Gordon Ryan (BJJ): How To Train & Win Like The GOAT (Guide)

By Tsavo NealLearning BJJ7 Comments

gordon ryan BJJ source: jiu jitsu times

Want to learn how to train and win in jiu-jitsu like the all-time great Gordon Ryan?

I recently watched Gordon’s The Sport Of Kings: High-Performance Mindset For Grappling (read my in-depth review here) because it’s all mindset: how to approach and structure your BJJ training.

Gordon Ryan BJJ: The Sport Of Kings Instructional Cover

If you learn how to think about your training like the best in the world, you’re bound to make tremendous improvements to your BJJ.

In this article, you’ll learn all about Gordon Ryan’s mindset: and how you can think, train, and compete like the greatest no-gi grappler of all time.

Let’s dive in.

(NOTE: The source of the information is Gordon himself. He shares this — and much more — in his fantastic instructional: The Sport Of Kings: High-Performance Mindset for Grappling)

Gordon Ryan BJJ: Quick Links

Gordon Ryan Stats & Background

Gordon Ryan (nickname “King”) is 28 years old, born July 8 1995 in Monroe Township, New Jersey.

He’s 6’2″ inches tall (188cm), and weighs between 220-230 pounds (99-104 kg)

Gordon’s BJJ record is 88 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws. He won the ADCC belt 3 years in a row, most recently beating Nicky Rodriguez in the 2022 final in the 99kg+ weight class.

Gordon started BJJ in 2010 when he was 15 years old. He trained 4-5 times per week.

Gordon’s girlfriend is Nathalia Santoro, a fitness model, bodybuilder, nutritionist, and BJJ athlete. She helps Gordon with his nutrition before competition. She’s also Gordon’s uke in his BJJ instructionals.

He got his purple belt right around when he graduated high school. Then, Gary Tonon convinced him to start training 7-days per week — for 3-4 hours per day.

However, he was still working full time, which impacted his training schedule. Despite that, at the age of 21, he noticed that he was getting better while training less because he improved his mental approach to BJJ.

Eventually, he saved up enough to quit his job so he could train jiu-jitsu full-time.

Today, Gordon Ryan does 1-2 sessions of jiu-jitsu per day, 7 days a week in at the ROKA gym in Austin, Texas under John Danaher. He also lifts 3-4x per week.

Gordon Ryan’s BJJ Mindset

“The second you don’t care that your training partner is better than you, your athletic career is over.” – Gordon Ryan

What makes Gordon Ryan so confident?

How does he develop his confidence?

Gordon Ryan’s confidence is a huge part of why he’s so successful on the mats. Here’s a look into how his mindset works.

How To Develop Supreme Confidence

Gordon Ryan develops his confidence in the training room.

Gordon Ryan training with John Danaher and Georges St. Pierre

At brown belt, he started to feel very confident in his game — like he could be the best in the world. At the root of this confidence are his pin and submission escapes, because he knows it’s nearly impossible to pin or submit him.

Gordon seeks “overconfidence.” That means becoming very confident in specific moves during training and then using those specific moves in competition. It’s better to know fewer moves but to be more confident in those moves.

Gordon prides himself on making things as hard as possible on himself and doing more than he has to. He attacks people on the internet to make himself miserable on purpose: it makes him tougher, sharper, and motivated to be the best.

He talks about both physical and mental hard work. In BJJ, the mental hard work is watching tape, studying instructionals, journaling, and creating gameplans. And it’s the mental hard work that is what separates world champions from regular competitors.

How To Set Goals In Jiu-Jitsu

At the core of Gordon Ryan’s mindset is this question: how do I get better in the shortest amount of time possible? On that end, he’s a big proponent of goal setting for jiu-jitsu.

To that end, Gordon is a big proponent of goal setting for jiu-jitsu.

He believes in setting ambitious, but realistic goals. Go out and compete against opponents who are better than you — and try to beat them. For example, if you’re a blue belt, set the goal of being able to submit purple belts.

He breaks goals down into short-term goals (a few weeks to a few months) and long-term goals (1-5 years). A short-term goal would be developing confidence in a position or technique. A long-term goal would be winning specific tournaments or becoming the best in the world.

Gordon goes into each of his training sessions with a goal in mind. He says that if you go into rolling mindlessly, you won’t come out much better than when you started. For example, before he trains, he’ll say “Today, I’m going to take a guy’s back and trap the wrist in a certain way.” This is specific training, and it forces you to continually learn, apply, and improve specific moves.

Choosing Your Academy & Training Partners

Gordon Ryan believes that you should pick an academy with training partners who are…

  • Below your level
  • At your level
  • Above your level

However, he says that it’s possible to be highly competitive while training partners that aren’t very good. Roger Gracie did it because he began teaching (which makes you better) and because he handicapped himself during training. Mikey Musumeci, a BJJ world champion, also only trains with hobbyists.

Also, the internet gives you access to the best teachers in the world. Through BJJ instructionals, you can have a “second sensei” to train you. You don’t have to train at one of the best academies to beat good grapplers.

