Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Garry Tonon is keeping a level head as he figures who he is as an MMA fighter.
If he needs an example of how much that game can change you, all he has to do is look at fellow grappling standout Dillon Danis. The two both made their names in the BJJ world before transitioning to MMA and while Danis has already developed a considerable following due to his brash attitude, Tonon has for the most part tried to be the same person that he’s always been even as he’s had to introduce himself to a new audience now that he’s competing for ONE Championship.
Danis is signed with Bellator, but that hasn’t stopped him from suggesting that he and Tonon will someday meet in MMA.
our paths will cross in mma one day i can’t wait... https://t.co/9XSo9SBEi3— Dillon Danis (@dillondanis) March 31, 2019
Tonon doesn’t begrudge Danis for developing a persona that — love him or hate him — has made Danis a relevant name in MMA despite having just one pro bout under his belt and he told Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour on Monday that he’s just happy he’s not close enough to Danis to have to explain his behavior.
“I don’t know if I would have said I would have seen it coming,” Tonon said of whether one could have predicted Danis’ shift in personality. “I didn’t know him well enough to really say that for sure. But I will say my only comment to it, it’s not the way that I obviously decided to go in terms of how I conduct myself. It’s hard to argue that it’s not successful for him. He’s been doing very well. And you could argue that maybe it’s because he’s with Conor (McGregor) and this, that, and the other thing, but at the end of the day, huge social media following, very controversial figure, people talk about him, so the strategy’s not working all that bad. He’s doing well for himself, I would argue very well for himself compared to most other grapplers that are involved in mixed martial arts.
“However, I would say that from the standpoint if I was, like, the dude’s best friend. It would be hard — I’m not gonna name names, whoever his best friend is — I would have trouble being asked questions about him, like you’re asking me right now. Like, ‘What’s the deal with Dillon?’ I’d be like, (cringes).”
Though he may not be inclined to wave them in everyone’s face, Tonon can already claim bragging rights over Danis having defeated him twice in grappling competitions (most recently at Polaris 5 back in August 2017). He’s also gone 4-0 as a pro fighter, most recently picking up first-round TKO of Anthony Engelen at ONE Championship: A New Era, the promotion’s heavily promoted debut in Japan.
Tonon isn’t counting his chickens before they hatch and used his friend Gordon Ryan as an example of someone who can get away with a lot of extracurricular chatter due to his success on the mats. Ryan is widely considered one of the best grapplers in the entire world and when Tonon begins to approach that same level of respect in MMA, he’ll consider ramping up the trash talk.
“That’s the same reason that you don’t hear me saying a lot of things yet in mixed martial arts because I’ve only been in this sport for such a short period of time,” Tonon said. “I’ve only had four fights. Yeah, I talk about that a lot in a short period of time, but I’m the kind of person that gets confidence from actually doing things.
“So if I’m gonna come out and tell you guys that I’m the best in the world, I have to feel like I’ve done something to show it or at least to prove it to myself and I don’t necessarily think that I’m quite there yet, to be starting to say things like that. Once I do feel that way, sure, maybe I’ll come out and talk to you guys like that. But like you said, it will come from a standpoint of reality, not necessarily from whatever I’ve built up in my head.”
The showmanship aspect of combat sports isn’t lost on Tonon. He showed some flair at the weigh-ins ahead of his fight in Japan, appearing as the Marvel Comics character “Wolverine”.
But he also understands that no matter how big a name he or Danis make for themselves, it will be awhile before they can possibly test each other’s MMA skills. Though many would assume that there’s a natural rivalry given that they’re both New Jersey natives who came up on the grappling scene around the same time, Tonon says they’ve been able to avoid any major tensions even after competing against each other twice.
There may come a day when Danis forces Tonon to engage in verbal warfare, but for now Tonon is simply focused on his next booking for ONE.
“We’re two completely separate organizations right now, two different weight classes,” Tonon said. “We’ve been relatively close [geographically], so we’ll definitely see each other at certain occasions. He was at Kasai, I was at Kasai, although to be fair I was sleeping in the back for most of Kasai because I’m so jetlagged right now from traveling. But I really don’t have much of a problem [with him].
“We live in proximity, we train in proximity to one another, but other than that I don’t really harbor any negative emotions. I’m just focused on fighting. At the end of the day, I’ve had four fights in a little over year. I’m gonna have five fights in a little over a year, I’ve just signed another fight contract that’s going to be happening relatively soon. Can’t say when or who, etc., I hate to tease, but that’s just how it is. Until they make the first post, I can’t say anything.”