Pride and Brutality: Cristiano Marcello Feels at Home Again in Japan
When Cristiano Marcello steps back into the cage this weekend, it will almost feel like he's going home again.
While Marcello is a proud Brazilian and holds his country in the highest esteem, for many years his home away from home was in Japan.
Marcello only actually fought in Japan one time while competing under the Pride Fighting Championships banner, but he traveled there on numerous occasions as a coach and teacher for one of the most legendary teams in MMA history.
As part of the Chute Boxe team, Marcello was omnipresent during the team's historic rise to the top of the sport when Pride was the prominent brand in mixed martial arts. The team's captain was then Pride middleweight champ Wanderlei Silva, who left a wake of destruction in his path during his rampant charge through the best fighters in the division that the promotion could throw at him.
Marcello was also there when Mauricio "Shogun" Rua came on the scene and the Chute Boxe era was strengthened even more with his tornado like run through the Pride Grand Prix.
"Japan's a very special place for me," Marcello told Bleacher Report. "I been in Japan 20 something times, during Pride time, so everything started there for me. The Japanese crowd is very peculiar crowd because they love each moment of the fight. Whether you get a good sweep or you get a takedown or you land a great punch, they love each moment of the fight. They love martial arts."
Virtually every time one of Chute Boxe's fighters were competing in Japan, Marcello was almost always standing in the corner shouting instructions or helping them in the back as they prepared to walk out into the arena.
This time around, as part of the UFC on Fuel 8 card, Marcello will actually share space on the same show as one of his closest friends and students, Wanderlei Silva, who fights in the main event against Brian Stann.
"I coached Wanderlei and this time he's going to fight and I'm going to fight on the same card. That's going to be a special moment and a great moment for me," Marcello said.
When asked to peg down one lone moment that stands out above the rest, Marcello is hard pressed to come up with a single occasion because there were so many great memories there. He does admit fighting in Saitama Super Arena will be very special because of one of the most epic knockouts in MMA history happened in that building and he was there to witness every brutal second of it.
"It's going to bring a lot of memories from that place, Saitama Super Arena. He won his fight there against Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson with all the animosity in the air, and the pride situation, so it's going to be great to smell the arena," Marcello said. "The feel of Japan again."
That night Silva blasted Jackson with a series of knee strikes and when the American fell, he crashed through the ropes in a scene that will be replayed in MMA highlights for the next 20 years. This time around, Marcello will be going for a highlight of his own when he faces Kazuki Tokudome, and then he will proudly watch from the back as his friend and former student looks to wow the crowd in Japan one more time.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.