A Jiu Jitsu Times EXCLUSIVE Feature Article: Garry Tonon and The Case Against Contracts
Garry Tonon has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity and success since making his debut in the BJJ public eye when he was featured on the BJJ Kumite. The New Jersey native phenom has torn through the competition scene scoring two submissions in Metamoris and one at the first Polaris invitational event. He has 2 matches in the near future: a second bout at Polaris (against leg lock legend Imanari) in Wales UK, against Berimbolo specialist Joao Miyao (a rematch) at this weekends Five Grappling, and of course the ADCC is approaching quickly.
I sat down with Garry for an exclusive interview and learned a bit about him, his Jiu Jitsu experiences and some of his views on the ever changing landscape of BJJ.
Tonons proclivity for no gi is apparent in his competition record, I wrestled from 5th-9th grade, a friend of mine introduced me to Jiu Jitsu and I fell in love with it, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I started training at Ocean County BJJ with professor Tom DeBlass who still coaches and trains with me to this day, as does his professor Ricardo Almeida. Many of the very top of the No Gi grappling food chain are former wrestlers. Garry hasnt ruled out transitioning back into a focus on gi, but has his reasons for competing so much without the gi I will one day make a serious run at winning gi worlds and Abu Dhabi pro. Right now focusing on no-gi makes sense, I can make way more money doing so, and I plan to transition into MMA.
Anyone who has followed his career has noticed that there was a certain point at which all of a sudden Garry turned into a submission machine, going from a focus on only a couple of moves into a veritable arsenal of techniques.
I asked what brought about Garrys increased fluency, specifically in the leg lock game: Since I started training with Eddie Cummings prepping for 2013 ADCC With the help of John Danaher, I have greatly increased my submission skill sets. Previously I only finished RNC’s in competition. I now have finished that (RNCs), various leg locks, arm locks, triangles, north south chokes, kimuras, and guillotines in competition. Prior to 2013 I had a mainly position based game.
Garry was set to have match at the most recent Metamoris event, however was unexpectedly removed from the card. He then released a statement explaining the reason for which he was removed, namely that Metamoris wanted to set up a contract with him and that he was dissatisfied with their terms, and on a broader scale the implications that their contract had for the Jiu Jitsu community. Metamoris (more specifically Ralek Gracie) released a statement revealing some of the terms of the contract and expressed that he was puzzled about Garrys disinterest.
Reading both sides of this conversation, I felt there were some crucial details missing. I for one believe that contracts can be a very positive element to sports, and that Metamoris offering Garry a contract was actually a really good thing Garry has set me (and anyone else who thought the same thing) straight Here are his very frank and candid words on the subject:
Contract exclusivity is never good for growth until the sport is well established, it will only prevent important matches from being held, reduce the amount of viewers worldwide, and slow the spread of the sport. Even when the sport is established it can hinder growth
The only other exception is if you had a Mega Organization as big as the UFC with hundreds of events a year, all over the world, with unbelievable promotional value. Then yeah, it makes sense because what other organization would come close to that organization in bringing recognition to the sport. But even then there are problems. Monopolies always cause problems. One organization in charge of everything is never a good thing, just look at the UFC. They are in such control they can do whatever they want. Not only that they are so big that while they’re doing something their viewers / employees hate that don’t even have to apologize. They can literally flip you off as you complain and nothing bad will happen to them! Do we really want to give one event that kind of power in our sport?
Garrys view on this extends past Metamoris to the self appointed governing body of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the IBJJF:
Look at IBJJF as well, nearly everyone hates how their tournaments are conducted, but for years they were the biggest thing out there, they have no need to change anything. They just keep chugging along same old BS; do any less people show up? Hell no! More show up every year. They have a partial vice on competitive Jiu Jitsu and it sucks. Thank God some better organizations are popping up
For Garry, contracts are an issue that can make or break the very growth of Jiu Jitsu in its conception and innovation:
Imagine if a bunch of good guys in BJJ were signed exclusively with IBJJF. Imagine if I was. Jiu Jitsu would be smothered not grown, one rule set? One governing body? I and many others would have never made the progress they have in the sport if it wasn’t for other organizations. I have succeeded in IBJJF events. I am a 2 time no gi world champ at brown, 3rd in absolute at black. But would I have made the innovations in my game that have improved my Jiu Jitsu and that of others if I could only fight IBJJF? Hell no. It’s not just about success its about innovation.
When Garry released his statement about rejecting Metamoris contract, and Metamoris rebutted by disclosing some of the aspects of the contract that Tonon rejected, I was a bit puzzled. I didnt understand how a contract could possibly hurt the sport. I think that Garrys explanation makes perfect sense.
How do you, the reader, feel about exclusive contracts? Do you see Garrys point about the dangers of monopoly as they pertain to this situation? On the long run, Garry Tonons career is just starting to take off. He has his upcoming super fights as well as an ADCC event on the horizon. Will be look back with regret, or with satisfaction that his choices helped better the sport he loves so much?
Garry would like to thank Versaclimber, OTM, Polaris, Five Grappling, and Open Mat radio. Jiu Jitsu Times would like to thank Garry for taking the time to share so openly and honestly, best of luck in all your future endeavors Garry!