Gordon Ryan recently revealed what he believes it takes to become a good grappler in MMA, and what grapplers should focus on when making the transition to their new sport. He’s in a unique position as the most successful no gi grappler of his generation, as he has more time on the competition mats than most professional MMA fighters will ever get. Not just that, but he’s spent pretty much his entire career training under John Danaher, a coach who is known for his fantastic work with both professional grapplers and MMA fighters.
Although Ryan has never had an MMA fight himself and likely never will, he was recently asked by Luke Thomas on an episode of Morning Kombat about what he thinks it takes to make a successful transition from grappling to MMA:
“Number one: you have to have the ability, if you’re a grappler, you have to have the ability to actually, of course, take the fight to the ground. So that means you have to have good reactive and proactive takedowns in the open. Like a GSP (Georges St-Pierre), for example, where either you throw punches, get the guy’s hands up and you shoot takedowns. Or like Georges was very good at throwing jabs, the guy would chase him and reactive takedowns put the guy down or push him to the fence and put him down.”
This first key to success helps explain why so many elite MMA fighters in the modern era have had a strong background in wrestling as opposed to BJJ. As Jiu-Jitsu allows for pulling guard it often allows competitors to skip the process of learning how to take people down, or at least means that the ability is a lot less developed than it would be in wrestlers. Gordon Ryan believes there’s more to becoming a successful grappler in MMA though:
“Obviously once you get them down, being able to hold them down. As you get on top of them, if you can’t hold them down and can’t do damage it’s useless. So holding him down, stopping the initial explosion up and then being able to have a combination of working through a hierarchy of pins while also having open hands to be able to punch when you have to, while still holding people down when they’re trying to get up. If they’re going to get up, it shouldn’t be for free. It should be them getting up carrying your body weight and if they’re not carrying body weight as they’re getting up, they should be getting hit.”
This an element of the sport that BJJ competitors do put a lot of time into, although the addition of strikes does change things quite a lot. Obviously it makes a huge difference from bottom position, but it also changes the way you control an opponent from the top too. Ryan finished off with a brief summary:
“So, the ability to take people down from top position, to take people down in the open, take people down the fence, make them carry your body weight when you’re on top of them, and if they’re not carrying body weight and they are getting up; being able to hit them. So those are the four most important things for me.”
The interview with Gordon Ryan where he spoke about what it takes to become a good grappler in MMA was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of Morning Kombat: