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Cristiano Marcello: Brave is paying me ‘a lot more than the UFC’ for MMA return

CM System leader and longtime veteran Cristiano Marcello will turn 41 in December.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

CURITIBA, Brazil — The hunger never faded away, but it would take more than that to make Cristiano Marcello un-retire as a mixed martial arts fighter.

Brave Combat Federation provided it.

Marcello signed a three-year deal with Brave to stop being a full-time coach at CM System and prepare for his own fight. Four and a half years after announcing his retirement in the UFC, Marcello explains how the promotion managed to convince him to come back in a yet-to-be-announced fight later this year.

“They asked me during the card in Belo Horizonte if I would come back to MMA. At first I thought they were joking, but then he said they really meant it,” Marcello told MMA Fighting. “We moved to a different discussion at that point, to discuss numbers.

”To stop drinking beer — that I never drank when I was an active fighter but loved after I retired [laughs] — cutting my barbecues, and not giving 100 percent of attention to CM System anymore, that has a price.

”They really made a fantastic offer. Three fights, and a lot more than the UFC pays. I’ll tell you this, it’s way more than the market pays.”

With wrestling specialist Marcelo Zulu taking over to help as head coach at CM System while he’s focused on his fight, Marcello, who continues to coach fighters as well, feels better prepared to compete now compared to his run in the UFC and the Ultimate Fighter.

”I’m getting beat up, I’m suffering, it hurts, but the joy of seeing my athletes watch me on the mat, sweating with them, is worth it,” Marcello said. “I have athletes here that never watched me fight live, they were 14 with I retired. Even my kids, my 6 year old is thrilled with the whole process of my return. I’m really happy. It hurts, but it’s a matter of time until your body gets used to it.”

Brave has eight cards planned for the remainder of 2018, and Marcello hopes to make his promotional debut at the Nov. 18 show in Bahrain or on one of the three events scheduled for December.

“I will definitely fight an ex-UFC fighter, an ex-Bellator fighter. They are still looking into that,” Marcello said. “I’m trying to build something in the sport, and Brave is one of the best promotions in the world today. It has to be someone at a certain level because of my name and what I represent to the sport. I’m not here for a belt. I’m not here for money because I don’t need that. I’ve made money with the sport.

”I’m a competitive person since my jiu-jitsu days, and then I moved to vale tudo. I’m the only guy to compete in PRIDE, TUF, Meca and the UFC. I’ve coached the best athletes in the world, Wanderlei (Silva), ‘Shogun’ (Rua), ‘Ninja’ (Rua), I promoted legends of the sport, Rafael Cordeiro and Wanderlei, to black belt in iiu-jitsu. I’m doing it because I love it, to test myself. I like to fight, and the sport has changed a lot today. Nothing better than locking yourself in a cage and testing yourself in there.”

Marcello (13-6) retired in 2014 after a 1-2 run in the Octagon. The jiu-jitsu specialist scored his only Octagon victory with a decision over Reza Madadi at UFC 153 in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro in Oct. 2012.

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