Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu and Vagner Rocha of Fight Sports have addressed a number of claims regarding their interactions with Marcel Goncalves.
Goncalves was arrested on March 13, 2018, after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a sixteen-year-old girl, whom he had been coaching since she was ten years old. Florida law states that “a person 24 years of age or older who engages in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years of age commits a felony of the second degree.” The police report from the day of the arrest states that Goncalves “confessed to having sexual intercourse with [the alleged victim] and stated that he does not know what is wrong with him.”
Shortly after news broke of Goncalves’ arrest, Fight Sports owner Abreu, who gave Goncalves his black belt and is the godfather to his son, issued a statement about the situation:
“Sexual assault can never be tolerated. This week we learned of horrifying news about an individual who used to represent Fight Sports at one of our affiliate gyms. The actions of this individual do not reflect what I stand for and he will be held responsible for his actions. My heart breaks for the victim and her family. They know they have my full support. I ask that everyone give the victim and her family space and privacy, as they are going through something no one should ever have to experience.”
In June 2019, the Jiu-Jitsu Times was contacted about photos on Instagram (which are no longer visible on the app) that showed Abreu and his partner, fellow BJJ black belt Maggie Grindatti, spending time with Goncalves in a group setting.
When we reached out to Abreu for comment at the time, he replied, “…For real? Man, people have the tendency to be really nosey towards peoples life’s [sic], and it’s a shame. Anyways, My personal life is my business and I don’t think it needs to be shared. If someone comes to be personally because it’s effecting [sic] their lives for whatever reason I’ll address directly to them but I don’t think it’s something that needs to be publicized…”
In February 2021, the Jiu-Jitsu Times was sent screenshots from an Instagram story of Jasmine Rocha, the daughter of Vagner Rocha, that show Goncalves at Rocha’s academy.
When contacted by the Jiu-Jitsu Times after the images were made public by ADCC head organizer Mo Jassim, Rocha replied, “Marcel had sex with a 16-year-old minor and cheated on his wife in doing so. I do not nor have not supported any of these activities. I have opened up my doors to his wife and his son. His wife is close friends with my wife and a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Marcel never taught any classes at my academy or at any Fight Sports. He would occasionally pick up his son and wife at [the] gym. The two pictures of him in my gym were both during the first day of covid lock down. He was there helping me set up cameras for the first day of Zoom classes. The picture of him on the mat with the two children are his son and a relative.”
At the end of July 2021, Aaron “Tex” Johnson, who joined Fight Sports in late 2019 and has since left the affiliation, shared multiple posts on his Instagram story claiming that he’d been “kicked out” after yelling at Goncalves. The screenshots show another party claiming that Abreu had paid for Goncalves’ attorney and that Goncalves’ first lawyer was the owner of Nativo Açaí.
Public court documents show that Ronald J. Manto, who owns Nativo Açaí, was Goncalves’ first attorney, though he withdrew his representation of Goncalves later that year. The court docket mentions Goncalves’ financial situation at the time, stating that he was unemployed and lacked “sufficient financial resources to meet his substantial anticipated legal fees and costs incurred to meaningfully engage in discovery and try this case.”
The claim from the screenshot that Abreu had paid for Goncalves’ attorney has not been verified, and when reached for comment by the Jiu-Jitsu Times, Abreu stated that him paying for a lawyer for Goncalves “would never and has never happened.”
Goncalves was most recently represented by attorney Jerry Berry, whose website lists him as one of the top lawyers in Florida. Public court documents show that Berry motioned to withdraw his representation of Goncalves in June, with the Motion to Withdraw stating that Goncalves “insists upon taking action that the undersigned defense counsel considers imprudent and which defense counsel fundamentally disagrees with.”
The Jiu-Jitsu Times reached out to Johnson, who said that on February 8, he trained with Goncalves at Rocha’s academy and suffered an eye injury during their roll. “He poked me in the eye [during] a roll like really hard and deliberately I think. When it was brought to Cyborg’s attention Cyborg said that I would no longer be allowed at Vagner’s [and] Vagner said that would be the scenario and that Marcel was their family… both Cyborg and Vagner said this.”
Johnson says that he became aware of the charges against Goncalves after the injury, but that he’d never heard of him beforehand. He told the Jiu-Jitsu Times it was the second time he’d seen Goncalves in Rocha’s academy.
When reached for comment by the Jiu-Jitsu Times, Rocha addressed the altercation between Goncalves and Johnson. “Both Tex and Marcel are birds of the same feather, who both showed up at a closed-door training session during covid. That day I asked them both to never come back. And I haven’t seen either one of them since.”
The Jiu-Jitsu Times also spoke with Keith Rummel, who owned Fight Sports Naples at the time that Goncalves was coaching at the gym. Rummel, who is now the owner/operator of Evolution MMA Naples, claims that Abreu told him that he “had to give [Goncalves] $35k” in order to remain under the Fight Sports affiliation.
