Garry Tonon has a well-earned reputation as one of the very best grapplers on the planet, so it is no surprise to him that expectation levels are high as he looks to transition his skills into the realm of mixed martial arts.
Tonon made an eye-catching debut for ONE Championship with a second-round TKO finish of Richard Corminal at ONE: IRON WILL in Bangkok, Thailand.
It was a performance that received universal approval as the five-time EBI Grappling Champion showcased his evolving striking skills in his debut victory.
“I am always relatively critical about myself, more so than other people,” said the 26-year-old American.
“I think that I have to try to take a few steps back sometimes, and realise the conditions which I was fighting under – as far as my first fight is concerned.
“I had no real striking background prior to this, and limited training leading up to it. I feel I did pretty well considering that – for having that level of experience.”
Tonon shocked the watching public by dropping Corminal with a huge right hook, Later in the bout, when he found himself in full mount, the grappling ace resisted the temptation to go to his submission skills and instead finished his opponent with strikes.
As he gets ready for his second bout, against Ultimate Satira Champion Rahul “The Kerala Krusher” Raju, he says to expect the unexpected once again.
“The thing with my jiu-jitsu is I do not want a situation where somebody can just watch a bunch of tape of me, and then they have me figured out,” Tonon explains.
“So every time someone sees one of my fights, they are going to see new surprises and new movements – new things that I am going to do.
“I am always going to evolve, and I am going to try to innovate, because I feel if you cannot do that, then somebody is going to figure you out. Ultimately, that is the tone that I want to set. I want to surprise people with a different skill every fight.”
Tonon has done his homework on his opponent, who wasn’t familiar to him before to their bout announcement, and says he has Raju’s style well scouted.
“The way I see it, for the majority of his fights, he punches into a clinch fairly early, and then tries to look to take people down and stay on top. I do not really see too much else going on,” he explains.
“I do not know what kind of strategy he will use with me, because I do not know if he is interested in closing the distance or clinching with me.
“Obviously, I have to keep some secrets when it comes to my strategy for the fight, but basically I think there are a few areas I could do well.
“I think I could do well in the standing position, and I think I could do well on the ground. I did make a promise that I was going to teach people how to pull guard in a mixed martial arts fight, so you might see that.”
As exciting as it is for Tonon to be continuing his foray into mixed martial arts, the American seems equally thrilled to be sharing the card with a true legend of the game – and a man who has been a coach and mentor throughout his career in New York – Renzo Gracie.
“It is so cool,” Tonon enthuses.
“When I first started training, I would never have guessed that would have happened. When I started training, he was still fighting, but it was definitely less active. You would have assumed around that time, he would be retiring soon.
“Sure enough, I grappled once with Renzo when he took on Kazushi Sakuraba, and now I will be fighting on the same card as him. It is pretty exciting. I am in awe of him as a human being.”