Atlanta, GA — Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Nunes punched his way into the league’s post-season quite literally at PFL 5 in Atlanta this past Friday.
Nunes (10-2) might be best known for his jiu-jitsu skills, with plenty of submission victories among his ten wins as a professional. But it was his hands that got the job done at the Overtime Elite Arena, stopping UFC vet Danilo Marques in the opening round.
“When I first started training to fight in MMA, I actually had a black belt in jiu-jitsu at the time already, and I did like seven amateur kickboxing fights to try to get ready to feel comfortable with striking,” Nunes told media outlets including Cageside Press following the fight. “And I actually became a pretty good striker, 7-0 as a kickboxer.”
Maybe, with that in mind, Friday’s action shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But for a time, Nunes noted, he did fall back on his submission prowess.
“Most of my victories before, I started striking, I never tried to take anybody down. I was doing very good on my feet. But after taking my first loss, I took a little bit of a break from MMA. Four and a half years, I stopped striking, stopped kicking, stopped everything, just doing jiu-jitsu all the time.”
That time off came following a loss to Rafael Lovato Jr. under the Legacy FC banner in 2016. Lovato would go on to win the Bellator MMA middleweight championship before a health scare forced him to retire (he returned to action for a one-off fight late last year). Nunes, meanwhile, returned to fighting in 2020 under the Cage Fury FC banner, eventually making his way to the PFL.
“It feels like I got a little bit rusty with my striking. I didn’t have enough time to go back and fight in MMA and let my striking go and feel comfortable to throw yet,” Nunes continued. “That’s why I relied where I’m good, in jiu-jitsu, and that’s why I stopped striking a little bit in my other fights.”
Coming off a stoppage loss to Maurice Greene in Las Vegas this past April, Marcelo Nunes was a heavy underdog against Marques on Friday.
“I feel like an underdog in this fight, because my last fight I had a very bad performance,” said Nunes. He also admitted that he put a lot of pressure on himself ahead of his first fight of the season, given it was in Las Vegas, where he now lives, and where all his students in BJJ would be watching. “I feel like I preformed very bad, I got stopped very quick in that fight. After three minutes, I’m dead tired. I went back to the training camp, training and see what I did wrong, and tried to stay more relaxed this time.”
Watch the full 2023 PFL 5 post-fight press conference appearance by Marcelo Nunes above.