“I was there when the police came to the gym,” said Rummel. “Actually, one of my friends in town called me beforehand and said, ‘Keith, listen, police are coming to your studio. They’re there for Marcel. I can’t tell you what they’re doing or why they’re there, but I’m just letting you know they’re coming.’ So they came and arrested him, and while they were arresting him, he was saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’ And basically just admitting what he did.”
Rummel says that Abreu asked to meet with him following Goncalves’ arrest. “[Abreu] came to Naples and we met once at Panera Bread, and also I went down to Fight Sports Miami HQ and had a meeting with him. And he basically asked me if I wanted to stay Fight Sports, or if I wanted that Fight Sports still be a possibility in Naples. And I told him that yes, and the reason I originally wanted to stay a part of Fight Sports is because I don’t believe an entire team should be damned or condemned by one man’s actions, meaning Marcel’s, you know what I mean?
“So in my mind, Fight Sports as a whole was still my team. I still wanted to be a part of it. And I wasn’t going to let what Marcel did break up years of loyalty and camaraderie and flying the Fight Sports flag. So that’s what I thought. And I told Cyborg that. He seemed very receptive, he seemed very open to it, seemed like he was happy about it, and then basically Cyborg told me that I had to give Marcel $35,000 in order to be allowed to be a part of Fight Sports. And if I didn’t give Marcel $35,000 for him and his family, then I’d be kicked off the team. That’s exactly what he told me. So there’s no way I was going to do that, obviously.
“And to be honest with you, it had nothing to do with the money,” Rummel added. “I wouldn’t’ve given him two dollars. This guy just sexually assaulted a minor, a student, someone he’s been teaching since she was ten years old and completely took advantage of this little girl, and you think I’m going to give him money? Like, no way, I’m not giving him anything. There’s no coming back from that, and if you think that I owe him something after what he did, then I don’t need to be associated with Cyborg either. I said I’m not damning Fight Sports. There’s a lot of really good people I know that are on that team still. There’s just a direct issue with Marcel, obviously, and Cyborg, obviously. So that was why we parted ways. He demanded that I give Marcel $35,000. And I said, ‘No way.’”
When reached for comment, Abreu said, “It’s very unfortunate to have to be speaking on behalf of this topic once again. Marcel was one of my black belts out of around 150 and yes they represent my name and carry my flag but I am not in control of any of their actions. Being in the position I am in as well as others in our sport can relate, that when one of ours messes up, yes we have to take heat for it and I understand that when I stepped into being a position of a leader but peoples bad choices are not mine and they do not represent who I am or what my Team represents. What Marcel did was terrible and not acceptable and he suffers from it, it changed his whole life, and he will pay for it regardless.
“The situation with Keith, the man who was Marcel’s partner at the gym, was strictly business and what I believed to be right. The $35k was what would be Marcel’s share of the gym. Marcel has a family, which his son is my god son and their main source of income at the time was the gym. What happened wasn’t their fault, they did not deserve to suffer more because of it. He deserves, as does his mom, to live a full life. What I wanted to happen was Keith to buy out Marcel’s share of the gym to be able to provide Marcel’s wife and my god son with some sort of financial security until they were able to figure out what they were going to do.
“Unfortunately Marcel and Keith did not have any written agreement so legally there was nothing that could be done and because I believe that is what would be the right thing to do, I told Keith I did not want to do business with him if he did not think buying Marcel’s share rather than taking it over, to support Marcel’s family, not Marcel, this was always about Marcel’s wife and son being okay, and we did not agree on this so he was no longer Fight Sports and took a different name.
“That is what the situation was, before that I believe Keith and I had a fine relationship and I enjoyed watching the success the gym had.”
Rummel, however, denies that Goncalves was a part-owner of the gym, calling the claim “completely false.”
“Marcel never invested a dollar to get the gym started,” Rummel told the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “He never invested a second of his time. He was paid from the very first day he stepped foot in Fight Sports Naples and he never invested a dollar of his own money. He was never an owner. He doesn’t know what it is to be an owner. He doesn’t know what it is to act like an owner. He was basically given everything from the second he came to this country, and this is what he did with it. And that’s the truth.”
The alleged victim’s father shared his own thoughts on his daughter’s relationship with Fight Sports: “For years I watched a child wear their patch with complete conviction and passion. Then, watching the creators and leaders of this team completely forget about her… it became a heartbreaking chain of events.”
Goncalves, for his part, filed a “Notice to Rely on Insanity Defense” at the end of last year. In May of this year, public records show that the State of Florida filed a motion to strike the notice on the grounds that the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that Goncalves claimed to be suffering from was not a “mental infirmity, disease, or defect.” A hearing for the motion has yet to take place.
The Jiu-Jitsu Times will continue to provide updates on this story as they become available.