The Surprising End of Danaher Death Squad

The Surprising End of Danaher Death Squad

The shocking news that the members of the renowned Danaher Death Squad would no longer be practicing together recently sent shockwaves across the BJJ world. Now, the former team members have revealed "Team B," and both Gordon Ryan and John Danaher are relocating to the state of Texas. Who were the Danaher Death Squad members and why does this information have such a massive impact on the BJJ community?

1. Beginning of the Unstoppable Danaher Death Squad

In 2011, John Danaher was assigned to teach one of the morning courses at Renzo Gracie's school. Eddie Cummings, a jiu-jitsu black belt DDS star, had recently begun attending Renzo's school for martial arts training around the time Danaher began teaching.

Because Cummings liked Danaher's teaching methods, he never missed any of Danaher's early courses. Additionally, John Danaher would start instructing Eddie Cummings about his notorious leg lock method, which the pair would later become renowned for.

2. Pioneers of the Danaher Death Squad

John Danaher is a 6th-degree black belt holder. He is the head coach of the BJJ team known as the Danaher Death Squad (DDS), made up of some of the most accomplished BJJ black belts. Danaher, widely regarded as one of the most well-known BJJ trainers, has been a guest on "The Joe Rogan Experience" on many occasions. There are several ADCC champions, medalists, and winners of other prominent national and international championships that have joined the squad.

3. Who is John Danaher?

John Danaher, who goes by the handle @danaherjohn on Twitter, is widely regarded as one of the best BJJ and martial arts instructors. Danaher was born in New Zealand, but he moved to the United States so that he may complete his doctoral studies at Columbia University. He started his BJJ training at the Renzo Gracie academy when he was a student at Columbia University. In addition to being the instructor of the Death Squad, Danaher is recognized for legitimizing the use of leg locks in BJJ.

4.Prominent Members of Danaher Death Squad

In the wake of the popularity that the founding trio of DDS enjoyed, the Death squad eventually grew potentially. It was because local people who trained under Danaher and others were drawn to join because of its popularity. Whatever the reason might be, the team has been successful in training and organizing the students and events.

It should be noted at this moment that it is reported that Eddie Cummings left training from Renzo Gracie’s New York club. He is no longer a competitor and is believed to be spending more time at universities teaching. In addition, he joined the Unity gym, where he trains, but it is not clear why he left. For the record, Cummings hasn't been part of the team for quite a while. The information about  other prominent players of DDS is given below:

4.1. Nicky Ryan

Nicky Ryan is Gordon Ryan's younger brother. Although he's not as many victories, (22-5) he's the youngest participant in the ADCC world championships.

4.2. Garry Tonon

Frequently training with other grapplers from New York and New Jersey, Garry Tonon broke out onto the BJJ stage when he was working with Danaher. Along the same lines as Cummings. Tonon began using the leg lock and was successful in winning the Eddie Bravo Invitationals (EBIs). In addition, Tonon was perhaps more well-rounded than other competitors since he had learned different techniques apart from BJJ, such as wrestling.

In one match, Tonon was defeated by Keenan Cornelius with a final score of 23-2 despite his decent yet not outstanding performance. He acknowledged his shortcomings and tried to improve on his skills. This habit would become one of Tonon’s most admirable qualities throughout his path to attain a black belt haul.

4.3. Gordon Ryan

Garry Tonon's closest buddy and comrade, Gordon Ryan would soon make his first appearance in the EBI. Ryan would go on to dominate the heavier weight classes and win several EBI championships, much like his colleagues before him.

While working towards his black belt, Ryan's greatest strength was his leg locks, much like with Danaher and Tonon before him. Ryan improved his leg locks, evolving them and changing his game. This made it possible for him to crush opponents from practically any position, plus he was unpredictable because he didn't have a specific offensive style or weakness. Gordon Ryan’s accomplishments have earned him the title of "The King."

4.4. Craig Jones

Craig Jones was one of the final prominent known members of the Danaher Death Squad. After playing with them over a couple of months, Jones decided to settle in the US and join the group. He was already considered one of the top Jiu-Jitsu athletes in the world. However, he improved his game through training with DDS.

4.5. Nicky Rodriguez

Nicky Rodriguez was a successful high school wrestler and one of the best BJJ practitioners. Contrary to most other players, his game is distinctive. While he is not a specialist in leg locks, he's more of a wrestler. If you challenge him, he'll fight you and has an incredibly high success rate of takedowns.

This is the area where Rodriguez stands out from his fellow players. Instead of focusing on submissions, most of his wins are achieved by bringing opponents down and then applying pinning techniques. Because he combines strength, speed, explosiveness, and athleticism in his way of fighting. He's an absolute nightmare to deal with. An interesting fact regarding Rodriguez is that, even though he began the training for the DDS from New York, he also went with the team to Puerto Rico, which is the place where he came from.

4.6. Oliver Taza

Oliver Taza trained under Firas Zahabi in Montreal, Canada, which is the place where he was raised. So, it is safe to say that he has always been a Danaher fan because Zahabi received his black belt from Danaher. His previous training at Zahabi's Tristar gym gave birth to Georges St-Pierre, another promising DDS athlete.

As a brown belt, Taza began to train more frequently at his Renzo Gracie New York gym and continued to participate regularly. While he was already aware of a leg lock, similar to Jones, they came from his training. Currently, his most effective weapon is by far “the notorious heel hook”.

4.7. Ethan Crelinsten

With a record of 23-9, Ethan has won 12 times via submission in various high-level BJJ tournaments.


4.8. Damien Anderson

One of the newest new members of the team, Damien Anderson, was one of the younger members who traveled to Puerto Rico for training. Since his arrival, he's developed his BJJ skills and honed his techniques, and continued competing in super fights with a remarkable success rate.

Anderson quickly made himself a part of the sub-only, no-gi category and proved that he could not be a weakling. Anderson was an adept grappler before Danaher arrived. But under Danaher's patronage, Anderson grew substantially.

4.9. Jake Shields

Jake Shields, the former Strikeforce champion and UFC veteran, began training with DDS at the end of his professional career. Shields decided to level up his professional grappling and joined the Danaher Death Squad. Shields continues to compete regularly in Jiu-Jitsu competitions around the globe.

The Death Squad Has Relocated to the Island of Puerto Rico.

Following the 2021 presidential election, Gordon Ryan started packing his belongings and listed his home in New Jersey for sale. There are speculations that he would be moving to Puerto Rico or Texas.

After a few weeks, it was confirmed that Ryan would be relocating to Puerto Rico. This was due to financial considerations and a shift in lifestyle. As a high earner, he would have been subjected to a higher rate of taxation under the Biden administration.

Following the formation of the brand-new squad, Danaher immediately began working on constructing a brand-new gymnasium. During this period, the DDS trained at a mixed martial arts (MMA) facility in Puerto Rico. Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan, who has devoted a significant amount of time to MMA training, were not negatively affected by this development.

5. The Band of Fierce Fighters

Eddie Cummings was an initial member of the Danaher Death Squad. He started as a blue belt in "the Danaher program," and Danaher was the one who helped Cummings get his black belt. Gary Tonon and Gordon Ryan were the first two subsequent members to join the team. Tonon and Cummings were classmates and Gary encouraged them to begin working out together after seeing how successful Cummings was at his leg lock game.

Tonon, who had been given a black belt by Tom DeBlass and came from a strong wrestling background, could adapt quickly to Danaher's ideology. He eventually became an essential team member of the DDS. Gordon Ryan was the third person to join the team. Because of Tonon's teaching, he was able to train with Danaher. Ryan was a man who excelled at education and training with Danaher, which gave Ryan an edge over his competitors to win every competition.

5.1. DDS Started to Have More Members

The DDS started to see growth in its team members. They all fought in the same manner and used the same techniques as Danaher, achieving great success and prestige. Nicky Rodriguez was an excellent example of a new member of the DDS community who wanted to become a BJJ superstar. Rodrigues, competing in the 2019 ADCC as a blue belt,  applied multiple back straps which allowed him to earn a silver medal in his weight division. After just one year of BJJ training, he was promoted to a purple belt.

Nicky Ryan, the younger brother of Gordon Ryan, had a similar professional upbringing.. Even though he was born in 2001,  Nicky earned his black belt from Danaher. In case that isn't impressive enough, Nicky Ryan is also the youngest person to ever compete in the ADCC. He has already won matches against prominent black belts and has a bright grappling career ahead of him.

6. Who Thought of the Name Danaher Death Squad?

Former colleague Ryan Quinn is the one credited for coming up with the name, "Danaher Death Squad." One day in 2016, Quinn posted what it was like to work out with the DDS and uploaded it on Reddit.
Everyone involved in jiu-jitsu began referring to the gang as the Danaher Death Squad and word spread across the community.

7. Sudden End of the Danaher Death Squad

A few months after the inauguration of this new Project in Puerto Rico, it's like they hit a wall and decided to close it down.  A series of unfortunate events resulted in the cancellation of the Project.

From the outburst of Covid-19 to the passing of Gordon Ryan's father, Gordon Sr. resulted in the ending of this highly anticipated project. It was so difficult for people to go to Puerto Rico because of Covid-19 restrictions also impacted the Project.

Gordon Ryan announced on his Instagram account that he was relocating to Austin to open a new gym. After that, John Danaher responded with his own post, stating that the Danaher Death Squad had decided to part ways.

A few disagreements surfaced amongst team members when they were in Puerto Rico, and those disagreements were publicized. Friction was caused by several factors, including differences in training philosophies and the unsatisfactory results of the new school.

Following the group discussion, the team members concluded that it was in everyone's best interests to part ways. After the split in the group, the period of Danaher Death Squad’s dominance and high expectations in the world of jiu-jitsu sadly came to an abrupt end.

8. End of an Era

In an instagram post John Danaher told people about the end of DDS.

9. What Kind of Pedagogical Approach did John Danaher Teach?

When it comes to education, Danaher strongly emphasized teaching students the foundations of BJJ. Like most trainers, he believes that strict rules form the basis for your future learning and are fundamental to gaining accomplishments. Keeping this in mind, even though Danaher’s students can perform complex techniques, they usually stick to the fundamentals by performing at high levels with correct techniques and accuracy.

Danaher stated that the first few years of learning BJJ should be focused on defense techniques and escaping from holds. By keeping the advantage, you can become more self-assured in any given scenario. Danaher felt great satisfaction in his students, demonstrating the fundamentals while executing techniques in mainstream competitions. Additionally, he strongly emphasized doing drills to improve your skills. Although there are black belts who don't believe in doing drills, Danaher thinks it's better to focus on progress rather than repetition.

10. Where Are the DDS Members Planning to Go?

Following the news of the DDS breakup, it's still unclear what exactly is the fate of all competitors. However, we have some clues based on Instagram posts by top DDS members.

Craig Jones, the Australian grappler, announced on Instagram that he'd continue to be a part of the B-team, including Nicky Ryan, Nicky Rodriguez, and Ethan Crelinsten. It's unclear which location the team will train, but the post is labeled as originated from Austin, Texas.

Gordon Ryan announced that the former president will establish his academy in Austin, Texas, "with those deciding to stay with me."

An older blog post by Gordon Ryan tells that John Danaher himself, alongside Gary Tonon, will join Gordon Ryan in Austin, Texas, to launch"New Wave Jiu Jitsu" in Austin Texas "New Wave Jiu Jitsu" gym.

It is possible that when things happen among this elite group of grapplers, we will learn more about who is joining whom and what that means in the direction of BJJ training.

11. ADCC 2022

This year's ADCC Championship is taking place with Gordon Ryan and Nick Rodriguez being part of that same category. It is possible to witness a game between the two ex-DDS members during the championship event. We may see former DDS team members compete against each other in the absolute division.

12. The Last Words

The Danaher Death Squad was widely regarded as the most formidable BJJ team of their time. Members of DDS won several significant championships, contributing to the rising popularity of professional grappling.

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