Gordon Ryan Through the years – updated through 2023

Gordon Ryan is a New Jersey-born grappler and member of the Danaher Death Squad (DDS).

He is known for his dominance in jiu-jitsu’s no-gi and submission-only circuit.

Gordon has defeated renowned figures in the sport, including Andre Galvao, Yuri Simoes, Marcus Almeida Buchecha and more.

Gordon Ryan was born on July 8, 1995 in Monroe, New Jersey, USA.

Gordon Ryan was introduced to jiu-jitsu by Miguel Benitez at the age of 15.

Gordon Ryan with Nicky Ryan in 2012
Gordon Ryan with Nicky Ryan in 2012

Tom deBlass, a prominent grappler from New Jersey, took over as Ryan’s instructor.

When he was a four-stripe white belt, Ryan became friends with Garry Tonon, a rising talent in the sport.

Ryan's got the jiu-jitsu tattoo when he was a blue belt
Ryan’s got the jiu-jitsu tattoo when he was a blue belt
Nicky Ryan was 6 years younger but the two were close growing up
Nicky Ryan was 6 years younger but the two were close growing up

Ryan trained with Garry Tonon and John Danaher, another mentor of Tonon, at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York.

Ryan got his purple belt in 2014.

Ryan’s success in submission-only jiu-jitsu was first noticed through his association with John Danaher’s methodology.

Ryan’s break out performance was his EBI absolutes win. Relatively unknown, Ryan made it to the finals where he defeated ADCC medalist Yuri Simoes.

Nicky Ryan, Jon Calestine, Gordon Ryan, Oliver Taza in 2016. Calestine and Ryan would go on to win EBI competitions while Ryan brothers and Taza would end up competing at ADCC.


Gordon Ryan received his black belt in February 2016 from Garry Tonon, with the presence of Tom deBlass, Ricardo Almeida, and John Danaher.

Pretty soon after, Ryan started developing a provocative persona.

His nickname morphed from iron dragon into king, often accompanied with accessories.

Ryan was also determined to bulk up. At EBI he was competing at 170lbs but pretty soon he would be over 200lbs.

Tensions quickly mounted between Ryan and NY’s Marcelo Garcia academy. While Marcelo Garcia wanted none of the controversy, Dillon Danis emerged as the front runner in the beef.


These incidents would contribute to Danis getting kicked out of Marcelo Garcia’s academy a while later.

By February 2017, Ryan was looking a lot more buff.

Many attributed this change to the company he was keeping. Ryan was spending a lot of time with bodybuilder Natalia Santoro who is rumored to be married to him currently.

Ryan was preparing for the ADCC. This would be his first chance to prove that he’s not a one hit wonder. He already started filling out a bit more by April.

In 2017, he would have a match with reigning BJJ champion Leandro Lo. Lo specialized in Gi but was universally respected.
Lo defeated Ryan on points.


Santoro was becoming a fixture on Ryan’s social media.

By May, Ryan was looking well over 190lbs.

Ryan would subsequently post an even more shredded picture captioned¬† “Today I’m 22. Wealthier than ever. Sexier than ever.”

But Ryan kept bulking and looked even better by August.

That year, Ryan competed in the 88kg division (194lbs).

As the competition day neared he was looking progressively bigger and biger.

Ryan would undergo a grueling weight cut.

He subsequently became an ADCC champion and blew everyone out of the water – that is except for Dillon Danis. The two had a closely contested match that went to Ryan by Ref’s decision.

But Ryan lost to Felipe Pena for the second time in finals of absolute. And the loss would motivate him to go up a weight class.


Ryan had soon started opening up about medical issues online. In February of 2017 he shared images of his MRSA infected chest.

Ryan also showcased some pictures showcasing how his weight gain was progressing.

Ryan had been steadily gaining as showcased by a progress pic in February of 2018.

Ryan suffered an unexpected loss at ACA in May of 2018 to Vinny Magalhaes.

But Ryan was undeterred and hoping to be more active.

August of 2018.

