When Cristiano Marcello steps into the Octagon at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in Japan, it will be the 18th bout of his professional career, but 18 bouts doesn’t even begin to tell the story of a career that dates back to 1997.
Many people that watched Marcello fight his way into the Octagon via the fifteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, which took place just last year, don’t realize that he is a fighter that bridges the gap from old school to new school.
Marcello’s name, while not the most high profile, is etched in the history of not only mixed martial arts, but also Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. He cut his BJJ teeth under the tutelage of Rickson and Royler Gracie, earning his black belt under Royler.
He went on to become the BJJ coach of the famed Chute Boxe Academy during the team’s peak years, when most of its fighters were conquering the Pride ring in Japan. Marcello’s time at Chute Boxe accompanied the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Shogun and Ninja Rua, Evangelista Santos and Cris “Cyborg” Santos, and too many more to name.
Marcello debuted on the same fight card in Brazil as Anderson Silva, fighting twice that night, something not so out of the ordinary at that time.
Making his 27th trip to Japan for his UFC on Fuel TV 8 bout with Kazuki Tokudome, most of Marcello’s travels to the Land of the Rising Sun have been in support of his former Chute Boxe teammates.
Fighting on the same card as fellow Chute Boxer Wanderlei Silva this weekend is something that means a lot to Marcello.
“I fought one time (in Japan), but the other times I come to coach, being in the guys' corner, like Wanderlei,” recounts Marcello. “Wanderlei, he's the best man of my wedding; I have a very close relation with him. I'm very proud to be there and fight on the same card with Wanderlei.”
While he enters the bout with Tokudome coming off of a split decision victory, Marcello is cut from a cloth of fighters that fight not solely to win, but to finish. It’s something Wanderlei Silva does. It’s something Anderson Silva does. It’s something Cristiano Marcello does. It’s the Chute Boxe way.
He has finished 11 of the 13 opponents he has defeated, and he intends to do everything he can to make Tokudome finish number 12.
“He's a guy going forward all the time,” Marcello said of Tokudome. “If you strike with him, he can strike, too. You wrestle him; he will wrestle. You go to the ground; he can go to the ground. He's not gonna want go to the ground with me, but I hope he tries to put me down or I put him down.
“I really want (the fight to go to the ground), show my jiu-jitsu for the UFC fans. I'm very excited to do that. But if the fight doesn't go to the ground, for sure, I'm gonna exchange with him.”
Marcello is 1-1 in the Octagon, and with the UFC roster currently bulging at the seams, his leash isn’t a long one. Even Top 10 talent Jon Fitch recently found himself with a pink slip in hand. Fighters have to perform or they’re out the door.
This isn’t a fact lost on Marcello, but it’s also a fact that has little bearing on him or his fight. Marcello carries a Chute Boxe heart into the Octagon, always looking for the finish, always looking to give the crowd something to remember.
It’s a high risk, high reward proposition, but it’s the only way that Marcello knows. He can’t promise how the fight will finish, but he can promise one thing every time he enters the Octagon.
“It's going to be an exciting fight.”