Gary Tonon has established himself as one of the top featherweight contenders in ONE Championship, rattling off three straight wins since his title shot loss in 2022. The grappling ace is laser-focused on capturing the MMA title, but he also still harbors ambitions of competing in grappling and jiu-jitsu competitions.
In a recent interview, Tonon discussed the difficulties of balancing his MMA career with his desire to compete in grappling events. While he would love to enter grappling tournaments like ADCC and pursue ONE’s submission grappling titles, he knows he must be smart with his scheduling and priorities.
“The tough part is the coinciding with my MMA career,” Tonon explained. “If I don’t put my all into a particular area, I’m always gonna wonder, oh man, well what if I put actually all my energy into that thing?”
Right now, Tonon’s number one priority is capturing the ONE featherweight title. He believes he needs to be the champion first before he can start taking grappling matches in between title defenses.
“Once I’m the man, and I say the same thing about competing in ADCC, I would be super excited to compete in ADCC again. But if a title opportunity is on the line and I haven’t gotten that control yet, I haven’t got the belt around my waist, well the number one priority needs to be that,” said Tonon.
The jiu-jitsu black belt reiterated that he can’t pass up MMA title shots to compete in grappling tournaments. He needs to fully focus his efforts on climbing the ladder and becoming champion first.
“It interests me for sure. I love grappling, and it’s a really exciting thing for me,” Tonon said. “But I just have to be realistic. There’s only so much stuff that I can do at once as competently as possible.”
Tonon will have the chance to earn another title shot when he faces former two-division ONE champion Martin Nguyen at ONE: Lights Out on January 28. A win could line up a trilogy title fight against reigning champ Thanh Le.