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Four years into retirement, Cristiano Marcello proclaims he has ‘the best MMA team in Brazil’

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Gallery Photo: UFC 153 Weigh-In Photos
Cristiano Marcello is the leader of CM System in Curitiba, Brazil.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Four years after announcing his retirement as a MMA fighter, Cristiano Marcello celebrates the success of CM System in Brazil.

Marcello has made a name for himself in the MMA world since he became a black belt in jiu-jitsu under Royler Gracie and a coach at Chute Boxe. He fought 20 times throughout his career, competing under the PRIDE and UFC banners, and admits that he still misses the adrenaline of being a professional fighter.

”Every time I’m cornering a fighter, I really want to be in there fighting as well,” Marcello tells MMA Fighting. “I’ve fought my entire life. I was surrounded by the best since day one, fighting for the best promotions in MMA, jiu-jitsu, but I’m not frustrated about it.

”I believe that if I had focused on being a fighter only I would have fought three times more and become champion, but at age 23 I was cornering the best fighter in the world [Wanderlei Silva] in the biggest promotion in the world, helping build the biggest team in the world, so I can’t complain. I fought 20 times, fighting in the biggest promotions, and today I have the best team in Brazil. I made the right choice, I knew when to stop. CM System is my legacy for my kids and for my fighters’ kids.”

When Chute Boxe started to lose their biggest stars about a decade ago, Marcello decided it was time to build his own team. Marcello was running CM System and fighting his way to the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter, but would only decide to hang up his gloves and become a full-time coach in April of 2014, following a decision loss to Joe Proctor.

Surrounded by a good group of trainers, which includes Marcelo “Zulu,” a retired 7-1 MMA fighter and 13-time Greco-Roman champion in Brazil, Marcello is proud to say that his pupils have gone 54-9 in 2017, collecting bonuses in the UFC, Invicta FC and smaller shows.

”I think that our biggest secret in that we create fighters from zero,” Marcello says. “We have 45 fighters, and we all win or lose together. That’s the difference here.”

With not as many MMA events going on in Brazil over the past few years, Marcello is going in a different direction if compared to most of the other big teams in his country. While coaches invest on their own promotions to create opportunities for their fighters, Marcello says he’s not ready to have his own company just yet.

“I have nothing against that,” he says, “but I would freak out if I had to run a promotion right now. I have 45 athletes, and I’m their father, mother, shrink, babysitter. When I get into something I want to do my best at it, and I’m not ready for that yet. I don’t rule that out, though.”

Despite the success of his fighters over the past few years, the Curitiba-based coach believes that CM System would received more recognition if it was located in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where the majority of the MMA media is located.

”CM System is the best team in Brazil in terms of results. Can’t deny that,” Marcello says. “Imagine if Elizeu ‘Capoeira’ was training and living in Rio. I like that he’s here because we can keep his feet on the ground instead of becoming one of those superstars that fade quickly. Elizeu was a champion in every promotion he fought.

”We’re killing everyone in Brazil and outside of Brazil. We’re beating everyone and collecting bonuses. Last year we won eight post-fight bonuses around the world. I’ve been trying to get someone in Bellator for 200 years and they don’t give us an opportunity. I offered them Killys Mota and they didn’t sign him. I ask myself what do I have to do. He just signed with LFA now, and he had to go to the U.S. and work in construction before he had that opportunity.”

Aside from Elizeu Zaleski, who looks to win his fifth straight in the Octagon when he faces Sean Strickland at UFC 224, Marcello has Felipe Silva (8-1), who looks to rebound from a loss to Mairbek Taisumov against Claudio Puelles at UFC Chile as one of his top talents in the UFC.

Luan Santiago (12-2) is about to face UFC veteran Lucas Martins for the Brave interim championship on April 13. Killys Mota (10-0) has yet to have his LFA debut booked, and Walter Pereira Jr. (14-3) has recently scored back-to-back finishes under the ACB banner, and now wants a shot at Magomed Magomedov.

”You’d be shocked if you watched our training here,” Marcello says. “We have a UFC event every day inside our gym. We have a factory here. But some promotions just want big names. You see Bellator, they only want ex-UFC fighters. Where’s the new generation? They don’t sign them.”

”The UFC forces you to have an impeccable record, and some people forge padded records to get there,” he continues. “If you don’t win in your neighborhood, and then your city, and then your state, you won’t be ready for the big stages, but they do a bad selective process. We have the best results in Brazil.

”Elizeu will definitely become UFC champion. I truly believe in him. We’re everywhere, and we’re close to winning more belts.”