A Young Start in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Professor Marcelo was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1978 and started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 7 years old. He was introduced to the art of Jiu-Jitsu by his brother in law, who was a brown belt at the time.
Oswaldo Fadda and Sebastiao Ricardo
Marcelo’s first professor was Sebastiao Ricardo, at Mello Tenis Clube Jiu-Jitsu. Ricardo was a student of Master Oswaldo Fadda, one of the most important figures in the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and one of the few people to train under Sensei Mitsayu Maeda of Japan, who brought the art of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil, and the Gracies. Fadda earned the coveted 9th Dan Red Belt, the highest honor a non-Gracie can achieve.
Fadda was also credited with being the first to take the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to poorer communities on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro where he started his own school. During this time he issued a famous challenge to the Gracie Family: “We wish to challenge the Gracies, we respect them…but we do not fear them. We have 20 pupils ready…” Helio Gracie accepted the dispute and Fadda’s team won, using footlocks, which the Gracies had frowned upon. One of Fadda’s pupils choked Gracie’s “Leonidas” unconscious.
Marcelo did not train long with Master Ricardo because he retired. Before leaving his school, he promoted one of his best students, Wendell Alexander, to Black Belt and asked him to take over his school.
Under Alexander’s guidance the school became one the best competition Jiu-Jitsu teams in Brazil. This is where he established his junior team as one of the best in Brazil, and where Marcelo Pereira continued to train and advance in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Andre Pederneiras and the Birth of Nova Uniao
Around this time Wendell Alexander met Andre Pederneiras, a Carlson Gracie Black Belt, at a Jiu-Jitsu competition in Rio. Pederneiras also had a very competitive junior team. The two developed a strong relationship on and off the mat. In part because they had not yet been able to compete well against the powerful Gracie Barra and Carlson Gracie teams, Alexander and Pederneiras decided to join their teams for one competition and see how things went. In the first competition they placed third. In the next competition they placed second. At this time they decided to formalize their union and call it Nova Uniao, which means “New Union” in Portuguese.
Under co-founders Alexander and Pederneiras, Team Nova Uniao quickly began to accumulate several state and national championships. Two years after being founded, in 1997, Nova Uniao won the Team Division World Championships. Nova Uniao quickly became a powerhouse in competition Jiu-Jitsu.
Alexander also became well known for being one of the first Brazilians to open his doors to foreigners. Two examples of this are Joe Charles and BJ Penn. This caused him to take some heat. This may have had something to do with the fact that Penn had left Gracie Barra to train with Pederneiras and Nova Uniao.
Marcelo, the Student, Becomes Professor
At this time, Wendell Alexander founded a new Nova Uniao academy in Campos, three hours north of Rio. Looking for someone to replace himself,and recognizing his ability to fight and teach, Marcelo was picked by Professor Alexander to run the Mello Tennis Clube (Nova Uniao). This was a great honor for Marcelo, who was entrusted by Wendell to train and educate over 100 students, from white belt to black. At the time Marcelo was himself only a brown belt.
A year later, at 19 years of age, Marcelo earned his black belt under Alexander and Pederneiras, two weeks before the 1998 Mundials, where he became a world champion for the first time. Marcelo continued to run his Nova Uniao academy through 2006. Many of his students became state, national and world champions, including:
Gilberto Santos – National and World Champion, Blue Belt
Otavio Vianna – Three time National Champion, Second Place Worlds, Blue and Purple Belts
Bruno Pereira – World Champion, Blue Belt
Bruno Sena – 2x World Champion, Blue Belt; 1x World Champion, Purple; 1x World Champion, Brown Belt
Leandro Ataide – Heavyweight World Champion Brown and Black Belt
Marcelo continued to compete while running his academy, and had the following accomplishments:
3x World Champion (Mundials), and Second place at Mundials in 2000
American Gold Cup Champion, 2004
5x National Champion, Brazil
9x State Champion, Rio de Janeiro
Professional league. Closed the bracket with teammate Robson Moura
Team Nova Uniao Accomplishments
Team Nova Uniao has also produced several state, national and world champions, and many successful mixed martial arts fighters, including:
BJ Penn, UFC and BJJ World Champion (the first American Black Belt BJJ fighter to win at the Worlds)
Robson Moura, 7x Mundials World Champion
Jose Aldo, WEC World Champion and recent UFC Champion
Victor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, Strike Force fighter
Leonardo Santos, BJJ World Champion
Moving to Florida
After several years of hard work running his gym and competing, Marcelo developed an interest in moving to the United States. He had visited the states several times during seminars, and had enjoyed Southwest Florida. In October of 2006 Marcelo and his wife Aline moved to Naples.
While building his student base in Naples, Marcelo connected with former Carlson Gracie competitor and friend Ricardo Liborio, who himself was a World Champion in the Super Heavyweight division under Carlson Gracie. Liborio himself had made the move to Florida in 2002 and co-founded American Top Team
in Coconut Creek.
Marcelo’s students motivated him to compete at the World level again, and having the opportunity to train at ATT has proven valuable for Marcelo and helps him keep his game at a very high level. American Top Team is a home away from home for Marcelo, where his strong relationships with Liborio and students of all levels continues to expand his knowledge in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts.
Marcelo’s most recent accomplishment was winning the 2012 Masters and Seniors World Championships in Long Beach, CA. This makes Marcelo a three time world champion, and the only black belt champion in the area.