Marcel Fortuna’s birthday gift to himself

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Gustavo Dantas’s Southwest Classic Jiu-Jitsu tournament has paid its black belt pro division winners every year since 2006, which is more than welcome for the black belts, given how few Gi Jiu-Jitsu competitions pay.

Friends Marcel Fortuna and Diego Herzog / Photos: Deb Blyth

The black belts were divided into two divisions, the light absolute and the heavy absolute. Gustavo did this to allow more black belts the opportunity to win. This year the theme was “Take me to Portugal.” So what the black belts were competing for was a chance to win a paid trip to Portugal for the Europeans. In the light absolute, Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes of Soul Fighter was the big winner. And in the heavy, Marcel Fortuna of Ralph Gracie snapped up the other ticket.

Marcel, who received his black belt in 2007, won the Gi Worlds as a super heavyweight brown belt. These days he’s not competing too much but he has been present at the last three of Gustavo’s tournaments. Samir Chantre, Director of Refereeing for GDJJ events, contacted Marcel and asked him if he would come and ref at Gustavo’s tournaments. Marcel agreed. At the February tournament, Marcel didn’tt compete, but at the summer tournament he did and won $1,500. At the 3rd Southwest Classic Jiu-Jitsu tournament, Marcel won again, picking up a plane ticket to Portugal.

Marcel says he was surprised more black belts didn’t show up for the tournament. “I expected to have at least three matches to get the ticket,” he says, “but I ended up fighting Ryan Beauregard (BJJ Rev) twice.”

In their first match Marcel says he fought loose because he expected to get into the finals with his friend Diego Herzog. He beat Ryan 6-2. Then Diego took on Ryan. Marcel says that Diego didn’t realize he was behind by 2 points, and he ended up losing the match, so Marcel faced Ryan a second time.

Fortuna plays guard against Ryan Beauregard.

The second match brought about some excitement for the crowd. The first four minutes of the match the two were standing up trying to get takedowns on each other. “He was tough,” Marcel says, “He kept blocking my takedowns, so I eventually pulled guard. I tried to sweep, and ended up in a straight foot lock, but I couldn’t close. I tried to sweep again and we ended up in a 50/50. We kind of got stuck there. I decided to push him out of the position. I got him set up in an omoplata sweep, but I didn’t have time to finish it.” Marcel walked away with the win.

Marcel hasn’t been seen on the Jiu-Jitsu tournament circuit lately, but there’s a good reason for that. Like many Jiu-Jitsu athletes, Marcel is trying his hand at MMA. He’s been training Thai boxing and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu. “I just had my second pro fight two weeks ago,” he says, “My first fight I submitted the guy in two and a half minutes in the first round. My second fight was in Sacramento, at Uriah Faber’s academy. I beat that guy in two minutes with a rear-naked choke.”

Marcel says he’s been training his stand up and Thai boxing at World USA Team and keeping up with his Jiu-Jitsu at Ralph Gracie in San Ramon, California. He says MMA is his first priority now. “I still love Jiu-Jitsu and I still teach and train in it but now I do muay Thai and wrestling to become more well-balanced in MMA.”

Heavy absolute winners podium

Marcel says on the one hand he feels it’s his duty to represent Jiu-Jitsu, his main background, in the cage. “It’s my first martial art,” he says, “I started training when I was 16. I feel I need to represent Jiu-Jitsu in MMA.”

But on the other hand, he says there’s not enough money in Jiu-Jitsu to sustain him, so he’s going down the MMA path in hopes of getting into the UFC and making some real money. “I definitely want to test the art, but at the same time, I want to make money, and there’s a lot more in MMA,” he says.

As for the 3rd Southwest Classic Jiu-Jitsu tournament, Marcel says he had a great time. And he had reason to celebrate more than just the ticket to Portugal. “I just turned 26 on Saturday,” he says, “This ticket is my birthday gift to myself.”

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