The decision to leave one of the most successful camps in MMA history could not have been an easy for Cristiano Marcello but it was the only way for him to truly pursue his ambitions as a fighter. After training MMA legends like Wanderlei Silva and UFC champions such as Maurico "Shogun" Rua, Marcello left Chute Boxe in 2009 to forge ahead and turn his fighting career into his primary focus. Marcello may be best known for the backstage altercation with Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett that would become an internet sensation following Pride Shockwave 2005.
A 12 year veteran of the sport Marcello has competed in Pride and multiple promotions throughout his native home of Brazil. After parting ways with Chute Boxe the Royler Gracie blackbelt opened his own gym to further develop his personal brand of Jiu-Jitsu he calls the CM System. In his most recent professional outing Marcello faced Costa Rican lightweight Alejandro Solano Rodriguez at Bitetti Combat 7 in Rio de Janero Brazil. The bout ended in a questionable stoppage victory for Solano but Marcello would not have to wait long for redemption as an immediate rematch was then scheduled for Saturday Dec. 4th. Unfortunately for Marcello, Solano Rodriguez was forced to withdraw just days before the event. Cristiano will now face Muay Thai expert Guido Caneti and with the fight looming around the corner I spoke to Marcello about his upcoming challenge. In this Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview Marcello talks about the last minute change of opponents and provides a solution to the unfinished business between him and "Krazy Horse".
With this being my first interview with Cristiano Marcello I wanted to know where he found his passion for the martial arts and what inspired him to dedicate his life to Jiu-Jitsu.
"I started in Taekwondo when I was eight years old and I have competed several times with state and national champions," Marcello answered. "At 12 years old I started training jiu-jitsu in my neighborhood and two years later joined the Gracie academy. I went on to win two world titles, and several state and national titles. From there, I moved to the United States as a purple belt, and lived with Rickson Gracie for three years. Under Rickson's guidance, I was awarded a brown belt and returned to Brazil to debut in MMA. In 1999, I earned my black belt under Master Royler Gracie."
Marcello spent years training fighters at Chute Boxe who have gone on to become MMA legends and champions. He has seen fighters grow into icons of the sport and with Chute Boxe fighters being known primarily for their aggressive striking, their superb jiu-jitsu skills are often times overlooked.
"I believe that my jiu-jitsu style for MMA is special because of all of the experience that I had with the best trained strikers in the world. I was fortunate to work with guys like Shogun, Wanderlei, Ninja, and a number of other talented fighters," Marcello stated. "They are winning fights because the base of the sport is the most important and is what takes you from "beginning to end. They are no longer training with me directly or indirectly, but they still represent my style of Jiu-jitsu, which is technical jiu-jitsu and staying aggressive, while always looking for the submission. What is most important for me is knowing that they are not being finished on the ground. I believe that some of my new athletes will effectively show the fans the unique techniques that I have taught them."
While Marcello technically parted ways with Chute Boxe in 2009 he is still considered to be their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach and still offers the fighters assistance when possible. Now that his primary focus is in live competition his time is limited to fighting and further developing his own brand of BJJ he calls CM System.
"I left Chute Boxe because of my professional growth - I felt the need to form my own team with my methodology and ideology. The CM SYSTEM is defined to form complete athletes with great technique and aggressiveness. We have over 40 professional athletes in MMA. In just one year and five months of existence, the academy has more than 140 professional MMA fights and more than 90% are victories. We won the award highlighting the best academy in 2009. We have 12 more fights ahead of us to close out 2010. 5 belts already conquered and 2 international," explained Marcello.
With redemption in sight Marcello was eager to prepare for his rematch with Alejandro Solano Rodriguez but moment prior to the interview taking place Marcello learned that his rematch had been put on hold due to Solano pulling out of the fight. He was then told he would be facing Guido Caneti just as the interview got under way. Feeling the Solano situation had only created more unfinished business I asked for his opinion on the matters at hand.
"Unfortunately, in that fight with Solano there was controversy," Marcello answered. "The referee gave him a doubtful victory. They stopped the fight early, and the promoter offered us a rematch due to the controversy."
