Featherweight Marlon Sandro wants to dominate stateside. | Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com


The former featherweight champion of both Sengoku Raiden Championship and Pancrase, Brazilian Marlon Sandro makes his stateside debut Saturday in the opening round of Bellator Fighting Championships' Summer Series featherweight tournament in an uncommon situation: after a loss.

The 34-year-old Sandro was defeated for just the second time in his seven-year-long career this past December, as he lost the Sengoku 145-pound title to Japanese standout Hatsu Hioki in a thrilling five-round fight. Now, six months after Sandro's last defeat, a fellow Brazilian and Rio de Janeiro native will look to keep him out of the win column.

In the quarterfinals of the featherweight tournament Saturday night in Hollywood, Fla., Sandro will take on Renovacao Fight Team product Genair da Silva, better known as "Junior PQD." A winner of four straight, da Silva is a well-rounded and dynamic talent but has yet to fight in MMA outside of Brazil and lacks the big-fight experience of Sandro, who has spent half of his career in the rings of Japan.

“It's gonna be a tough fight against a guy who isn't a newcomer," Sandro told Sherdog.com. “I believe that being more experienced is relevant, yes, but it won't matter in the cage if you don't get in there well-prepared. Sometimes, you see guys with a lot of experience being defeated by younger fighters who are more prepared. Everything depends on your training, your head. It doesn't matter how many fights you've had; you have to be in shape to be considered the best."

Sandro is not new to that pursuit of greatness. Rising from the Santo Amaro favela in the slums of Rio, Sandro burst into the minds of MMA fans with brutal knockouts of Nick Denis, Tomonari Kanomata and Masanori Kanehara. Those fights lasted 19, nine and 38 seconds and required opponents to leave the ring on stretchers. Having used his spectacular power to reign in Japan, Sandro's focus is to now use it to fight in the United States and continue to evolve his game and prove his worth at 145 pounds, just as he did in Nippon.

“I don't want only to win the fights. I want to do the same as I did in Japan, to have good fights, give the crowd a show, so they will cheer for me," Sandro explained. "You need to win and convince; giving a spectacle is what you have got to have in mind. If I can do this -- and I will -- I'm sure Bellator will always want me on their lineups, and I will challenge for the title."

The first step toward that goal for Sandro is "Junior PQD." However, the fact that Sandro will have to take out a countryman -- a man that trains not far from him, from another impoverished slum just like him -- weights on his mind.

“Yeah, it's always awkward [to face a countryman outside Brazil]. We both are looking for a spot in this great promotion, but we've got to be professional," said Sandro.

However, even if Sandro sees da Silva as a foe, he sees something much larger in his adversary that gives them both the chance to align their talents for something larger than just MMA.

"We'll prove the favelas' power; we'll show that the poor communities have a lot of talent and good people. Fruit like him, like me and like many others who are only waiting for an opportunity to grow in life," Sandro said. "I'm motivated to show the talent of the favela's people with him."

Sandro already paved one road from the slums of Rio to championship gold in Japan. Starting on Saturday in Florida, Bellator's Summer Series will give him the chance to start constructing a path to glory in the United States.

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