For Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, this Jiu-Jitsu World Championship won’t be like the others. First, because this IBJJF Championship to be held in Long Beach from May 29 to June 2, will be his first Worlds after surgery in which he needed to put four screws in his neck, due to an injury during a training session in 2011.
And also, because it may be the last Worlds for this beast. “After this Worlds, I’ll only focus on MMA, whether I win or lose in Long Beach,” he announces.
Tanquinho will need to have a perfect day to get to the top of the featherweight division, which this year already confirmed an army consisting of Rafael Mendes, Rubens Cobrinha, Mario Reis, Theodoro Canal and the eternal Wellington Megaton, Tanquinho’s father-in-law.
The Soul Fighter’s professor, however, has a secret weapon that other competitors do not have: the assistance of the explosive UFC champion Ben Henderson. Tanquinho chatted with GRACIEMAG, check it out:
GRACIEMAG: How’s your head 15 days from the start of the World Championship?
AUGUSTO TANQUINHO: As strong as it can be. I fought several competitions after the surgery and I feel I’m doing well for someone who one year and half ago placed a titanium plate and four screws in the neck. All I had been through pre and post-surgery and in training was thinking about fighting this Worlds. So I used the prior events to correct errors and improve my pace, and I’ll get to this Worlds in the best shape of my life. I am very focused and training hard to become the champion. I believe 100% that my strongest aspect in Long Beach will be my mind.
You took third at Pan Ams in April. What have you changed to win the Worlds?
I haven’t changed much. The level is very high today and during Pans I lost against (Rubens) Cobrinha by advantages–he was better that day. The same way that I was better than him in Abu Dhabi. So I followed the plans, I kept training and let the mind be strong. There is no mystery: who makes less mistakes will be the champion in Long Beach.
Are you focusing on any technical details to shine at the Pyramid?
I’m always improving technical details; I pay much attention to all opponents. I try to train to be a complete fighter. If I need to play on top, I do it, if I need to pull guard, I do it, if I need to fight standing up, I also do it. And when training to be complete in Jiu-Jitsu, there are always details to correct.
How’s your camp for the tournament?
I’m doing physical training with Jerret Aki, from MMALab, and training Jiu-Jitsu thoroughly with Megaton Dias, Mackenzie (Dern, girlfriend) and their gang. I’m also training MMA and no-gi at the gym with Ben Henderson, Efrain Escudero and several others. I’m training to get there as a highly skilled athlete. Fans can expect a much focused Tanquinho, with my guard and passing sharp. My plan is that this will be my last Worlds for now, then I’ll take a break and devote myself exclusively to MMA – whether winning it or not. So I really want the title and I’m going for it, always fighting smart and finishing the fights when I’m able to do so.
How do you plan to surprise Rafa Mendes, the triple world champion who has dominated the feather division?
Rafael is a great athlete, he is the champion. I see him as a perfectionist in Jiu-Jitsu. But surely he also has flaws and should be training to correct them. I don’t know if we will face each other at the Worlds. I have to go through a lot of people and so does he. If the time comes to face each other again, I’ll be ready for him. The category is very difficult, no fight will be easy. The World Championship in the black belt, in all categories, is very tough. It’s in God’s hands (laughs)!
Tanquinho, what lesson can you teach our readers so they can have a good Jiu-Jitsu base?
Jiu-Jitsu is training, as simple as that. Train hard and it will help. Second, train like you intend to fight, so try not to accept sweeps and takedowns easily. If you are used to accepting these positions in training, you end up accepting them in a fight. Third but not least: work out the legs, strong legs are an important aspect for a good base.