As jiu-jitsu coach for the vaunted Chute Boxe Academy, Cristiano Marcello experienced the heyday of the Pride Fighting Championships firsthand, aiding Brazilian standouts such as Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Rafael Cordeiro and Rudimar Fedrigo as they competed in some of the most memorable bouts in the history of the sport. Now as a fighter, Marcello is going back to the Land of the Rising Sun, where he faces Kazuki Tokudome on Saturday at UFC on Fuel TV 8. The CM System representative spoke to Sherdog.com about the nostalgia surrounding his return to the legendary Saitama Super Arena.
It’s been a while since you last traveled to Japan. How many trips have you made to the country?
I came (to Japan) 27 times as a coach and twice as fighter, including this trip. It's a place that I love. I like being here a lot -- the smell of Japan. I've received many messages from old friends from back in the Pride days. One who always talks to me is “Bebeo” (Luis Roberto Duarte). He always describes my feelings perfectly. He told me that I was home, and I am. I'm in the same hotel that I stayed at when I was first here in Japan. Wanderlei is here too. It brings back good memories; I am very comfortable.
Have you ever thought of living in Japan?
Yeah, I have thought about living here, but that was some time ago. Now fight the market is no longer here. All these times I have come to Japan, I had to leave too quickly. When I retire, I'll come here more often, so I can learn more.
You are from Rio de Janeiro and fought at UFC 153, but now you are back in Japan, where you were present for the peak of the Pride era. Which experience was most memorable for you?
Dude, I'll always remember Pride. I do not know, I may even faint from excitement. Wanderlei’s intro song will also bring back many memories. The audience will be thrilled, I'll be thrilled. Only those who lived through the time of Pride know what I'm talking about, what I'm feeling. It was 10 years of a different emotion, without equal. I am very happy to have been a part of Pride, the UFC, “The Ultimate Fighter,” and to have coached champions. I'm lucky.
Will make your entrance with the Pride theme song, as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson did?
No, that was a lot of "poderosidade" (Carlson Gracie’s term for swashbuckling). I'll go with one that I listened to in my training. I like to go with the music that I used in practice because it reminds me of everything that I did there, and I seek that emotion.
What have you learned from studying your opponent, Kazuki Tokudome?
He has a wrestling background and is a highly-ranked lightweight in Japan. He likes to take the fight to the ground and use ground-and-pound. He's an MMA fighter. He comes to fight hard. People here told me that he will not want to grapple with me. I'm prepared for every situation, and I want to finish the fight. Imagine returning to Japan and finishing the fight? It would be lovely.
How is the Japanese audience different from the usual MMA crowd?
You can hear your punches, but they understand the fight. You may face a Japanese fighter, but if you do something technical, they will appreciate it and applaud.