The Danaher Death Squad’s Oliver Taza

Photo by: @jeffreyschu

“People are shocked when I tell them that I’m 2.5 years into training”

Jiu-Jitsu Times: First of all Oliver, can you tell us a little about your background. Where are you based and how long have you been training? What are your notable competition accomplishments?

Oliver Taza: Hey, my name is Oliver Taza. 23 year-old brown belt under Firas Zahabi. Half Canadian, half Lebanese.

Don’t really know where I’m based anymore, spend a lot of time training at Renzo’s in the city and a lot time at Tristar Gym in my favourite city in the world, Montreal.

I’m an ex football (soccer) player who switched to martial arts three years ago. Started with boxing and a year later decided to give jiu-jitsu a try, and here I am now. Couple of months into my training I decided to start competing and so far, it’s been an interesting mix between IBJJF, sub-only tournaments, super fights, Grappling Industries, NAGA, gi, no-gi, points no points, anything that I could possibly do.

Managed to place in World’s, Europeans, runner up in the Metachallenger (he still owes me money!), and winning other invitationals such as Sapateiro, Canadian Kumite.

oliver taza

Jiu-Jitsu Times: You are training with the Danaher Death Squad out of Renzo Gracie Jiu-jitsu in New York. The DDS has dominated the EBI submission-only tournament for the last couple of years and is considered by many BJJ fans to be the top of the food chain. Why is the DDS so dominant in the submission-only tournaments?  What are they doing better than many BJJ schools?

Oliver Taza: The reason why Eddie, Garry, and Gordon (DDS) do so well in the submission-only scene is first of all they train more than anybody else on this planet and that’s something people need to know. I used to think that training once, twice a day was going to cut it, not until I met them.

Second reason is the mentality that our sensei encourages us to have. Always attack, even while being on the defense. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a boring match from these guys, always non-stop attacks, chaining upper body with lower body attacks. It’s overwhelming but most importantly, entertaining for people who watch.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Many BJJ guys wonder what it is like to train on a mat full of monsters like Gary Tonon, Gordon Ryan and Eddie Cummings. Can you describe a typical day training at the DDS? For example, how many times a day do you train? How long are the classes? How long do you roll and drill? What are the instructors like?

Oliver Taza: I try not to train with all three of them the same session because it’s too discouraging. I limit myself to two of the three unless I get called by all three. Classes in the city are usually an hour long, half technique and half training in the blue claustrophobic humid basement run by John Danaher.

One session at 7:30 AM, another one at noon, and at night we usually head back to Jersey and work on more specific stuff at Brunswick Jiu Jitsu. Nighttime can sometimes mean 3 other sessions which means that we’re done training around 11:30 PM.

Photo by: @jeffreyschu

Jiu-Jitsu Times: What is your submission game? Who have you learned the most from?
What jiu-jitsu fighters have most influenced your style?

Oliver Taza: Up until I received my purple belt ( 1.5 years) I was learning from the great Firas Zahabi who’s mentality is very similar to the DDS one, and also believes in universal jiu-jitsu, which means that your style should work in any scenario, MMA, sport BJJ, self-defense.

And shortly after, I met “King Ryan” at Tristar Gym and starting taking trips to the city as much as possible. Ever since he’s been helping me so much, definitely influenced my style more than anybody else, can’t thank him enough, same goes for John Danaher, Gary, Eddie, Nicky.

In 2017, my plan is to find a balance between sub only, points system, gi and no-gi. Want to be able to win everywhere. No excuses.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Recently you competed in the ADCC North America trials, winning several matches and taking the silver medal. How was the experience?

Oliver Taza: Preparing for the trials has been so much fun due to the fact that most of us had competitions going on, so it’s been almost six weeks of non stop preparation. There was Polaris, EBI, Gordon’s super fight in Florida, and trials of course.

The trials experience was great. It was run by one of my coaches, Tom DeBlass, who also did amazing and won his division. Super smooth, well run, and sharp. Made it to the finals having submitted three of my four opponents. Ended up facing one of Marcelo Garcia’s top black belts, Mansher “Six Shots” Khera. It was a very fun match, came up short on two knee bar attempts, an inverted heel hook, and back take from the Kimura. Ended up losing on a back take that I managed to defend in a manner of seconds, fair play to him, wish him the best in Finland next year.

All I know is that this loss, just like any other loss I’ve had will only make me better, so expect a better version of me in the upcoming competitions.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Lastly, are there any coaches, teammates or sponsors that you wish to shout out to?

Oliver Taza: People are shocked when I tell them that I’m 2.5 years into training. What they need to understand is that I’ve been getting the best instruction since day 1. Very grateful, can’t thank all my teammates and coaches from Tristar Gym and Renzo’s enough. I wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without them.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here