The lightest weight class kicks off the series of analyses on the different divisions to feature at ADCC 2011. It was once dominated by Royler Gracie, the three-time champion of the weight group. Then there was Léo Vieira’s reign, winning both in 2003 and 2005. Rani Yahya took gold in 2007, and Rafael Mendes cemented his rise to the top of the Jiu-Jitsu ranks by winning it in 2009, overcoming Cobrinha in the final.
Two years have gone by now but a glimpse at the 16 signed up for the 2011 installment, to take place on the coming 24th and 25th in Nottingham, England, still indicates that Rafael Mendes still remains the firm favorite.
Rubens Charles “Cobrinha”, Robson Moura, Rani Yahya, Jeff Glover and Justin Rader look to have the greatest chances of toppling the Atos prodigy, but Rafael’s most recent performances have made it clear that they’ll have their work cut out for them. Since September of 2009, the São Paulo native has won the World Championship and the European Open twice, the Pan-American, the Brazilian Nationals, and the World Pro. His only loss came at the hands of Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes at the 2011 World Pro, in an evenly-matched contest with a controversial outcome.
Robson Moura, with all the experience that comes with winning five Jiu-Jitsu World Championships, admits: “Rafael has some advantages over the rest, being younger and having competed a great deal in recent times.” Robson says there’s a caveat, though: “I trained to face everyone, not just Rafael.”
And so what does the big favorite think about the challenges he has ahead of him in notching his second title? In an exclusive interview with the GRACIEMAG at the ADCC blog Rafael addresses his adversaries, training, looks back on 2009, and guarantees he’s still far from making his MMA debut.