Gordon Ryan, the 23-year-old grappling superstar, has never shied away from controversy. Ryan’s flashy persona and frequent callouts have made him a polarizing figure in jiu-jitsu.
The latest controversy surrounding “King” Ryan concerns a ‘callout’ of six-time IBJJF World champion Andre Galvao.
Galvao, 36, retired from professional competition in 2017. The Brazilian is one of the greatest grapplers in the sports’ history, having won six IBJJF World Championships, two ADCC gold medals, three ADCC superfight matches, and nine IBJJF Pan American championships.
Ryan recently posted to Instagram, including a proposal: “We have a match and we charge viewers for a PPV.”
The ‘callout’ has caused quite a stir in the jiu-jitsu community.
Caio Terra, the ten-time IBJJF No-Gi World champion, wrote on Instagram, “[Ryan] challenged a retired athlete and someone (sic) who did a lot for this sport. Trying to cut the line to make some money.”
But Garry Tonon, the man who gave Gordon Ryan his black belt, doesn’t think the story is so straightforward.
“I think people don’t understand about that whole situation because the problem with this social media stuff is it’s kinda hard to follow sometimes,” Tonon told The Body Lock.
“Unless you’re, like, the biggest diehard Gordon Ryan fan or biggest diehard André fan ever, you would literally have to be looking at their social media all day long to know the full story; to see, like, ‘All right, hey, this is what Andre posted, this is what Gordon posted.’ So, I don’t really blame anybody for being misinformed.”
Tonon believes it was Galvao, not Ryan, who instigated the situation.
“Gordon, I guess you could say that he called him out, but Andre was the one that took the first shot. Andre made a post saying something like, ‘Hey, I’m the real king.’ Basically, those were the words, which we all know is slighted at Gordon, who calls himself the ‘King’. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that he’s talking about Gordon when [Andre] says he’s ‘the real king.'”
Galvao did, in fact, post an Instagram video of his 2011 ADCC victory over Rousimar Palhares captioned, “The crown is mine… I’M THE REAL KING.”
Tonon says Ryan’s reaction was justified.
“For Gordon to come back and be like, ‘All right, let’s go. Let’s have a match.’ I don’t think that’s that crazy, you know what I mean?”
In response to Galvao’s post, Ryan challenged him to a match with exorbitant purses of money on the line, but the result of the challenge has yet to be realized.
If it’s up to Ryan, Tonon believes, the match will happen.
“At least when Gordon calls someone out, he means it. He’s gonna have the match with you. If there’s going to be the money that he asked for involved, he’s gonna have the match. If it’s worth it, he’ll make it happen. And these other guys? Not so much, I don’t think. I think they’re all talk.”
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.