Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon is finally ready for his grand premiere.
The 26-year-old American will make his professional cage debut on Saturday, 24 March. He is scheduled to meet knockout artist Richard “Notorious” Corminal in a lightweight clash at ONE: IRON WILL, which emanates from the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.
While Tonon is keeping his strategy under wraps, he has seen the Filipino striker’s game. And it seems the multiple-time submission grappling world champion is confident he will leave the ONE cage with a huge victory.
“Overall, when I watch the things that he does, it does not appear to me that he is classically trained in any genre of martial arts,” Tonon says.
“It does not look to me that he is a boxer, or a kickboxer, or a grappler. It looks like he has skills of all of those things, but none at an elite level. I am prepared for all of those skills, but grappling is definitely my best attribute. I am prepared for pretty much anything.”
Tonon, a three-time IBJJF World Champion and four-time Eddie Bravo Invitational Champion, learned one of his best lessons about the cage in May 2017 at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES. He competed opposite former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in the promotion’s first-ever Grappling Super-Match.
It was an entertaining clash between a pair of highly revered grappling wizards. Aoki’s experience using the cage served as an advantage, and initially, it threw Tonon off. But “The Lion Killer” eventually made a necessary adjustment, and secured a heel hook to force his Japanese rival to tap out at the 7:47 mark of the singe 15-minute round.
“It was a huge adrenaline rush,” Tonon recollects.
“The biggest thing that troubled me the most when grappling with him was his ability to use the cage. It is not something that I really get an opportunity to do very much. We do have a cage at Renzo [Gracie Academy], but it is not really something I do with grappling. It really showed his experience using the cage in general.
“When I got in there, I knew there was a big difference in my IQ in cage awareness, as far as compared to where he was, and he used that to stifle me for most of the match until I finally got a leg entrance. That was the biggest shock when that happened. But overall, it was a great experience.”
That experience served to be crucial in Tonon’s transition from competitive grappling to the all-encompassing world of ONE’s Global Rule Set.
For years, the American thought about making a full commitment to the cage, but he wanted to enhance and perfect his world-class grappling techniques first. He wanted to join the sport as a master practitioner in Brazilian jiu-jitsu before adding more disciplines to his arsenal.
Now, between 12 solid years of BJJ training and the recent adrenaline rush of grappling with the legendary Aoki in the ONE cage, Tonon feels the time for the transition has arrived.
“I have been looking to get into it for a while. I just was not 100 percent sure when it would happen,” he explains.
“I knew after two or three years of grappling that it was something that I was interested in getting involved in, but I always wanted to have a good handle on what I was doing with Brazilian jiu-jitsu first.
“When I say good handle, my definition is a little different than most people, because I am a perfectionist when it comes to most things. When it comes to martial arts, I do not really accept mediocrity, so I wanted to get really good at grappling before I made the move.
“I really wanted to make sure I had that whole submission element under control before I transferred over, and I think I did that really well.”
The true test happens on 24 March, as “The Lion Killer” competes on the global stage of ONE Championship for the first time at ONE: IRON WILL.