To develop his mindset, he always goes for the toughest rolls in training. And he takes no breaks in between rounds. His confidence is developed from training with partners who are better than his opponents.

Gordon Ryan’s BJJ Training & Workout Routine

“I get submitted more than anybody in training. I never get submitted in competition.” – Gordon Ryan

Gordon Ryan’s confidence comes from his training.

But how does he actually structure his training, and how does each training session look?

In this section, I’ll break down his overall training routine, how he trains for each session, and his off-the-mat training.

BJJ Training Routine

Gordon trains 1-2+ sessions of BJJ every day.

Each session is 1 hour and forty minutes.

  • 1 hour of drilling (specific training)
  • Six 6-minute rounds of rolling with no breaks in between rounds (just like Jocko Willink)

For hobbyists, Gordon says it’s ok to miss time on the mats.

He’s had quite a few injuries (Including a grade 2 MCL tear, LCL reconstruction, broken arm by Craig Jones, and more) and does not train if they are bad injuries. If he’s hurt, he’ll continue to train around those injuries.

But competitors — unless they are very sick — should never miss any training. If you want to be the best in the world, you can’t take time off as a normal person would.

What motivates Gordon to stick to this schedule? He’s self-motivated and is focused on being better than the previous version of himself. And the fact that people travel and pay to watch him compete in all the external motivation he needs.

BJJ Training Specifics

When it comes to drilling, Gordon does specific, situation training.

This means training specific positions and techniques. He drills with the intent of perfecting the mechanics of a move. That’s the best way to get better in the shortest amount of time possible.

When it comes to rolling, Gordon picks his training partners depending on what type of ruleset he is preparing for. He always picks the hardest rolls, no matter how tired he is. This is how he prepares for competition. And John Danaher does no breaks in between rounds.

He takes losing in training very seriously, and he strives to be the best in the gym in all aspects. If he gets pinned or submitted, he will work exclusively on that pin escape or submission escape until he can escape with no issue.

Gordon also trains with lower belts and believes you can make great progress rolling with lower belts. How? By handicapping yourself while rolling with them. He practices new moves on lower belts to build his confidence. As he gains more confidence with said moves, he uses them on people at higher and higher levels — until he has the confidence to hit them in a competition.

You shouldn’t care if you get submitted in training while putting yourself in bad spots or experimenting with new moves. You get submitted in training so you don’t get submitted in competition.

Workout Routine

On top of consistent BJJ training, Gordon also lifts weights 3-4x per week.

gordon ryan weightlifting for bjj

He does high-rep sets (ex: 4 sets of 20) because it’s mentally tough and teaches you to overcome your desire to quit, which is essential for competing in BJJ. He also doesn’t train his legs too much, because he says it helps his lower body be more flexible and dextrous.

Gordon also does gymnastics because gymnastic bodyweight exercises carry over nicely to BJJ.

Gordon doesn’t run. He says that getting better at jiu-jitsu is the best way to improve your cardio. More efficiency in jiu-jitsu = better cardio.

Gordon wants to be the best — and to be the best, you must have a routine.

And that routine is boring: wake up, train, come home, lift, and go to sleep — every day.

Gordon Ryan BJJ Competition Strategy

“When I step on the mats I’m cool, calm, and collected, knowing I’m doing the same thing I do every day with someone who’s not as good as my training partners.” – Gordon Ryan

How does Gordon Ryan approach BJJ competitions?

In his instructional, he breaks down his entire jiu-jitsu competition strategy.

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a competitor, you can learn a lot from how he prepares for competitions.

Competition Gameplan

To prepare for competitions, Gordon prepares two gameplans:

  1. One for the ruleset. He asks himself: “How can I exploit the rules of the tournament?”
  2. One for his opponents. He asks himself: “How can I exploit the weaknesses of the athlete that I’m competing against?”

For example, in a submission-only ruleset, Gordon’s strategy is to force action. He wants to spend the most time possible in positions that will lead to submissions. For this ruleset, he focuses on submission output.

In order to prepare for his opponents, Gordon studies every opponent on his side of the bracket. He’ll also study the top two opponents on the other side of the bracket — the ones he suspects will also make it to the finals.

When it comes to preparing for individual opponents, Gordon figures out what they are good at, and what they are not good at. His goal is to take his opponents out of positions they’re good at and force them into positions they aren’t good at.

gordon ryan bjj competition strategy

Gordon Ryan triangle armlock vs Kyle Boehm (Source)

Gordon watches some tape on his opponent, but he has the luxury of John Danaher being able to watch most of the tape for him. Watching and studying tape of his opponents is how he understands what they are good at, and where they are lacking.

The better he knows his opponent, the more tired he can make them. And when they are tired (and in a bad position) is when he expends more energy and looks to submit them.

Managing Competition Anxiety

Gordon Ryan admits that he is nervous before competition. However, he has a plan for managing and overcoming his competition anxiety.

He says that the best way to manage competition anxiety is to compete as much as possible. When he began training, he competed a few times a month to get over his nerves.

In terms of his competition mindset, he knows that he’s “better than his opponents, and that they are terrified of him.” He sees every match the same way: he will be the one chasing submissions, and his opponents will be trying to stall him out.

