John Danaher – The Danaher Death Squad

John Danaher
DOB: April 2, 1967
Place of Birth:Washington, D.C., United States
Nickname: N/A
Sport: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Gym: Renzo Gracie Academy/Danaher Death Squad(1995-2020), New Wave Jiu Jitsu(Present)
Location: Austin, Texas
Martial Arts Background: Jiu Jitsu
Notable Fighters:Georges St Pierre, Garry Tonon, Chris Weidman

John Danaher’s early life

John Danaher is the son of a New Zealand Airforce pilot that was born in Washington DC. After his birth, John and his family went back to New Zealand, where he would spend his childhood.

He was a very active child that participated in many sports, as well as martial arts. Taking a few Karate and kickboxing classes when he was younger.

Although what John Danaher really excelled at was the sport of rugby. Danaher was so good in fact that he had a potential future at the sport.

But unfortunately for John, he was born with deformed patelas that left him prone to knee injuries. In one particular incident, John severely damaged his knee while playing rugby.

At the time medical science wasn’t to the point where a surgery could help John. His surgery would go horribly and would abruptly end John Danaher’s athletic career.

John Danaher becomes a scholar

Since John Danaher’s athletic dreams were taken away from him, he would turn to his studies. He always had a cerebral approach to learn, where he will absorb every facet of a subject.

This would lead him to graduate college with a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Then thanks to his dual citizenship, John was able to transfer to Columbia University in New York City. Enrolling in the school’s Master’s degree program.

John Danher discovers Jiu Jitsu

While studying for his Master’s degree, John Danaher would work as a bouncer in a local club. At this time, he was really into bodybuilding and was a physical specimen despite his bad leg.

One of his co-workers took Jiu Jitsu classes at Renzo Gracie’s Jiu Jitsu Academy. John didn’t have a positive view of grappling at the time and dismissed the legitimacy of the martial art.

His friend would then offer to take John to one of his classes to prove him wrong. After taking a class with his friend, John saw the value in Jiu Jitsu. Seeing that these grappling techniques would help him deal with drunks at the bar he worked at.

John Danaher would sign up and take weekly classes with Renzo teaching.

John Danaher becomes a coach

Danaher would spend a few years at Renzo’s and work his way up to purple belt. He wasn’t passionate about Jiu Jitsu like he is now, but just more as a tool to help with his job.

Two of John Danaher’s early teammates Matt Serra and Ricardo Almeida would leave the gym to start their own skills. This led Renzo to offer John a position as a Jiu Jitsu coach at the gym.

Since Danaher was the kind of person to immerse himself into things, he went deep to learn everything about Jiu Jitsu. Trying to become the best coach he could possibly be.

His dedication was obvious and this led to an influx of students at the academy. It was quite normal for John Danaher to spend anywhere from 12-14 hours a day on the mat.

Something he still does to this day. He was by far one of Renzo Gracie’s most dedicated students. This would lead John to earning his black belt in 2002 and become a full time coach at the school.

John Danaher’s leg lock system

One of the things that John Danaher is most known for is developing his famous leg lock system. He was inspired to create it from a short conversation that he had with Dean Lister in the early 2000s.

During this time, Lister was invited to train at Renzo’s by Matt Serra. John watched Dean submit most of the top grapplers in the academy with different leg locks.

Danaher was astonished by what he saw, because he had trained with leg locks before. He would tell Lister this and Dean responded with the now-famous quote: “Why would you ignore 50% of the human body?

This was a revelation to John and from there immediately began learning leg locks. John would spend the next several years developing his famous leg lock system.

John Danaher the MMA coach

Before John Danaher would become known for his leg lock system, he was famous for coaching MMA fighters. Numerous MMA fighters have worked under Danaher for the last 20 years.

This would include multiple UFC champions like Georges St Pierre, Matt Serra, and Chris Weidman. His approach to coaching MMA grappling is among the best there has ever been.

John was the architect for GSP turning into a world class grappler during his amazing run. His most recent MMA fighter is his BJJ student turned fighter Garry Tonon, who is currently undefeated as a pro.

The Danaher Death Squad

During the early 2010s, professional grappling started to become very popular. One of the best and most popular of these events are the Eddie Bravo Invitational tournaments.

At these tournaments, John Danaher’s students would show that they are the best grapplers in the world. Since EBI started Danaher’s students have dominated all of the events they have competed in.

Starting with Garry Tonon and former DDS member Eddie Cummings winning multiple tournaments. Both use Danaher’s leg lock system that would be introduced to the world in these events.

Then later Gordon Ryan would dominate at the EBI events. Due to their dominance, John Danaher’s team would be given the name “The Danaher Death Squad.”

During the 2010s, they won just about every event they entered. They would not only use their patented leg locks, but also win in every facet of Jiu Jitsu.

John Danaher’s health problems

Danaher would have multiple surgeries over the years to fix his knee, but nothing made it better. Due to his deformity, John would be forced to be much strain on his hip.

This led to his hip slowly withering away and developing painful osteoarthritis. John was forced to have his hip removed in 2015 and had it replaced with a prosthetic one.

The surgery has not seemed to slow John Danaher down much, because he has never missed a day of coaching.

DDS moves to Puerto Rico and the breakup

In early 2020, John Danaher and his Jiu Jitsu team moved to Puerto Rico. Their goal was to create a super camp of the best Jiu Jitsu athletes in the world.

Unfortunately this plan didn’t come to fruition. Gordon Ryan would move to Austin, Texas in July of 2021. Once he arrived, he announced the break up of the Danaher Death Squad.

Ryan, Danaher, and Tonon would form their own gym called New Wave Jiu Jitsu.

Notable Fighters

John Danaher has coached some of the best MMA fighters ever. Here are some of his most notable fighters.

Georges St Pierre

By far his best and most known fighter is the GOAT Georges St Pierre. GSP would hook up with Danaher after losing his title to John Danaher’s teammate Matt Serra.

Georges was already a world class striker, but under John Danaher, he would develop world class wrestling and Jiu Jitsu. Once he won his belt back from Matt Serra, GSP would defend his welterweight title an astounding 9 times.

Nearly all of the fights were dominant victories for Pierre. Then after he won a split decision to Johny Hendricks, GSP would retire from the sport.

His retirements would last 4 years before making a comeback. In his return fight, GSP moved up to middleweight to fight Michael Bisping for the title.

Pierre showed no signs of ring rust and came back even better. Putting Bisping to sleep in the 3rd round to win the UFC Middleweight Championship.

After winning the title, he vacated the title and has officially retired from MMA again.

Garry Tonon

Danaher’s Jiu Jitsu protege Garry Tonon made the leap from BJJ to MMA in 2018. Signing with the Asian based promotion ONE Championship.

Tonon would make his debut for the promotion in March of 2018 and win by TKO. Garry would cap off the year with two more submission wins before getting two more finishes in 2019.

Then after Covid restrictions were lifted, Tonon would come back in 2020 to win a decision against Koyomi Matsushima. Pushing his record to 6-0 in just over three years.

With his last win, Garry has earned a featherweight title shot against Than Le. That match is set to take place at ONE Championship: X on December 3rd, 2021.

John Danher’s legacy

There is not much to say about John Danaher that hasn’t already been said. He is among one of the best and respected grappling coaches of all time.

There have been very few to have the success John Danaher has had coaching champions in two different sports. Now that he has relocated to Austin and opened a gym with Ryan and Tonon, John will continue his work. No doubt coaching more champions in both Jiu Jitsu and MMA.