I was able to catch-up with standout Sengoku featherweight Marlon Sandro for a quick interview.
16-1 Sandro burst onto the scene in last year's Sengoku Featherweight Gran Prix. Along with Hatsu Hioki, Sandro was considered one of the favorites to win the tournament; a prediction that was hard to refute after Sandro crushed his first two opponents. Sandro then advanced to a match with a rejuvenated Michihiro Omigawa, and ended up losing a razor-thin split decision in a fight that many believed Sandro should've won. The outcome was increasingly controversial due to the fact that one of the judges on the panel was Omigawa's coach.
Sandro returned to the Sengoku ring a determined man, and once again quickly dispatched both of his opponents in the first round. After Sandro's last fight at Sengoku 12, Masanori Kanehara, the winner of the 2009 Sengoku Gran Prix, took the center of the ring and announced an official challenge to Marlon Sandro. Sandro and Sengoku were both in agreement, so the fight has been scheduled for June 20th, and the Sengoku Featherweight Championship will be on the line.
Marlon discusses the controversial loss to Omigawa, how he felt about being challenged by the champion, his training at the legendary Nova Uniao academy to prepare for Kanehara, and his certainty that his friend and training partner, Amilcar Alves, will become the champion of the Shine Fights promotion.
"Gratíssimo" for doing this interview with The Garv.com. The world first became familiar with you when you appeared in the Sengoku featherweight Gran Prix last year. You began the tournament strong by finishing your first two opponents, Matt Jaggers and Nick Denis, very convincingly in the first round. What emotions were you feeling after your training paid-off and you performed so well?
MS: "I´m very happy because my training was very hard, so my fight was perfect."
After you defeated your first two opponents, and also had a chance to watch all of the other featherweight competitors fight, were you confident that you were going to win the Gran Prix?
MS: "Of course, I was confident. I never imagined that this would happen in my fight. I never want to leave the decisions in the hands of the judges."
Your loss to Omigawa was very controversial, and many feel that you should've won the fight. How much do you think the decision for Omigawa was influenced by the scoring of the judge Ioshida, whom Omigawa is a student of?
MS: "I´m certain this fact was an influence. That result can happen anywhere in the world that allows someone to be a judge in an organization who stays close to the fighter as a coach."
You spoke to TATAME after this loss and openly expressed your frustration at losing the decision to Omigawa. You even went so far as to mention that you were unsure about continuing to fight in Sengoku, and that you might be interested in fighting in America (link). Were you worried that Sengoku officials would be upset if they were to read your critical comments?
MS: "I wasn´t worried at all. In the same way that I train hard, I hope they are getting better on their judgments."
Did the promotion have anything to say to you about your disappointment with the fight and the questionable decision?
MS: "They didn´t say anything."
Do you still have the desire to fight in America someday in the future?
MS: "Yes, I do. One of my dreams is to fight in the United States, but the right opportunity has not arrived yet."
On a related topic, one of the other featherweights from the Sengoku Gran Prix, Chan Sung Jung, has just signed a contract with the WEC, where he will join your teammate Jose Aldo in the 145 pound division. What do you think of Chan Sung Jung as a fighter, and how do you think he will perform in the WEC?
MS: "He is a great fighter. He has a lot of good skills, so he has a big chance to win fights. The only one he will not be able to beat is Jose Aldo."
Speaking of Jose Aldo, you train with him at the respected Nova Uniao camp, along with other phenomenal fighters like Wagnney Fabiano, Thales Leites, and Ronys Torres, all under the tutelage of the great Andre Pederneiras. How much do you think it has helped your career to have such great training partners and such a legendary teacher?
MS: "Training winth Andre Pederneiras is an honor; having such great training helps me to keep fighting at a high level."
The Garv has been promoting another of your training partners, Amilcar Alves, who I also understand is a good friend of yours. Tell me about your relationship with Amilcar? Would you say he is your main training partner?
MS: "I see him as a son. He is one of the main training partners. In our team, everyone has his value depending on the fight. We are united as one."
Having trained with Amilcar extensively, how well do you think he will perform when he comes to America to compete in Shine Fights?
MS: "Nowadays our team trains the stand-up and the ground game. I´m sure that he will be the Shine champion."
One of your most deadly weapons has been your uppercut, which you used to destroy both Tomonari Kanomata and Nick Denis. Why do you think this punch works so well for you?
MS: "I have been practicing this punch for a long time, so I feel confident to use it when I fight standing up."
After your last match, you were challenged by the champion Kanehara. Usually, it's the champion who is challenged, not the other way around. Did you take this as a big compliment, as if he respects you as the top contender despite losing to Omigawa?
MS: "Yes, it means that I´m a huge threat to everybody in my division. At the same time, I feel honored to be challenged by the champion. It means that I´m doing a good job in the event. I am not worried about my loss to Omigawa because I still feel that I won that fight."
Kanehara is very tall for featherweight, and has a long reach advantage that he uses very well. Are you doing anything in particular to train for this advantage, or changing your training at all to prepare for him?
MS: "No, my team has fighters with reach longer than mine, so I´m used to it. Guys like Amilcar, Leonardo Santos, Luiz "Beição" Ramos, and Hernani Perpetuo are examples of that."
Kanehara is a well-rounded and constantly improving fighter who is difficult to finish. How do you predict your fight with him will unfold, and do you think you will be able to finish him?
MS: "I hope we will put on a great fight, only God knows who will win."
Do you have any closing comments or messages to the fans?
MS: "I would like to thank all my fans around the world for the support. I´m very happy because I have just found that I also have many fans in the U.S.A.! God bless everyone!"