From atop the favela to the top in Japan

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Marlon at home in Santo Amaro. Photo: Carlos Ozório

It would be no exaggeration to compare the job Marlon Sandro has been doing in Japan to the one WEC champion José Aldo is doing in the United States. Besides being training partners, they are both champions of the same featherweight weight division. With a record of 17 wins and a single contested loss – the controversial decision loss to Michihiro Omigawa in the Sengoku GP –, Marlon has knocked off eight wins in the Land of the Rising Sun, the last three by knockout. In his latest outing, against Masanori Kanehara, it took Sandro just 38 seconds to knockout the then-champion and take his belt.

One of the main lessons that can be derived from Marlon is that you should never give up. Brought up in the Santo Amaro low-income community in Rio de Janeiro, he always knew how to break boundaries. The now-33-year-old conquered the world and is now champion of two of Japan’s biggest promotions. Besides holding the Sengoku belt, he is also the current King of Pancrase.

“I’d help my father on the construction site. I was already working in construction at 14,so I was always lifting heavy weights. Now I try to use my strength the correct way, landing strikes well,” he says, explaining his back-to-back knockouts.

But what is the fighter really, a Jiu-Jitsu stylist, as he is a black belt, or a striker?

“My strength is really Jiu-Jitsu, but I improved my wrestling, muay thai and boxing a lot. Jiu-Jitsu is a powerful weapon we have on our side, but, as much as we want to get it to the ground, we have to know how to strike, too.”

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