Every sport has its luminaries, individuals so adept at their craft that they redefine the contours of the game. In the realm of grappling, Gordon Ryan stands tall, casting a long shadow over anyone who dares to challenge him. His recent bout at Sunday’s Who’s No. 1 grappling card was a testament to his unparalleled prowess and his flair for showmanship.
This wasn’t just any main event. Pitted against the formidable Patrick Gaudio, Ryan unleashed a masterclass, deftly navigating his opponent’s defenses and concluding with an impeccably executed armbar submission. Observers often muse whether Ryan, given his precision and technique, could claim victory with any move of his choosing.
However, the spectacle didn’t end with the submission. Ryan, never one to shy away from the limelight, had teased fans with the promise of unveiling the contents of a mysterious box after the bout. And, in a move straight out of a theatrical playbook, he produced a note from the box, eerily predicting his armbar victory over Gaudio. But Ryan wasn’t done. Recognizing the platform and audience at his disposal, he adeptly promoted his latest Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructional video. It was a clear nod to his entrepreneurial spirit, an indication that he’s as astute off the mat as he is on it.
While such feats should warrant unanimous admiration, they instead served as a lightning rod for controversy. In the aftermath of Ryan’s resounding victory, whispers of foul play began circulating within grappling circles. The murmurs grew louder when IBJJF no-gi world champion AJ Agazarm decided to voice his skepticism.
Agazarm’s claims, rooted in information from what he described as a “very credible source”, were explosive. According to him, there was a preordained script to the bout, with both Ryan and Gaudio in on the plan to have Ryan win with an armbar. He aired his grievances on social platform X, stating, “I just found out from a very credible source that apparently the contract between Ryan and Gaudio for the WNO final was setup for Gaudio to take the fall via armbar. I wish I was joking here, but I’m not…” This revelation, made public by user @JiujitsuOtter, threatened to plunge the grappling community into chaos.
To the uninitiated, such accusations might seem to be borne out of envy or professional rivalry. After all, Ryan has a history of eerily accurate predictions. In 2021, at a WNO event, Ryan faced off against Vagner Rocha. Before the match began, Ryan handed an envelope to the commentators, its contents to be revealed post-match. After besting Rocha with a triangle move, the envelope was opened to reveal a picture of a triangle. Such uncanny predictions, while amplifying Ryan’s legend, also sowed seeds of doubt in some quarters.
Agazarm’s allegations, whether rooted in truth or professional jealousy, demanded a response. And Ryan, true to his nature, addressed the issue head-on. Responding to Agazarm on Instagram, Ryan oscillated between bemusement and dismissiveness. He remarked, “I’ve made it 😭. Rationalization skills are strong with this one hahaha. 100% my haters talk about me to their therapists 😭😭😭”.
While the grappling world remains divided over the veracity of Agazarm’s claims, the episode underscores the high stakes, intense rivalries, and the whirlwind of controversies that surround elite-level sports. Athletes like Gordon Ryan, with their blend of exceptional talent and a penchant for theatrics, will always be magnets for admiration and skepticism.
Regardless of where one stands on the issue, two things remain undeniable. First, Ryan’s skills on the mat are virtually unparalleled, earning him the title of the sport’s greatest no-gi grappler. Second, with his mix of talent, predictions, and an uncanny ability to remain at the heart of controversies, Gordon Ryan ensures that the world of grappling remains as unpredictable and enthralling off the mat as it is on it.