Ryan would subsequently enter and win first of the only two IBJJF competitions he entered as a black belt.

UFC started dabbling with putting on BJJ matches by that point and Ryan was tapped to participate in Sakuraba’s group event called Quintet. Ryan made quick work of an entire team of his opponents.

Gordon Ryan also had his first medical setback. At NY set promotion, Kasai, Ryan was unable to get licensed due to a hepatitis C diagnosis.

“2 days before the event the NY state athletic commission notified kasai that their athletes would have to be tested for HIV and Hepatitis A, B, and C. Something that many people dont know about me is that I was born hep C positive. When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed and later that year I began treatment. After almost a year of treatment I was pronounced 100% CURED of hep C and my viral load count was completely undetectable. I was tested multiple times a year for the next 5 years as well as every time I have a physical to make sure I was still clear and no longer had hep C. When you do an initial hepatitis test the only thing that doctors look for at 1st is hepatitis antibodies. So knew going into these tests that I would test positive for the antibodies because I had hepatitis before. ” – Ryan explained.

By November he was back to looking jacked.

Ryan subsequently won Nogi Worlds championships.

While IBJJF tests for PEDs, they were only doing in competition tests for winners of Gi world championships. This would all change that same year when they announced they would start testing winners of Nogi worlds.

Ryan then surprised everyone when he announced an MMA transition instead of trying to become a gi world champion.

“Watching @georgesstpierre and @garrytonon prep for their fights excites me. I have chosen to give up on my quest to compete in the gi and focus fully on submission grappling and mma. I don’t want to invest years into something that I don’t enjoy as much as mma and has no relevance to real fighting. My goal was never to the be the greatest grappler of all time. It was to the be the greatest mma fighter of all time. That’s the whole reason I started training in the 1st place. I’m still white belt level in mma training so I wont fight for some time. But these are my current goals.”¬† – Ryan captioned the announcement.

Early in 2019, Ryan tore his ACL competing against Joao Gabriel Rocha.

Despite the injury he managed to win the match.

He rushed back into training soon after considering 2019 was an ADCC year.



He soon updated his old progress pic with the new snap.


He was still occasionally seen with boxing gloves though there were no concrete plans for him to do MMA.


Ryan returned to UFC’s grappling event and took part in Urijah Faber’s kinektic.


But soon it was time for another ADCC, and Ryan repeated his feat again.

He was once again on the upswing with his weight.

Ryan would sign with ONE FC, mainly to grapple in the promotion however the pandemic started and derailed all those plans.

It also marked the beginning of the drastic issues with his stomach. Ryan had chronical nausea to the degree that he effectively retired because of it.

Gordon Ryan was down to 220 lbs and aiming to gain weight during the lockdown.
He experienced recurring staph infections, requiring oral antibiotics.
Staph infections prevented him from training and competing for months.
The constant use of antibiotics damaged their stomach, causing persistent nausea.
The condition has not improved despite seeking medical help and trying various remedies.
The nausea persists throughout the day, impacting their ability to eat big meals.
He believed the inability to eat properly was hindering his physical potential.


ADCC promoter would wind up helping Ryan to find a proper specialist who diagnosed Ryan’s issues finally.

Ryan subsequently unretired and shared yet another progress pic.

Ryan and teammates ended up moving to Puerto Rico for a stint. There was more liberties there however the lack of activities and being in recluse heightened the conflicts between the team.

Ryan was determined regain his alien like physique and keep competing.

Ryan’s team ended up splitting into two fractions – with both fractions moving to Texas.

Ryan managed to win the ADCC once again in 2022 – this time he was competing in the over 99kg division.

It’s hard to imagine but Ryan will be just 26 in a month. But, due to medical issues, he’s once again looking at months of inactivity if not retirement.

In 2023 he would back out of a Felipe Pena rematch after suffering a bout of severe stomach flue.

This new physique was a result of not being able to eat for several weeks due to a persistent throat infection that would prompt Ryan to undergo a tonsillectomy.

Ryan is already working to regain his physique