With frustration Marcello continued, "I would love to have a rematch with Solano, but he dropped out of the fight last minute. My feeling is he did not want a rematch. Now I will be fighting Guido Caneti of Argentina. He is a No. 1-ranked Muay Thai fighter in his country.
While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is woven into the foundation of mixed martial arts its practitioners have gone through highs and lows as the sport continues to evolve. The defensive guard became regular practice for every fighter just as single discipline warriors fade into the vapor. I asked Marcello to comment on ways he has seen BJJ evolve as a martial art over the years and if the submission game was still the tremendous threat it once was.
"Although many people do not believe in its importance, I see an extreme importance in the use of the gi (kimono) in training for MMA as it is the soul of BJJ," Marcello answered. "Many fighters today have migrated straight to MMA, not training in the gi, for me it is not BJJ. Many fighters are not following the evolution of BJJ. Because the gi is the soul of jiu-jitsu, I believe 100% that it is a secret weapon because jiu-jitsu evolves every second during training. Whoever has the highest level of BJJ has a unique weapon in MMA."
A popular debate amongst MMA fans and critics is the efficiency of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when put up against elite level American wrestling. Marcello shared his insight on the dispute and explained how the CM System is the perfect adjustment for such an approach.
"When there were no weight classes wrestling complicated things a little because if there was a difference of 60 lbs. on the ground they know to stay on top," Marchello stated. "Even still, I do not see any development of wrestling. The fighter on the bottom is lost...there are no escapes or attempted submissions. I do not see this as a response to jiu-jitsu. If we look at MMA events and look at submissions we see that 90% of the wrestlers are using submissions from MMA. I think everybody has their opinion, and has the right to believe in their own philosophies. The CM SYSTEM does not believe that wrestling is the answer, but wrestling is also crucial for MMA."
Marcello's work at Chute Boxe is well documented as he has played an intricate role in the development of some of Brazil's best fighters. As his focus has now turned to his own professional career I was curious to hear about his personal goals and what he hoped to accomplish in the sport of mixed martial arts.
"As a coach I always wanted my fighters to succeed. I had to give up a little as a fighter to train fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Mauricio Shogun, Cris Santos and all other Chute Boxe fighters for a number of years. I still managed to do 13 fights of which I won 10. I still want to compete in the biggest events and take on the best athletes in the sport. I still wish to compete in the biggest events of America today as a fighter and to open that door to my athletes at CM SYSTEM," he answered.
Several years back Cristiano Marcello was involved in a backstage altercation with Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett where the outcome resulted in possibly the most famous street fight ending triangle choke the world has ever seen. In fact that video is considered by some to be proof that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is applicable in altercations outside of the cage. In addition to the video gathering millions of hits, Charles Bennett has spoken out from time to time on Marcello keeping the beef and his notoriety alive.
"I don't use that fight for personal marketing since in my career, as a coach and fighter, I'm very professional in my success," Marcello stated. "My attitude was to try to educate Krazy Horse, and show that he should respect everyone. I am a firm advocate for all the elements of MMA, and am a firm believer that every relevant style makes an important contribution to fighting. I have always had an open mind to fighting, and that is why I was one of the first BJJ fighters to teach at Chute Boxe. In that particular fight which was more like a street fight, BJJ was the best form of self-defense. As for Krazy Horse's trash talk, I am more than happy to fight him again but this time in a cage with a purse at stake. All questions can be laid to rest with a proper sanctioned fight."
Cristiano Marcello will step into competition on Saturday night against an opponent he hasn't prepared. Most fighters would have to hope that their game plan would still be effective but Marcello's style of jiu-jitsu will allow him to adapt to whatever the situation may be. With the interview coming to a close Cristiano thanked everyone who has supported and continues to support him.
"I would first like to thank you guys for the opportunity to express myself and to show my work. Thank you to my agency- ALCHEMIST for their support and showing credibility in my work. And thank you to all the MMA fans that make this sport the fastest growing in the world. For those who want to learn more about our work at CMSYSTEM we have Facebook and a website: www.cmsystem.com.br. "