than most people, because I am a perfectionist when it comes to most things. When it comes to martial arts, I do not really accept mediocrity, so I wanted to get really good at grappling before I made the move.
“I really wanted to make sure I had that whole submission element under control before I transferred over, and I think I did that really well.”
Now, after mastering the world of submission grappling, “The Lion Killer” faces a new test. And the world will be watching in eager anticipation.