I’ll give you 3 reasons why Gordon Ryan is not the greatest grappler of all time (GOAT). In fact, the GOAT is Roger Gracie. Don’t leave, don’t DDOS attack my website if you’re a Gordon stan – hear me out. My reasons are very compelling, I promise.
1. Roger Gracie submitted Buchecha, Gordon Ryan didn’t
There’s a very good chance that the top 3 BJJ athletes of all time are Gordon Ryan, Buchecha, and Roger Gracie. But, in what order?
Well, Roger Gracie submitted Buchecha. He swept him, took his back and choked him.
And that’s when he came back after his retirment. That’s sick. That’s as if Andre Galvao would have choked out Gordon Ryan in their super fight at ADCC 2022. It’s one of the greatest moments in our sport.
Now, Gordon Ryan also beat Buchecha. But, he didn’t submit him. Gordon swept Buchecha clean to mount, but Buchecha exploded out, and stalled out the rest of the match. So it was a very dominant win for Gordon Ryan.
But the key difference is the assassin instinct. Both guys swept Buchecha, but Gordon let him escape and could never get him back. Roger never let him escape. He only needed 1 chance, 1 opportunity, and he captured it. Goosebumps.
2. Gordon Ryan has easier opponents than Roger Gracie
Gordon Ryan is the best no gi grappler of all time – but it’s still very early days for no gi BJJ.
It’s really only since a few years that we have many different no gi tournaments. Now, athletes can be full time no gi grapplers, which wasn’t possible 10 years ago. Gordon Ryan was kind of the first athlete to focus on no gi, so he has a huge first mover advantage.
There’s a good chance that Gordon Ryan can still be overtaken now that more and more athletes are focusing on no gi. The Ruotolos, Mica Galvoa and Cole Abate are coming for him. We need to see if Gordon stays as dominant or if people can catch up with him before we can label him the GOAT.
Roger Gracie fought legends his whole career in the heyday of gi jiu jitsu in Brazil. Gi competitions were arguably more competitive back then than they are now, because everybody only did gi.
3. Roger Gracie retired, Gordon Ryan didn’t (yet)
Roger Gracie makes this point in his interview on the Lex Fridman podcast:
“You can’t praise someone while he’s in the middel of his career.”
Part of this is on principle. Just like you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, you shouldn’t name someone the GOAT during his career. You can’t judge them yet if they’re not done.
But it’s also practical: Gordon Ryan can still mess up his career. What do I mean? Imagine that Gordon Ryan starts to lose from everybody from now on. Would we still call him the best grappler ever? No. So Gordon Ryan should first show that he can finish his career without messing it up before we can know if he’s the best ever or not.
4. Roger Gracie did MMA, Gordon Ryan didn’t
Roger Gracie fought MMA too. That’s very important because it shows he can apply his grappling skills in a real fighting situation.
For example, in the video below you can watch Roger Gracie get an arm triangle choke from mount in the first round of a ONE FC MMA fight.
Being a great grappler in jiu jitsu competitions is one thing, but grappling in mixed martial arts is another. If you can do both, that’s extra GOAT points in my book.
I hope Gordon Ryan will also do MMA one day.
5. Roger Gracie has better takedowns than Gordon Ryan
Roger Gracie trained a lot in Uruguay where they have very high level Judo players. And now he actually has great Judo skills himself. He hits many judo throws in his competition matches.
Gordon doesn’t have terrible standup either. He hits good knee tap takedowns in his matches, and beatiful throwby’s to foot sweeps from the rear body lock. But he’s mostly a guard puller (until now – maybe this will change). And I know that not everybody feels this way, but I think it’s better if you can take people down than if you’re a guard puller.
6. Roger Gracie never got submitted
Roger Gracie never got submitted in competition, except one time when he was 15 years old (which I’m not counting). He’s not undefeated because he lost on points sometimes, but still…
That’s insane. It blew my mind when I heard this.
Gordon Ryan has been submitted. He’s been choked by Felipe Pena. That’s the only time, which is still insanely impressive by the way. So both guys have a huge claim to be the greatest BJJ fighter of all time, but Roger’s just a tiny bit stronger.
7. Roger Gracie did both gi and no gi, gordon ryan doesn’t
Roger Gracie won the biggest no gi tournament (ADCC) and the biggest gi tournaments (IBJJF Worlds). Gordon Ryan only does no gi. So that’s a clear reason to say that Roger Gracie is the best jiu jitsu fighter ever, right?
Not really. Because as I mentioned earlier, nobody really focused on no gi exclusively back then. Everybody did no gi on the side. So it’s still very impressive that Roger won ADCC, but it’s not as impressive as if somebody did that today.
Why is Gordon Ryan the best at BJJ?
You could say that Gordon Ryan is the best at BJJ because he has the best record. He has 92 wins and 5 losses. Roger Gracie has 76 wins and 7 losses. But although you could make that argument, you should remember that Gordon Ryan recently fought many people much smaller and worse than him on Who’s Number One (Tim Spriggs, Jacob Couch, Vagner Rocha, Roberto Jimenez, etc.).
(You could argue that some other people have even better records than Gordon Ryan, for example Buchecha and Andre Galvao. But although they have more wins, they have far fewer submissions.)
Who is the best at BJJ right now?
Gordon Ryan is the best BJJ competitor right now. He’s in the prime of his career and he’s winning everything. Can he be stopped? We don’t know.
Who’s the best at no gi BJJ?
Gordon Ryan is the best no gi BJJ practitioner in the world. There’s no question about it. He beat everybody else, won ADCC many times and dominated in super fights.
Who else could be the BJJ GOAT?
Marcelo Garcia could also be the BJJ GOAT. One thing that he has that neither Gordon Ryan nor Roger Gracie have is that he’s small. And he beat bigger people. That’s always cool to see and it’s something Roger and Gordon can’t do, because they’re both so big themselves.