Neil Melanson

Neil Melanson coach and athlete

Neil Melanson - "The Ground Marshal"

Neil Melanson is an American athlete of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Catch Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach and athlete. He is known as “The Ground Marshal” because of his ground fighting techniques and grappling style, and as the “Master of the Guard” for his talent with leg locks and guard techniques.

He received his black belt from Karo Parisyan, known in the MMA world as “The Heat,” and has trained under Gene LeBell and Gokor Chivichyan. He has coached legendary MMA, Judo, and Brazilian JiuJitsu (BJJ) legends including Karo Parisyan, Chael Sonnen, Todd Dufee, Goran Reljic, and Randy Couture.

Melanson's life before Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Brazilian JiuJitsu

Prior to his entry in MMA, Neil Melanson served in the U.S.Navy in the 1990s. After his military training, he served as a Special Agent for the Federal Air Marshals. It is likely that the combination of military and personal training are parts of the reason why Melanson has perfected his skill in a way that it has helped fighters become champions.

A champion of life

Along with working in fields where courage is as celebrated as it is needed, Neil Melanson has also shown a high degree of courage in his personal life. Born with Behcet's disease, Melanson always ran a risk to lose his eyesight early in life. And then, he did.

At age 28, Melanson became blind for a long period of time until he entered a treatment that enabled him to get his eyesight back, but only on one eye. Going through those life processes denote someone with a strong, powerful character.

On top of this, Melanson is already impressive with an equally strong and powerful physique.

All of these traits undoubtedly set him aside as one of the most passionate and dedicated fighters in the world of martial arts. It is no surprise that the likes of Randy Couture, Goran Reljic, and Karo Parisyan put their trust in the expert hands of one who has literally seemed to have beat every obstacle that has ever come his way.

Neil's Beginnings

Melanson began his MMA and grappling training for five years after his time in service, and began his training program in Cincinnati, Ohio. During his jiu-jitsu training, Melanson was already displaying a preference for leck locks, which were not as popular as they are now when he first began. It was during his time as an Air Marshal that Melanson decides to move to Los Angeles and train formally. During this time, he trained with leg lock master Gokor Chivichian at Gokor’s Hayastan Studio. There, he struck a friendship with Karo “the Heat” Parisyan.


Neil Melanson is known for a hybrid style of fighting that consists of grappling using leg locks as well as neck locks. In addition to his offense mechanisms, he also teaches defense mechanisms that zone-in protecting the area of the head.

Melanson has earned the nicknames of “Ground Marshall” for his ground fighting techniques, and ‘Master of the Guard” for his guard techniques including

  • Irish collar
  • Shoulder pin
  • KP-control

“The most dangerous man on the planet”

According to some of the best known MMA fighters, Neil has also earned the moniker “the most dangerous man on the planet.” This is because he has coached his style and technique to fighters that have gone all the way to the top, winning some of the most skillful and dangerous tournaments.

Another reason why he would be considered “dangerous” has to do with this above-average size and weight.

At over six feet-tall and weighing more than 200 pounds, he has a high physical advantage over his opponents. Because of his height, he has a better view of his surroundings, which helps his defense. Because of his body mass, he exerts more strength against his opponents than many other fighters even in his own heavyweight category.

Put together, Melanson’s attributes as a fighter include:
  • Height- over 6 feet tall
  • Weight- over 200 pounds of solid muscle
  • Mixed skills- Melanson’s style combines his extensive mixed martial arts training, military combat training, and additional training as a federal marshal.
  • Leg locks, grappling, and ground submissions that are easy for him due to his strength, weight, and knowledge of the art of fight. Full experience in all aspects of the process of guarding from both a military, civilian,and athletic perspective.


Melanson is a guard fighter. He uses the head grappling approach and the triangular coach. He explains his methodology in his book “Mastering Triangle Chokes: Ground Marshal Submission Grappling” in his series of DVD instructional video collaborations with BJJ Fanatics, and in the multiple presentations he has conducted over the years, where he does a superb job at teaching his skills to brand new and up and coming fighters.

Neil Melanson's Coaching

Neil Melanson’s primary job is coaching. He has the style, technique and knowledge to offer to hundreds of aspiring MMA athletes who benefit from this all-around expertise at Randy Coutoure’s Xtreme Couture Gym out of Las Vegas, Nevada. There he was also the head grappling coach. He has also coached at Jaco Hybrid Center and Alliance MMA.

Private Life

In 2009 Melanson married fellow MMA fighter Erin Young Toughill in a private ceremony. Toughhill herself is also a mixed martial artist. She debuted in the mixed martial arts arena in 1999, and made another professional debut in boxing a year later. She was also a participant in the program American Gladiator. She also trained in Brazilian JiuJitsu. She is now retired.

All and all, Neil Melanson is a rare gem in the MMA circuit. He came into the MMA world with his own training, which means that he actually brought in skills and techniques to the field. Melanson has proven himself as a strong and powerful athlete in and out of the ring. He has beat just about every odd that has come to his life, and he has come out on top. He is an example of how mind, matter, and spirit combine to make a whole individual. This is one of the reasons why some of the biggest names in MMA seek him as a coach.