Rafael Mendes already made history at the 2015 Worlds, when he won his fifth gold medal in the featherweight division. No other athlete has so many titles in that division, historically one of the toughest weight classes in Jiu-Jitsu.
As he prepares for another run for the top of the podium in Long Beach, Rafa took some time to talk to GRACIEMAG.com about how he maintains his drive. Mendes also talked about his training program leading up to the big moment and the challenges he will have to face on June 4 and 5.
GRACIEMAG.COM: You are after your 6th world title in the featherweight division. This year, possible opponents include Gianni Grippo, Marcio Andre, Samir Chantre, Mario Reis and Cobrinha. Do they influence in any way your training program? How ready are you for the 2016 Worlds compared to previous years?
Rafael Mendes: Opponents never influence my way of training. My preparation is aimed at reaching my highest potential and correct all possible flaws in my game. I believe that each year that passes I am better than the year before and more experienced. Now it’s only a matter of doing everything right on the day of the competition.
GRACIEMAG.COM: You competed in two small events recently (San Antonio and Vegas). How important it is to do these trial runs before the Worlds?
Rafael Mendes: I got in those competitions to unload the adrenaline of training. I have been training hard since January and it comes to a point where you just want for the championship to come. I competed in San Antonio and Vegas to unload the energy and see how I felt.
GRACIEMAG.COM: After five world titles in the same division, what’s your motivation to keep competing? What are the challenges that keep the flame of going for another gold medal?
Rafael Mendes: When I started in Jiu-Jitsu as a kid, my parents had just split up and we were in a complicated place in my lives. I saw Jiu-Jitsu as a chance to reach my full potential and transform my life and the life of my family. I can say I did just that. I never had my own home or a car in Brazil. I moved to the USA with 22 years old and now I live in Newport Beach and I own my own business. My achievements in Jiu-Jitsu generated a source of income for myself, my family and other people around us. I am only 26 years old and I won a gold medal at the Worlds in all belts, I won the ADCC twice and I am a five-time world champion as a black belt. I no longer fight for results. What motivates me now is the desire to find out what is the highest level I can reach in this sport. I have found the balance between training, work and family, and that makes me happier than I have ever been.
Don’t forget to register for the 2016 World Jiu-Jitsu championship
The final deadline is today, May 24.
Click here to sign up now.
Coverage brought to you by GAMENESS.