The brothers Rafael and Guilherme Mendes are training hard as ever to defend their Jiu-Jitsu World Championship featherweight and light featherweight titles, respectively.
GRACIEMAG.com had a chat with the pair. If you haven’t secured your spot at the World Championship, already counting over 2,200 athletes, the deadline is midnight tonight California time. Register for the competition here.
Rafael, will we finally get to see you in the absolute division at the World Championship this year?
No, I won’t be doing the absolute this year. My focus is on winning my division, and even though I know I ‘d do well in the absolute, there’s a chance of getting hurt or even wearing out against the heavier athletes, in which case I wouldn’t perform as well the next day. André, Calasans, Ramon Lemos and the rest of the gang are always asking me to join the mix, saying I have a chance, but I don’t feel it’s time yet. I want to be 100% when I fight in my division, to hold on to the featherweight world title. For the time being that’s my focus. I do want to do the absolute at the Worlds some day. I’ve got time to do that, but unfortunately this won’t be the year.
Gui, both you and your brother are two-time world champions. Are the two of you at all in competition with each other?
We only compete against each other in training, and it’s like being in a World Championship final. We don’t go easy or slow against each other—one tries catching the other, and we count advantage points! (Laughs) But aside from that there’s no competition between us whatsoever. We’re always training together and trying to correct each other. One time an instructor told us: “Always stay together. Separate you guys are good, together you’re brilliant.” I feel Rafa’s been doing a great job and has shown it in competition, winning everything, breaking records, and he deserves it all. I’ve trained with athletes at different academies, big-time champions, and I guarantee I’ve never seen anyone with the same focus and drive that he has. I’m truly happy with every one of his conquests; he deserves it!
Let’s take a look back at the Pan, the GRACIEMAG coverage of which has drawn accolades. How did the title and outstanding final against Rubens Cobrinha affect you, Rafa? After that armbar, a lot of folks started pointing to you as being the greatest pound-for-pound Gi Jiu-Jitsu fighter around…
I’m honored to be addressed in such a way. It makes me extremely happy and proud. But that doesn’t affect my personality or the way I am; I’m still the same as when I started out in Jiu-Jitsu, training with the same objective—winning. I never let winning go to my head. I’ll always remember my performance at that event. It’s unforgettable to me, but my focus is already on something else: now I want a third world title! I’m training to carry on at the same pace, but my training is always geared towards the future.
Gui, how did losing at the Pan change you as an athlete?
I’ve been working a lot on evolving ever since I first started training. I want to be a complete athletes, feel comfortable in whatever fight situation I happen to be in. That’s why I practice takedowns, guard passes, sweeps, submissions. I don’t want to be the kind of athlete who pulls guard and lies there for ten minutes waiting for the other guy to get up. Every time we come back from competition, whatever the result may be, we study what happened.
I always watch the matches with the aim of learning, spotting mistakes; I analyze everything I could have done, everything I did during the tournament. I know I’m getting better with every year. I want to be the best I can be, and the results will come as a consequence of that. Winning and losing are part of the life of an athlete. Getting things right and wrong are part of human life. Of course I don’t want to lose. I hate the feeling, and I train to be first place. And I want to fight for my third world title at black belt as though it were my first.
The two of you are on the cusp of a new phase in your lives, which begins right after the Worlds. Does dividing your time between training and having a new academy get in the way of your concentrating on competing in Long Beach?
Thank God we have marvelous people on our side. Throughout our entire training for the Pan and Worlds we had people helping out so we could focus solely on the competitions. We’re the same as we were at blue belt; we arrive at the academy at nine in the morning and only leave at nine at night. We spend the entire day just training and getting prepared. We’re ready for the Worlds!
We want to thank the gang in San Diego, André and Angélica Galvão and also all the students, for the training. We like training in places where we feel good, with good people who share the same objectives as we have. Everybody who was with us training in San Diego was essential in our preparations. We’ll be inaugurating our new academy on June 4, just after the Worlds—we’ll be holding a free seminar with a bunch of Atos black belts, food and music to celebrate! The academy is getting beautiful and huge, with two massive mats, fully equipped dressing rooms and a laundry system for the students. It’s located in Costa Mesa, California.
Everyone, regardless what team they belong to, is invited to the inauguration. They just have to contact us via our site www.mendesbros.com and get filled in on the details.