Nicky Rodriguez and Gordon Ryan were training partners once upon a time, and now their relationship has soured to the point that each man is publicly accusing the other of using steroids. Ryan has been a student under John Danaher for almost his entire career and Rodriguez came to join him in training shortly after he started the sport. The pair came into ADCC 2019 as teammates competing in different divisions and shortly afterward, they even moved to Puerto Rico together along with the rest of the Danaher Death Squad.
That’s when things started to take a nose-dive and the team broke up, with little explanation being given at the time. Since then multiple former members of the team have only been vague about what went down, with Danaher himself even offering a pretty neutral explanation as to why they all went their separate ways. Things appeared to be generally amicable between the elite competitors that made up his team, and many of them sit among the top grapplers in their respective weightclasses.
Rodriguez recently appeared on Mark Bell’s Power Project and gave his thoughts on where he stands in the landscape of professional grappling:
“I think once I beat Gordon I’ll be considered the best pound-for-pound. I think right now I am the best pound-for-pound, especially if you’re talking not using any bodily enhancements, I’m by far the pound-for-pound best. Some of the guys that do steroids in the sport, they literally couldn’t compete at all if they weren’t… You’re talking guys that are naturally 175, 180 pounds, and in nine months they’re 230 pounds. It’s f****** insane… You can do that, but it’s harder doing it, building that muscle when you’re doing an hour-plus cardio every day, and it just takes much longer. I’m very confident that a lot of these guys couldn’t compete if they were natty, so I call myself the Natty King.”
Rodriguez has already competed against Ryan twice since they parted ways as teammates, with the first clash happening at ADCC 2022 when they in the final of the over 99kg division, with Ryan winning by heelhook stunningly quickly. Then just a matter of months later, Rodriguez stepped in on short notice to replace Vinny Magalhaes against Ryan at UFC Fight Pass Invitational 3. He lost that match again but this time in EBI overtime, even managing to cause audible damage to Ryan’s ankle with a toehold attempt. Nicky Rodriguez addressed these previous matches with Gordon Ryan in the interview, even going so far as to accuse him of using steroids:
“His biggest thing is steroids. You can’t gain 50 pounds of muscle and be like, ‘It’s irrelevant.’ No, it’s super f****** relevant. You wouldn’t be half the person you were if you didn’t do that. No disrespect, but you have somebody that preaches ‘technique is king, technique is king,’ then why are you trying to be so strong? That’s my point on it. And I honestly wouldn’t have even said that if he didn’t, after I match, be like ‘ah this guy’s f****** greasing.’ You’re talking about greasing, which I didn’t… That’s his excuse, he’s like, ‘He put lotion on.’ First of all, no, never cheated a f****** bit. And then on top of that, I’m a natural athlete going against a not-natural athlete and you still need excuses. I definitely wouldn’t have even called him out on that but it just irked me a bit that he’s like, ‘This guy’s f****** greasing.’ Bro I broke your foot, just live with it.”
Rodriguez isn’t lying of course, Ryan did accuse him of greasing during their second match together. That was one of the first public signs that their relationship was perhaps a little more than just a standard competitive rivalry. It didn’t take long for the accusations of using steroids to reach Gordon Ryan and of course he immediately fired back against Nicky Rodriguez in a post to his official Instagram account, countering them with accusations of his own: