ByAmy Kaplan, writer at
Senior Staff Writer // Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @PhotoAmy33
Amy Kaplan

UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor's primary BJJ sparring partner, Dillon Danis, has announced that he will make his MMA debut with Bellator later this year. Dillon's name became more well known after prepping McGregor for his fights against Nate Diaz at UFC 202 and Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. But even before he gained notoriety, Dillon had already been highly regarded in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu scene.

While BJJ isn't as widely watched as UFC or Bellator, there are still a number of stand-outs. These athletes, who primarily train in grappling, are beginning the transition into mixed martial arts and, in turn, have increased the interest in the smaller BJJ shows. A few notable names who have already transitioned include black belt Mackenzie Dern, who has gone 3-0 in her professional MMA career with a recent win at LFA 6 and Gabi Garcia, who is 4-0 fighting for Rizin in Japan.

This increasing trend in cross-over stars makes us wonder who else might be hiding in the jiu-jitsu shadows with MMA potential.

Gordon Ryan

If you follow BJJ and haven't heard of Gordon Ryan... you're probably not actually following BJJ. Gordon is the hottest thing in grappling right now having raked in three belts at the Eddie Bravo Invitational (in two weight classes, plus an absolute belt). Ryan is only 21 years old, so he has an insane amount of competition years left in him.

As far as we know, he isn't currently training stand-up, but he has been rubbing elbows with Georges St-Pierre, so if he WANTED to make the transition he'd already be in with the right people.

Check out some of his highlights here:

Watch Gordon become a three division EBI champ at EBI 11 here.

Who we'd match him with: Since Gordon is a champion of multiple weight classes, he has a larger potential of opponents, but for the sake of this article he has been placed in the featherweight division. He shouldn't be throw him to the wolves immediately, but a ranked opponent does sound appropriate. Brian Ortega might be a great first opponent for Gordon.

Jeff Glover

Jeff Glover is one of the most exciting, innovative and fun competitors to watch on the mat. He's like a human monkey, and just when you think he is stuck, he pulls a slick move to escape the submission. He's got the temperament to survive in the cage and trains with some of the top guys in the world (ahem, Dean Lister). It's a little shocking that he hasn't already made the transition as a professional mixed martial artist.

Check out some of his highlights here:

Who we'd match him with: Since Glover is already in his mid-30s, we think a superfight one time match would be the best choice for him. He recently competed in Submission Underground where he faced Chad Mendes (and lost in the most unexpected fashion). So obviously we would love to see the pair inside the Octagon so that Jeff could settle the score.

Garry Tonon

Garry Tonon was the first three division champion at EBI (He is also the mentor to Gordon Ryan who was mentioned earlier). He's an ADCC champ, Five Grappling champion and has been a featured fighter on SUG, among other accolades. He's a highly decorated black belt with a huge fan base that would certainly follow him to MMA.

Check out some of his highlights here:

Who we'd match him with: Tonon is another multi divisional champion, so for the sake of this list we'd have him in the lightweight division. A fight against top 15 fighter would be intriguing, perhaps some like Beneil Dariush who is currently ranked in the number 8 spot by the UFC.

AJ Agazarm

Agazarm would be perfect for MMA because he already has the trash talking and physical altercations down pat. He seems to be outgrowing the restraints of BJJ and a foray into MMA might either calm him back into submission (pun intended) or unleash a furry inside the Octagon (we are hoping for the latter).

Check out some of his highlights here:

Who we'd match him with: We'd like to see Agazarm face a wrestler, someone like Juan Archuleta, who is currently a three-division King of The Cage champion. It may be premature for Agazarm to jump into the UFC because he's proven to be a little hot tempered and could use seasoning on a smaller stage first. But, with that said, we'd like to see him punch someone in the face — for sport.

Otavio Sousa

Sousa is a Gracie Barra BJJ blackbelt and a six-time world champion (three as a black belt). He's a traditional grappler, having come from the Gracie system, and he brings an air of class and respect to the cage which has been lacking as of late. He's already accomplished so much in the Jiu-jitsu world that the only logical step would be for him to give a try at MMA.

Check out some of his highlights here:

Who we'd match him with: A Bellator exhibition match with Michael Chandler sounds intriguing. Chandler's high-class wrestling skills could be an excellent match for Sousa's BJJ skills.

Geo Martinez

Martinez is a product of the Eddie Bravo 10th Planet system, which is already a little more cutting edge than the traditional BJJ schools. They roll a little harder and tend to be edgier personalities which would be nicely suited for the MMA scene. Martinez was an overnight sensation when he tapped Eddie Cummings to become the new EBI champion. His brother Richie has forayed into MMA, so he'd at least have someone who could corner him.

Check out some of his highlights here:

Who we'd match him with: Martinez reached black belt status in just three years, having used his breakdancing background to his advantage on the ground, which makes him the perfect opponent for Tony Ferguson. (Yes, this is way above his skill level, but c'mon this is just a fantasy).

Eddie Cummings

Eddie Cummings was considered to be almost unbeatable until Martinez did it at EBI 10 in Mexico City. Regardless of the loss, he is still considered to be one of the smartest grapplers in the game today. His mind is his greatest asset, and we would love to see just how that analytical mind could survive in an MMA bout.

Check out some of his highlights here:

Who we'd match him with: We'd like to see Cummings paired with an athlete that possesses a high fight IQ, someone like Conor McGregor or Demetrious Johnson. But a great match-up stylistically would be Dominick Cruz. We'd love to see how Cruz defends an Eddie Cumming leg lock — those are killer.


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