KEY POINTS

  • ONE Championship is looking to establish itself as a promotion that welcomes grapplers with open arms
  • The five BJJ practitioners on the list could make their way to ONE Championship
  • Nicky Ryan, Devhonte Johnson and Grace Gundrum headline the talented list of prospects

ONE Championship has been aiming to establish its foothold in the grappling scene, something that the Singapore-based outfit has been working towards after signing prominent Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) practitioners Andre Galvao, Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida and the Ruotolo brothers.

Here are five other names that ONE Championship could add to its growing roster of grapplers.

Grace Gundrum

Grace Gundrum has been a lifelong practitioner of martial arts, first becoming involved in it by way of karate as early as age 4 and soon got into grappling after her older brother decided to quit.

Since that time, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-born grappler has been working hard to earn her stripes and strove to keep her body in tip-top shape by playing basketball in elementary school and field hockey in middle school while also continuing her interest in karate, kickboxing and grappling.

Gundrum, born in May 2002, went undefeated at the age of 12 before having the biggest moment of her young career: drawing with four-time adult black belt world champion Rikako Yuasa at the Quintet Grappling event in 2019.

She even crossed paths with current ONE Championship grappler Danielle Kelly back in September 2021 at FloGrappling WNO Championship Day 1, defeating her by decision.

With a record of four wins and two losses, Gundrum will be in Kelly’s sights should she join ONE Championship.

Ashley Williams

Kicking off his pro grappling career in 2015, Ashley Williams first started practicing BJJ at age 6 before deciding to give the competitive aspect of the sport nine years later alongside his twin brother Joshua.

Training under Chris Rees Academy in their hometown of Swansea, Wales for a month, the pair decided to enter their first tournament and kickstarted their love for the event.

Williams earned his black belt in 2015 after having seven matchups in the lower divisions of the sport while on the podium of the British Open, a tournament that he had won and coincidentally made him the youngest Welshman to have the prestigious belt at age 21.

It is also worth noting that Williams has tussled with Kade Ruotolo back in 2020, a match that he would lose by decision.

With 54 matches under his name, Williams is an intriguing prospect for ONE Championship to give a look and consider.

Haisam Rida

Growing up in Accra, Ghana, Haisam Rida’s interest was originally focused on soccer and basketball until his family moved to Tokyo, Japan because of his father’s hiring by a Japanese construction company.

The Rida family grew close with their father’s supervisor, who was also a BJJ coach, introduced him to the sport in 2011 and quickly fell in love with it.

Earning his blue (2012), purple (2014) and brown (2016) belts under Yamada Shigetaka, the heavyweight worked his way to the big leagues by joining the famed Carpe Diem Academy that was headed by Yuki Ishikawa, who helped him earn his black belt in 2018.

Two years later, Rida moved to Detroit and represented the Assembly Academy as he looks to keep growing as a competitor.

With 28 submission finishes in 65 fights, it would be interesting to see how Rida fares against top-tier competition in ONE Championship such as "Buchecha."

Nicky Ryan

The younger brother of famed grappler Gordon Ryan, Nicky Ryan, followed in his footsteps at eight years old, training sporadically for a short while before eventually giving up on it later on.

After seeing his brother grow into an international grappling superstar, Ryan worked on his comeback to the mats in 2015 and started to have a more intimate connection with it.

The interest in Ryan’s talent grew after he started winning adult tournaments at 13 years old, but his academic life made it difficult for him to balance both aspects of his life and subsequently became homeschooled.

Ryan took part in the 2016 ADCC East Coast Trials and finished third in the event at age 15, repeating the feat a year later which earned him an invite to the ADCC World Championships in Finland in 2017 at just 16 years old.

This gave him the distinction of being the youngest-ever competitor, in what many consider to be the most important tournament in the sport.

Ryan went on to place first at the 2019 ADCC West Trials with five submission victories in five matches.

Turning 21 on June 27, Ryan is one of the hottest commodities in the sport and ONE Championship would be remiss to not give him a shot, while his brother is temporarily retired due to health issues.

Devhonte Johnson

Possibly the most decorated grappler on this list, Devhonte Johnson decided to give up on his baseball passions in his senior year of high school after discovering BJJ.

Johnson became so committed to the sport that he immediately went to doing two-a-day training sessions in order to hone his craft as quickly as possible.

He earned his purple belt under the guidance of Edson Carvalho, but he eventually left the group in search of tougher competition that was closer to his level and age as their gym was composed of over-30-year-old part-timers.

In 2015, Johnson joined Unity Jiu Jitsu in New York City and trained under Murilo Santana, developing him into a top-tier performer.

He went on to win titles at the IBJFF World Jiu-Jitsu Championship, IBJJF World No-Gi Championship, IBJJF European Open Championship, and the IBJJF Pan No-Gi Championship as a brown belt.

These accomplishments saw him be awarded the black belt by Santana in August 2018.

Johnson’s massive list of accolades should certainly place him on ONE Championship’s shortlist of talent to bring in as he can share the mat with any submission specialist in the world.

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