2009 light featherweight world champion Guilherme Mendes hopes to repeat the feat in this year in California. As motivation the fighter comes off a win at the European Championship, second place at the Worlds Pro (where he faced his brother Rafael in the final) and the Brazilian National title. For his next challenge, the word ringing in his head and repeated several times during this interview is “win.”
How do you feel about your campaign at the Brazilian Nationals?
I feel I fought well, imposed my game and am champion because of it. I fought good opponents and managed to execute what I’ve been doing in training. I felt really solid physically and technically, so I’m at a great stage. I’ve been competing in everything and seeing good results, and that makes me confident and at in good stead to win at the Worlds.
Carlos Esquisito and Caio Terra, among others, should be signed up for the Worlds. Have you been studying those guys?
The division will surely be full of great athletes and that motivates me even more to become champion. I’ve fought most of the athletes in the division and have also studied a lot of positions. But the thing is to be well trained so as to be able to do everything and, thank God, I’ve been doing everything just right. I’m going to compete with the aim of being champion, of developing what I train and not get taken by surprise. I’m not thinking of any one adversary in particular. What matters is winning the championship. I’m not like others who are content to try and beat the champion. I’m content when I’ve completed the mission.
At black belt mistakes are even more fatal” Guilherme Mendes
You took a little while getting settled in at black belt. Did that get you down?
At no moment was I down, if just because I don’t feel I took long. Truth is, I feel I learned from some losses and that helped me to settle in quickly, since I won the Worlds my first year as a black belt. But I’ve been working more and more on evolving and getting better and better. There are things I need to correct and I’m far from where I want to be.
What’s the hardest part for you as a black belt in relation to other belts?
I feel there are several difficulties. It’s really different from the other belts, as the match duration is longer, you compete against more experienced opponents, the matches are harder and the mistakes you make are even more deadly. But if you come up from brown belt and are in competition rhythm training a lot with the support of a team, the adaptation process is quick. I believe the big secret to winning is summed up in training, focus and determination.
Do you feel the light featherweight division is now your division?
For the time being, yes. I think next year I’ll compete as a featherweight with Rafael, but I need to see about that with the team. I’ll go wherever they put me. I’m concerned with training and doing well, but at the moment it’s better for the team to have me at light featherweight, if just because Rafael is doing an excellent job at featherweight, winning everything.
You keep an exhausting training and competition routine… Does it ever happen that this routine wears you out, makes you want to slow things down?
It really is an exhausting routine, but the results the team has been coming up with mean we’re on the right track. And for everything to keep going well, we need to keep up the same intensity in our work at the academy. We have a very tightly-knit team that keeps us determined, regardless of the circumstances. And once this Worlds is out of the way, we’re going to take some time off and teach some seminars. We’ll demonstrate the experience we’ve acquired in training and competition in academies in the USA and Canada.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank those who left positive messages on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000313479380). We’re really happy about the recognition; it fuels us with even more motivation to train and compete even more. Thank you everyone!