Ask any knowledgeable fan of Mixed Martial Arts about the famed Chute Boxe Academy and the response is almost guaranteed to touch on the Brazilian camp’s reputation for producing fearless, ferocious fighters who in many cases have gone on to be considered among the sport’s best – names like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Wanderlei Silva for example.
One of the key components involved in Chute Boxe’s rise to glory was BJJ expert, and trainer, Cristiano Marcello. Marcello, who has since founded his own center called the CM System, first came to Chute Boxe in 2000 in hopes of improving his own Muay Thai and ended up staying on as a contracted coach after impressing chief trainer Rudimar Fedrigo.
Beyond teaching, Marcello has also translated his knowledge into the ring with an overall record of 11-3 and a trio of victories in 2010. Set for action against Oriol Gaset on February 19 in Brusque, Brazil as part of an event promoted by Nitrix, Marcello recently spoke with Five Ounces of Pain about his time with Chute Boxe, his current status, his interest in helping out at-risk children in Curitiba, a notorious backstage confrontation at a PRIDE event in 2005 which left Charles Bennett sleeping as the result of a Triangle Choke, as well as a number of other topics.
Five Ounces of Pain: You came to mainstream attention due to your work with a number of notable students at Chute Boxe. How did you first come to be involved with Chute Boxe and fighting in general?
Cristiano Marcello: I started training Jiu-Jitsu in 1989 in my town in Rio de Janeiro with Cesar Guimarães. I stayed two years with him before I started training at Gracie Tijuca Academy. I divided my time between Gracie Tijuca and Gracie Humaita with Royler Gracie. In 1995 I went to train in Los Angeles where I lived with Rickson (Gracie) and trained with him for three years. After that I came back to Brazil, started training with Royler again, and in 1998 I had my first fights. I participated in two tournaments where I had to fight two times in one night. I won them both.
In 2000 I talked to Jorge Guimarães and asked him about Muay Thai. He told me the best place to train Muay Thai in Brazil was in Curitiba, so he hooked me up with Chute Boxe. I got here and came to only train for a month and a half, but Rudimar liked my style and the way I taught. As Chute Boxe at the time did not have a Jiu-Jitsu coach they contracted me. So at 23 years old I was in the corner of the best in the world. Before I went to Chute Boxe the way things worked was they would have to go to Jiu-Jitsu gyms and have closed door training. Everyone was scared to go and train with the guys. I was the only guy who, for lack of a better term, passed all their tests and had the aggressiveness that they were looking for in a coach.
5OZ: Are you able to share a “behind the scenes” story from Chute Boxe people may find funny or insightful? For example, a particularly memorable training session or any moment that stands out in your mind from your time there.
Marcello: “Pele” (Jose Landi-Jons) had left the gym and I already had a problem with the Jiu-Jitsu teacher from his gym, a black belt named Pelucio, who was about 210 pounds. And I don’t know why, but one day Pele went to the gym with about eight or nine other guys to talk to Rafael Cordeiro so we could resolve the problem. Rafael told me and I went and changed into shorts. Me, Rafael, Nadim Andraus, Jorge Patino, and Roberto Piccinini went to Barigui Park to resolve the problem like we used to in Brazil – man to man. So each side called a friend from the police here, to make sure that everything would be fair and go down smoothly. When we got to the park we had a fight, he took me down I was able to get back up, we traded some punches, I was able to get his back, standing, and I got the Rear Naked Choke and put him to sleep. And after that day, all the problems between Chute Boxe and Pele’s team were resolved.
5OZ: You have since moved on and opened your own training center called The CM System. What is your philosophy and focus there? Are there any fighters in particular coming out of your Gym fans should keep an eye on?
Marcello: The philosophy of my gym is to be professional in every way. Between the training, the way we eat, and the focus in living this life not for the glamor. It should be like a job to support your family and reach your dreams. The other focus is to make you a champion with technique and aggressiveness not only to win the fight, but to make a great show for the public.