Due to his training, he’s not worried about being pinned or submitted. This also takes a ton of pressure off his chest.

He thinks about each match as the same thing he does every day, just in a different environment. It’s just another roll in a different environment. And that different environment is irrelevant.

Competition Timeline

One month out from competition, Gordon isn’t really that focused on it. He stays distant to help him avoid stress and losing sleep.

At this point, he’s in training camp, training for the specific ruleset he will be competing in. But, he’s also beginning the mental warfare: posting on social media to get in his opponent’s head.

One week out from competition, Gordon’s camp is coming to a close, and his confidence is at it’s peak. Now, he’s attempting to really start to get in the heads of his competitors.

He’s watching tape, and he’s also watching what his opponents are posting on social media. He screencaps all of the talk so he can use it after he wins.

He tapers off his training for a few days leading up to competition day.

For the day of competition, Gordon prioritizes getting a good night’s sleep. And right when he wakes up, he posts on social media that he is going to win. This helps him get in his opponent’s heads.

Gordon doesn’t eat any food on the day of competition, and only drinks water.

At no point does he even consider the possibility of losing.

To warm up, Gordon does some generic jiu-jitsu movements to get a slight sweat going. He drills the submissions he wants to hit with a partner.

The first match is when he has the most adrenaline. He’ll look at the crowd and let the light adjust his eyes. Looking at the crowd builds his confidence because he knows they are there to watch him.

Right before the match, he takes a deep breath. Once the match starts, he takes another deep breath. Within 10 seconds of the, match all of his anxiety is gone. He’s now doing jiu-jitsu, and is no longer focused on the external environment.

Gordon strives to learn just as much from wins as he does from losses. After his matches, he is watching tape of his own performance: what he could have done better, opportunities he could have found, what he could have done better technically, and what he could have done better tactically.

To deal with losses, Gordon simply creates a new goal. Study what you did wrong, make the necessary corrections so that it doesn’t happen again — and then, focus on your new goal. That’s how you overcome losses.

Every few months, he assesses himself, and asks: “What have I not worked on in a while? What do I need to get better at?” This is what he focuses on when training for his next competition.

This competition strategy has made Gordon the best no-gi grappler ever.

Gordon Ryan BJJ Gear

What does Gordon Ryan wear on the mats?

Gi Gear

Despite being a black belt, Gordon doesn’t train in the gi very much.

gordon ryan training in a gi

In this picture, he’s sporting a blue Hypnotik Gi. However, this photo is from 2018.

If you know what BJJ gi Gordon Ryan trains in now, let me know!

(Shoot me an email at tsavo@bjjequipment.com)

No-Gi Gear

No-Gi is what Gordon is known for.

In this picture, he’s sporting a rashguard and shorts by Future Kimonos.

Future Kimonos is a competition-focused brand that makes some of the coolest-looking no-gi gear.

You can see a complete list of Gordon’s no-gi gear here: FUTURE X GORDON RYAN

Gordon Ryan BJJ: Conclusion

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Gordon Ryan is one of the best grapplers of all time.

His mindset, training schedule, and competition strategy are no secret.

He simply does the hard physical and mental work.

Every. Single. Day.

If you want to learn more about Gordon Ryan, I highly recommend his instructional: The Sport Of Kings: High-Performance Mindset for Grappling.

What do you think about Gordon Ryan’s jiu-jitsu?

Leave a comment in the section below!

tsavo neal bjjequipment.com

Tsavo Neal

Tsavo is the founder of BJJ Equipment, an assistant BJJ instructor at InFighting, and a BJJ purple belt. He's a passionate hobbyist and BJJ gear/equipment aficionado. He launched BJJ Equipment in 2022 to make it easy for grapplers to find the best BJJ gear so they look, feel, and perform at their best on the mats.

7 Comments on “Gordon Ryan (BJJ): How To Train & Win Like The GOAT (Guide)”

  1. My combat arts training started in earnest with boxing. Before I was taught how to properly throw punches, I was taught how to slip, bob and weave, and duck out (defense). Then I was taught how to punch as an immediate counter after employing defense. I took the same mindset to BJJ, when I get caught in something, I trained defenses and counters. It was very refreshing to learn Gordon has that same mindset. However I thought I was at a disadvantage because I no longer run like I did when I was competing years ago. Nice to know Gordon uses rolling and training for cardio as well. Two a days has been a norm for me when I was fighting (late ’80s) and is the norm for me today. Having people come train in my garage and going to the BJJ gym. Plus 5 days a week weight training. I take the weekends off to be with my wife unless there’s an event and she usually goes with.
    As a boxing coach, I taught and teach the same as above putting emphasis on NOT GETTING HIT. This mindset dovetails in nicely with how I choose to train in BJJ. So far, I’ve never lost in gi, but have a 1-2 record. The last two years, I’ve worked on elements I need to fortify my failings in nogi and sincerely hope to perform better on my next grappling outing. This write up has inspired me, and I hope to go undefeated from here on. I would consider it a win if I could make the ADCC trials and compete in ADCC. LOL Likely, I would be the oldest competitor ever.

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