‘Nobody is unbeatable’ – Pedro Marinho is ready to prove he deserves respect against Nicholas Meregali

WNO champion Pedro Marinho spoke to Grappling Insider about his upcoming gi match against Nicholas Meregali on May 18.

Current Who’s Number One (WNO) light-heavyweight champion Pedro Marinho has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

On May 18, at WNO in Oklahoma City, OK, the Gracie Barra representative will don the gi when he takes on multiple-time IBJJF world champion Nicholas Meregali in an intriguing, 15-minute submission-only matchup.

Competing among elite black belts since he was just a purple belt, Marinho has plenty of experience against the world’s best grapplers. After winning double-gold at the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi Worlds, Marinho says he had a “bad” year in 2022, losing to top competitors Gordon Ryan, Vagner Rocha, and Tye Ruotolo.

Despite those disappointments, the 26-year-old kicked off 2023 with a sterling performance against ADCC champion Giancarlo Bodoni, earning a clear-cut decision victory over him at WNO in February.

Marinho recently spoke to Grappling Insider about his win over Bodoni and previewed his match against Meregali.

Even though Marinho held a no-gi submission victory against Bodoni, he came into their February WNO showdown as the underdog:

“I know people talk a lot, but normally fans, they just go with the momentum… But if you look at my last match with Bodoni no-gi, I passed his guard, I took him down, I submitted him.  So I didn’t expect nothing different. I just was surprised that I didn’t submit him again… Everybody was coutning me out because of what he did at ADCC. But ADCC is one tournament… Your last result doesn’t matter for your next fight.”

After the match, a fired-up Marinho shouted “put some respect on my name!” He explained that, given his long record of success as the highest levels of jiu-jitsu, he deserved more recognition – and respect – as one of the best grapplers in the world:

“I feel sometimes people just go with the momentum. Yes, I didn’t have a great year in 2022. But man, it’s one year. I lost I think three or four fights, against Gordon, Tye Ruotolo, and Vagner. It was not my best year, yes, it was not, but you cannot just judge from the bad performances. Nobody else knows what’s going on behind. 

“In 2021 I win my world title, I beat like eight guys, two or three of them were at ADCC already, Cyborg [Abreu] was a world champ… People need to look more at the whole history, the whole picture. Not just like one point. I have been on top for five years, since purple belt. Since purple belt I have been fighting these guys… Nothing they bring to me is something different. I have faced the best of the best…

“I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of, so it was kind of like this. Put some respect, if not I’m gonna show you guys.”

While other competitors may have turned down Meregali, Marinho was quick to jump at the opportunity, knowing a victory over such an accomplished opponent would do wonders for his career:

“I want to be the best in the world, and the only way to be the best is to beat these guys… Meregali is here, you beat him, things get even better for you.”

Marinho believes that gi jiu-jitsu can be just as entertaining as no-gi. The key, he says, is for both competitors to be willing to take risks, particularly when one grappler is clearly losing the match:

“Sometimes I feel like I’m winning the match, and people expect that I’m winning, do crazy things to try and get the submission, and the other guy is doing nothing. I’m not talking nothing, but a good example is my last fight against Bodoni. He didn’t expose himself, even when he knew he was behind. And this I feel needs to change a little… I know Meregali is coming to get me, to submit me, and I’m coming for the same thing.”

Widely regarded as the world’s best male competitor in the gi, Meregali has few, if any weaknesses. But Marinho is confident he can spring the upset:

“I think he’s complete. There’s not that much things that I say ‘ah this hole here, this hole there,’ but I understand that nobody is unbeatable. He has lost in the past… He’s been submitted before… I feel like once I get where I want to be, I can get the job done. And I know where I want to be…

“The risk and reward for me is great, and I’m ready to take the reward.”

Ultimately, Marinho says that if he submits Meregali, he will have earned the status as the world’s best gi competitor:

“Beating Meregali is just one more step in going up. After I beat him, I finish him, who won’t say I’m the best gi fighter in the world? And that’s my goal, too.”

How to watch: WNO: Nicholas Meregali vs. Pedro Marinho takes place on Thursday, May 18, and will air live on FloGrappling (subscription required).

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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