It’s hard to speak about only a few guys because we are a very new gym that has only been around for a year and eight months. Our gym already has 318 fights in this short amount of time and 90 percent of those fights have been victories. Some guys to watch are Mario Soldado Sartori, Bruno Carvalho, Diego Davilla, Naldo Silva, and Marco Antonio Santana among many others. We have 40 professional fighters under our banner at the moment.
5OZ: Beyond being a teacher you also compete and even went 3-1 in 2010 after a three-year break from fighting. Why the layoff from action and how has it been returning to the ring?
Marcello: I had to focus on teaching at Chute Boxe at the time, and when I left and created my own team it took a lot of attention and dedication to get it off the ground. I never stopped training and during this time I had some boxing and Muay Thai fights. It felt amazing to be able to come back and thank God they have been big victories which have helped to open doors for my team.
5OZ: You fought on December 4 in Brazil and then on December 8 in Jordan (both first round wins). Can you explain exactly how difficult it must have been to not only have two fights so close together but in locations more than 6500 miles apart?
Marcello: Before these last two fights there was a big judging error in my second fight after my comeback that ended up giving the victory to my opponent which for sure put a damper on the plans I had for my comeback.
I thought it necessary to do something to show everyone that the ref was wrong in that fight and to erase the history of that fight in the eyes of the public and for myself. So I accepted the challenge to take on two fights in four days time. In the first fight I was able to submit my opponent a minute and twenty seconds into the first round, and the second fight in Jordan I was able to submit my opponent two minutes and twenty seconds into the second round. It was a great experience for me, but not so difficult because I had already had two fights in one night where it was Vale Tudo rules.
5OZ: Your next bout is on February 19 on a Nitrix event in Brazil against Oriol Gaset for the lightweight belt. What do you know about Gaset and how will you be approaching the fight?
Marcello: I know that he has about 16 or 17 fights. He’s a guy who has a name in Europe, a complete fighter. My plan is the same as always, I will be looking for the knockout or the submission. My strategy is this – I’m prepared for any situation and something that is really motivating me for this fight is that it will be for the 155-pound title.
5OZ: You are also very active in your community as far as helping at-risk children. Why are you passionate about that particular cause? What can you tell us about your program? Is there a website where people can learn more about how to help?
Marcello: I think everyone in the world expects a lot. If everyone did a little bit for themselves, to visit a public hospital, an orphanage, a place likes this, you’re already doing something. Something that we do here is we have a big class where all the participants must bring food, and then I’ll go to an orphanage or a place that needs it and we donate what we can.
There is always a way to help and it’s not everyone who has money to do so. If you have the will to do it, there are many ways that things can be done, not only by donating money. I don’t have a website, because this is something that in reality I didn’t even know people outside of here knew about. It is something that I do out of my heart that doesn’t really get to much media attention, but if anyone would like to help you can send me an email at “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
5OZ: Finally, your backstage Triangle Choke of Charles Bennett at a PRIDE event in 2005 is legendary in the MMA community. From your perspective, what exactly happened that lead to the confrontation? What are your current thoughts on Bennett?
Marcello: Basically he’s the type of guy who doesn’t have respect. If you look at his career it’s easy to understand what I’m talking about. I don’t believe he carries himself like an athlete. Where I’m from there only two ways to deal with that situation – you walk away or you confront the problem, and I chose the second option that day. I didn’t have any problem with him. For me the whole situation ended after that day in Japan. But I don’t believe that he the right to open his mouth about Wanderlei who is a great friend of mine. If his story was true it’s one thing, but he’s just living off of the fame of something that never happened.
5OZ: Is that a fight you would like to see eventually made official to resolve things in a ring even though Bennett has lost three of his last four fights?
Marcello: Look, for me basically him as an athlete is something that is not interesting. There are many more athletes that would be more interesting fights. The opposite of him, I’m coming off of four great fights and am about to have one for the belt. For me it would be more interesting to fight with people who will help my career as an athlete grow. But if the interest is there from the public to see it happen, I’m a professional and I would love to make it happen.
5OZ: Anything else you’d like to add?
Marcello: Thanks for the opportunity to speak my mind. I want to give a big thank you to my manager Alchemist and if anyone wants anymore info you can contact me through my Facebook or the CM System page.