If there is one aspect of Garry Tonon’s career that has helped drive him to such remarkable success, it may be his loyalty.
Tonon has worked with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach Tom DeBlass ever since his first took up the martial art, and he’s stayed true to those who provided him with his foundations early in his martial arts journey.
“I am surrounded by so many amazing people, so they have made it easy to be loyal to them,” says the 26-year-old New Yorker.
“They have made me desire to be loyal to them. I think that is a little bit of the piece other people miss when looking at loyalty. I think what they lack in terms of realising is that there are two sides to that – if you expect loyalty out of somebody, you have to have done something to earn that.
“You find some way to go out of your way for whoever it is you expect to be loyal to you. It is usually not because you are looking at them to be loyal, but that is just the way you feel in your heart. It goes both ways.
“I do not think it is something money can buy. No amount of talking is going to get you there. It comes down to ‘is this person willing to sacrifice some part of their life to help me?’ If they are, then I sense loyalty there.”
Tonon’s grappling lineage comes via one of the legends of martial arts, Renzo Gracie.
The Brazilian martial arts icon awarded a BJJ black belt to Ricardo Almeida, who went on to award a black belt to Tonon’s coach DeBlass.
Now, as one of the most respected grapplers on the planet, Tonon is looking to parlay his elite-level submission skills to the world of mixed martial arts in ONE Championship and his team will be with him, every step of the way.
“That has been so important. That is how I form real connections with people, and it is the only way I can learn and grow,” he explains.
“It is tough to be in an environment where you do not feel like you have loyal people around you, because it is tough to share information, it is tough to share strategy, and it is tough to build anything. You are always worried someone you are talking to might pull the rug out from under you.
“I never feel that way with the people I have surrounding me. I make it a big point in my life to get rid of anyone who would do something like that to me.”
That bond with his team has helped him progress to remarkable heights. He’s been training full-time at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan, New York, training under the tutelage of another highly-respected name in the world of grappling, John Danaher.
The acclaimed coach assembled a top-drawer team of some of the very best grapplers in the world, dubbed the Danaher Death Squad.
Tonon was an integral part of that team and as well as furthering his grappling career, his involvement with it also helped build his belief in the value of teamwork and loyalty in martial arts. Its close-knit dynamic saw its members achieve remarkable individual success.
“It has definitely shaped some of my loyalties and relationships,” he says of his involvement with the team.
“It has brought some people together, and it has shifted some people apart.
“Anything you do when it comes to forming a team, there are always going to be times where people get along and times they do not. There is conflict, resolution, and all types of things in that situation.”
Tonon has taken the lessons and experiences of being in the Danaher Death Squad into his new mixed martial arts career.
He made a hugely impressive debut with a TKO finish of Richard Corminal at ONE: IRON WILL, and is looking to turn his winning start into a winning streak when he faces Rahul Raju at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila on July 27.
The event will have added significance for Tonon, with one of his mentors, Renzo Gracie, making his return to face Yuki Kondo in a special legend versus legend match-up on the same night.
And while his target on the night will undoubtedly be victory, Tonon is already planning on building for the future, as he looks to replicate the success of Danaher Death Squad with a new team in MMA – hopefully with Danaher’s involvement.
“I think that is kind of the next project – not just myself, but taking some other people in to help them with their mixed martial arts careers,” Tonon explained.
“John has had a great deal of success coaching many martial artists in the past. I think it will be really good to see the different kind of innovations he can make in an entirely different martial art as well.”