With Gordon Ryan OUT of Competition – Who Will Be The Next King?

Last updated on 25.05.2021 by

Gordon Ryan stunned the grappling community again, as he often does, by declaring that he will no longer be competing due to health reasons. The announcement first took people by surprise, but that surprise has quickly been replaced by curiosity: With Gordon stepping down from his throne, who will be the next king of grappling? 

The Big Announcement – Gordon Ryan Is Out!

A couple of days ago, an unusual post appeared on the Gordon Ryan Instagram profile – a sad emoji on a black background. It quickly drew people’s attention to the description which held an unexpected message – Gordon Ryan is stepping down from competition. 

According to the “King,” his well-documented stomach issues have finally caught up with him to a point that he must put his career as a competitive athlete on hold. After his recent signing to compete in MMA with One FC, nobody expected Gordon Ryan to call it quits. 

As per his instagram post, Ryan is taking an indefinitely long leave of absence as a competitor, but will continue coaching. Due to his condition, Ryan has cancelled all of his remaining scheduled competitive appearances (which had been booked out until October), and with his cancellation has left the door to the ADCC crown wide open. 

ADCC Game Of Thrones – Which House Is Next To Rule?

“The King Is Dead! 

Long Live The King!”

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Credit: https://theathletic.com/

At the moment, only the first portion of this is true, albeit figuratively, of course. As one king steps down, another one is always in the line to succeed him. However Gordon Ryan’s legacy is so unique and incredible that there are no clear successors. His career has been dominant for so long it is hard to tell who is really next in line.

At the moment, there are many hopefuls to take his ADCC championship throne, but only few of them really have a chance. With Gordon Ryan owning the crown in ADCC’s Heavyweight and Absolute divisions, there’s a huge opportunity out there for the top-tier grapplers to go after.

Those that have a chance, fall under one of three main categories, or in our Game Of Thrones parlance: grappling ‘houses.’

House “Danaher Death Squad”

Last time out, there were four representatives of the Danaher Death Squad at the ADCC, including Gordon Ryan. Ryan won everything, Nicky Rodriguez got a silver medal in his division, Garry Tonon earned bronze, and only Nicky Ryan, Gordon’s younger brother, came up short.

Logically, given their results and their level of performance, they are the most likely next rulers of the grappling realm. 

Gary Tonon might not have been competing in grappling much (or better said, at all) lately, but he is undefeated in MMA under the One FC banner. However, he didn’t do any grappling competition leading up to his impressive ADCC showing in 2019 either and managed to win “best match” accolades for his crazy war with Renato Canuto. 

He also got bronze after his defeat in the semi finals, losing on points to JT Torres who eventually won the -77kg division. 

Tonon competed in the absolute division as well, coming up short only when he met his teammate Gordon Ryan in the quarter finals. He has a real chance of going for double gold this time around. 

Nicky Rodriguez is seen by many as the like-for-like Gordon Ryan replacement at the top of the mountain. Despite only having had a few years of experience and a blue belt he won silver in ADCC’s -99kg division – certainly a testament to how scary a competitor he can be. However, his chances aren’t as great  as they might appear once we look at things a bit more carefully. 

Last time around, nobody really knew much about Nicky Rod. While he is difficult to train for, I expect that more experienced ADCC fighters will be able to use tactics to slow him down. Still I see him winning at least one of the two titles up for grab (his division or the absolute). 

Nicky Ryan is clearly highly skilled and only getting better each day. However, he had slightly overwhelming performances at the ADCC so far, though, given his age, that could change. Nicky is clearly in line to succeed his brother, but it looks like his succession is still a few years off.

House “Heavy Hitters”

The man that ended up the winner of the heavyweight division last time around, Kaynan Duarte is most definitely one to watch, and one of the strongest contenders to the King’s throne. Mahamad Aly is another stand out grappler that could scupper both Duarte and Rodriguez’s plans for the throne. 

The ever present Marcus Almeida and Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, both winners in previous editions, are expected to give each and every one of the young guns a run for their money. 

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Kaynan Duarte vs Buchecha no ADCC 2019

They are all also favourites to win the absolute division, given that statistics favor heavyweight grapplers. However, throwing one more wrench in an otherwise perfectly chaotic plan is a name we should consider as well – Felipe Pena, the man who has actually managed to submit Gordon Ryan twice. 

House “Down Under”

Speaking of the absolute division, after ADCC 2019 nobody will be quick to dismiss the little guys this time around, especially those coming from down under. Lachlan Giles surprised many last time around, submitting both Patrick Gaudio and Kaynan Duarte before losing to the king Gordon Ryan himself. He will be a danger for any grappler facing him. 

His star pupil, Craig Jones, although lately moonlighting with the Danaher Death Squad is another one to watch. He will most certainly be a force to be reckoned with, and is certain to try and improve on his -88kg silver medal from 2019. 

The ADCC Superfight Conundrum 

Finally, there’s the story of the ADCC superfight, which has been rocking the BJJ community at least once a month. From the endless back and forth on social media behind last challenger Gordon Ryan and defending champion Andre Galvao to their famed slap-incident, everyone was really looking forward to this upcoming fight. 

Galvao put the entire thing in jeopardy, never officially accepting the fight and making insane lofty financial demands. Ultimately, it seems Gordon Ryan is the man to put the final nail in the superfight coffin, as of now the already uncertain ADCC event doesn’t have a replacement for either of these superstars and is unlikely to happen.

What If… 

Le’s be completely honest – According to the official Gordon Ryan instagram account, he did say that he was taking a leave of absence rather than completely quitting. 

Given that he competed far from fully healthy last time around (injured arm, very recent knee surgery and he stomach issue he is still struggling with), let’s not just write off Ryan yet… even from this upcoming ADCC event!


If Gordon doesn’t return, then the crown will soon rest atop a new head. With both the heavyweight and absolute divisions becoming open, it is possible that instead of a unified champ a pair of fighters will end up sharing the throne.

Keep an eye on the houses of the Danaher Death Squad, the Heavy Hitters, and the scrappy fighters from Down Under!