The BJJ community was recently rocked by the unexpected announcement that the famous Danaher Death squad will no longer train together. Now the former team members have announced “Team B” and both Gordon Ryan and John Danaher are moving to Texas. Who were the Danaher Death Squad members, and why is this enormous news for the BJJ community?
What was the Danaher Death Squad?
The Danaher Death Squad (DDS) is a BJJ competition team coached by John Danaher, and is comprised of notable BJJ black belts. Danaher is considered one of the most famous BJJ coaches and has made numerous appearances on “The Joe Rogan Experience.” The team includes multiple ADCC Champions and medalists, as well as champions of other major competitions.
Who is John Danaher
John Danaher (@danaherjohn) is considered one of the greatest BJJ and martial arts coaches of all time. He was born in New Zealand, and came to the United States to pursue his PhD at Columbia University. While studying at Columbia he started training BJJ at the Renzo Gracie Academy. In addition to being the coach of the Death Squad, he is also credited with legitimizing and systematizing leg locks in BJJ.
Death Squad Members
- Eddie Cummings- One of the older members of the DDS, Eddie has a 19-3 record and is known for favoring leg lock submissions. Eddie left the team before its retirement and now trains at Unity Jiu Jitsu.
- Garry Tonon- (@garrytonon) Gary Tonon has a record of 50-19 most of which are submission wins. Recently he announced that he and three other former DDS members will be creating their own competition team.
- Gordon Ryan- (@Gordonlovesjiujitsu) Perhaps the most notable DDS member. Ryan is a three time ADCC World champion and has an impressive 84-5 record. He recently had to step away from competitions due to a gastrointestinal problem.
- Nicky Ryan- (@Nickyryanbjj) Nicky Ryan is Gordon Ryan’s younger brother. While he doesn’t have as many wins (22-5), he is the youngest person to compete in the ADCC world championship according to Flograppling.
- Nicky Rodriguez- (@nickyrod247) Nicky Rodriguez has a standing record of 22-6, is known for an aggressive take down, and guard passing game.
- Craig Jones- (@craigjonesbjj) You might recognize him by his “Subscribe to my Only Fans” rash guard. Craig Jones has a record of 48-17 and like other members of the squad, is a submission specialist.
- Oliver Taza- (@tazagarami) One of Danaher’s more recent Black Belts, Taza’s record is 17-14.
- Ethan Crelinsten- (@ethan.crelinsten) With his record 23-9 Ethan has 12 wins by submission in various high level BJJ competitions.
Other DDS Members
Many other high level grapplers have trained with the squad and competed with them. The Renzo Gracie Academy in New York is known for attracting people of all levels and producing many top competitors. “It’s a room that produces champions and great instructors” says Brandon Bennett, a 3rd degree BJJ black belt from Renzos.
Why the team is breaking up
The announcement of the team’s breakup came from John Danaher on Instagram where he wrote: “A combination of factors revolving around disagreements in physical location of a future school, personality conflicts, conflicting values and an inevitable tension between the team brand and the growing individual brands of members were the main factors.”
Power Vacuum in the BJJ Competition World
The news of the DDS retirement isn’t bad news to all, it’s common knowledge that Gordon Ryan has had a long standing feud with rival Andre Galvao. The retirement of the DDS leaves openings for Galvao’s gym, Atos BJJ, as well as other younger competitors to rise in the rankings.
What will the former members do now?
Each member of the team has made their own Instagram posts about the split (some longer than others.) Craig Jones has announced the formation of “Team B” a competition team made up of former DDS members Nicky Ryan, Ethan Crelinsten, and Nicky Rodriguez. Gordon is moving to Texas, along with Danaher, to start his own BJJ gym.
Legacy of the DDS
The reason the DDS have made such an enormous impact on the BJJ world is largely because of John Danaher’s philosophy on the sport. Today many BJJ competitions are won on points or advantage. However, Danaher taught his team members to go for submissions in competitions – approaching points-based competitions with an intelligently submission-oriented gameplan. A large number of wins held by each member are submission victories.
John Danaher’s contribution to BJJ
One of the reasons John Danaher’s team was so successful in competitions is because they were some of the first competitors to specialize in leg locks. Before John Danaher invented his leg lock system, many BJJ gyms didn’t train with leg attacks. When John Danaher went on the JRE he famously asked “Why would you ignore 50% of the body?”
The Infamous “Leg Lock System”
One of the reasons the DDS had such unusually high submission rates was because of John Danaher’s infamous Leg Lock System: a system of Ashi Garami (leg entanglement) positions that almost inevitably lead to a leg lock submission. Today, John Danaher’s instructional videos nearly have a monopoly on the market.
John Danaher’s Contribution to other Martial Arts
One of the many reasons John Danaher has been hailed as a genius is his ability to coach many other martial arts besides Jiu Jitsu. Gordon Ryan has said he has seen him give private lessons to both Judo Olympians and Wrestling Olympians.
Also having appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience (MMA show #109), Gordon Ryan was the undisputed pound for pound Jiu Jitsu champion. “I should tell people that don’t know Jiu Jitsu; you can’t get fights right now,” said Joe Rogan as many top competitors didn’t want to fight Ryan because they were afraid of an embarrassing loss.
Facing Gordon on the mats came with other pressures as well – he is known for his vitriolic comments on social media and was never afraid to shy away from internet drama. This online persona has garnered him plenty of attention – although not all of it favorable.
Looking to the Future
New Gym in Texas
Gordon Ryan has stated that his next steps are to move to Austin Texas and open a new BJJ academy. In his words “I have an undeniable connection to my Texas fans.” Ryan, along with Tom DeBlass, are holding a seminar, and he says that the proceeds will go to Texas police officers. He has also offered BJJ training to the Texas police.
Shortly after the shocking news of the DDS dispersing, Craig Jones announced the formation of “The B Team.” The team will include himself, Nicky Ryan, Nicky Rodriguez, and Ethan Crelinsten. Team B plans to continue competing and training together, and will still train full time.
Jack is a BJJ purple belt who holds a bachelors degree in English Literature. He enjoys traveling, reading, and the Bow and Arrow choke. One day he hopes to teach English overseas and become a published author.