Kingz Athlete Spotlight: Melissa Cueto
Jiu-jitsu fans in Brazil have long known Melissa Stricker Cueto’s name. Just in the last four years, Melissa has really make a name for herself on the international stage… and she’s just getting started, with her sights set on some serious gold.
The 32-year-old Brazilian from Pelotas, a city in the far south of Brazil, was a born athlete. Having practiced several different sports growing up, she settled on taekwondo in her teens, before finding Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 17.
From white to brown, Melissa had stand-out performances in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation tournaments in Brazil. During her purple belt years alone, she became a two-time South American champion, a two-time South Brazilian Champion, and two-time silver medalist at the Brasileiros. She hit another gear during her brown belt year. She took home the gold at both the Brasileiros and the World Championships, after which she was later promoted to black belt in December 2018 by her then coach, Leonardo Morosetti.
After joining Diego Unfer academy, Melissa’s freshman year at black belt saw some notable wins, including against Luanna Alzuguir and Maria Malyjasiak at the 2019 IBJJF Worlds. But it was in 2021, after joining the Alliance team, that she really began to shine. She won her first IBJJF World Championship at black belt, in an incredibly stacked women’s heavyweight division, then in 2022 went on to win the Heavyweight division at the IBJJF Pans.
With her aggressive spider guard, ultra-technical sweeping game, and submission-hunting style, the Alliance athlete doesn’t fail to deliver exciting matches to her fans.
We caught up with Melissa to talk about who she is, her jiu-jitsu journey so far, and what she has her sights on for the future. Read on…
How long have you been training and how did you start?
I have been training for 15 years. I always liked fights and the first fight I did was in taekwondo; before I started jiu-jitsu, it was the style that I practiced. I was passing in front of a jiu-jitsu academy and I decided to go in and see what it was like. And after that, I stopped taekwondo and never gave up jiu-jitsu.
Eu treino há 15 anos. Sempre gostei de lutas e a primeira luta que fiz foi taekwondo, inclusive na época em que iniciei jiu-jitsu, era a modalidade que eu praticava. Estava passando na frente da academia de jiu jitsu e resolvi entrar e ver como era e depois disso, cancelei o taekwondo e nunca mais larguei o jiu-jitsu.
What are your goals for the year?
Unfortunately, I had a lot of plans for the year but I was injured before Worlds. Now my main objective is to heal and be 100% ready for Worlds next year. If possible, I intend to compete in the World Masters in the coming months, but the main objective is to be 100% ready for next year’s Worlds. I want to be Open Class champion in 2023.
Infelizmente eu estava com muitos planos para o ano e tive uma lesão, agora meu principal objetivo para é me curar e estar 100% para o mundial do ano que vem. Se for possivel pretendo lutar o mundial de master nos proximos meses mas o principal objetivo é realmente ficar 100% para o mundial do ano que vem. Quero ser campeã absoluto 2023.
What has been your greatest accomplishment and why?
My greatest achievement was being black belt champion at Worlds. It was something that since I started in jiu-jitsu was a goal, and achieving that confirmed what I had always known I could do, in addition to being the result of many years of work.
Acho que minha maior realização foi ser campeã mundial na faixa preta. Era algo que desde que iniciei o jiu-jitsu eu tinha como um objetivo e conseguir isso significou uma confirmação de que eu sempre estive certa de acreditar que conseguiria, além de claro, ser fruto de um trabalho de muitos anos.
What do you want your legacy to be?
In the future, I want to have my own academy and contribute to the development of good people. That jiu-jitsu can be a tool of transformation in their lives and create many champions.
Eu quero futuramente ter minha academia e contribuir para a formação de pessoas boas. Que o jiu-jitsu possa ser uma ferramenta de transformação na vida delas e formar muitos campeoes mundiais.
Who is your role model?
I'm a fan of many athletes, but there's one in particular that I identify with and admire a lot: Leandro Lo.
Eu sou fã de muitos atletas mas tem um em especifico que eu me identifico e admiro demais, o Leandro lo.
What is your favorite quote and why?
My favorite line is from a song I always listen to before fights. Part of it goes like this: "We never give up on what we want, that's why God exists so that we always have faith. And never give up on your goal and be calm at this hour and let it happen naturally or it's going to get ugly.”
Na verdade nao è uma citaçao, mas uma musica que eu sempre escuto antes das lutas. Uma parte dela diz assim: “A gente nunca desistir do que a gente quer, è pra isso que deus existe pra que a gente tenha fé sempre. E nunca desista do seu objetivo e muita calma nessa hora e deixa acontecer naturalmente que o bicho vai pegar.”
What advice do you give to those who look up to you?
I would tell them to never give up on their goals, whether in or out of jiu-jitsu. I have always lived in the countryside of Brazil, and many times I had doubts if I would make it. But even so, I did not stop believing and did what I could with what I had at that moment. If you are able to work hard for it, you can be sure that the goal will be achieved.
Eu diria que eles nunca desistam dos objetivos, seja dentro ou fora do jiu-jitsu. Eu vim do interior e por muitas vezes tive duvidas se seria capaz. Mas mesmo assim nao dexei de acreditar e fiz tudo que eu podia com o que eu tinha naquele momento. Se tu acredita que è capaz e trabalha duro pra isso, pode ter certeza que o objetivo vai ser alcançado, nao tem como dar errado.
What does being a Kingz sponsored athlete mean to you?
I am very grateful to be a Kingz athlete. Currently it is the biggest fightwear brand, and besides that, it really values the athletes' work. The products are beautiful, comfortable and of good quality. Being a Kingz athlete is part of everything I've always wanted. I'm very satisfied with this partnership.
Eu sou muito grata por ser atleta Kingz. Atualmente é a maior marca de fightwear e alem disso valoriza demais o trabalho dos atletas, alem de claro, os produtos serem lindos, confortaveis e de qualidade. Ser uma atleta Kingz faz parte de tudo que um dia eu sempre quis. Sou muito realizada com essa parceria.