Mendes celebrates “topping his division” and explains tactics

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Black belt Rafael Mendes, 20, had already won nearly all the major Jiu-Jitsu championships. There was one missing, though, the main one.

Here the phenomenon from Ramon Lemos’s Atos comments on his triumph over four-time world champion Rubens Cobrinha in the featherweight division of the 2010 Worlds last Sunday in Long Beach.

The final against Cobrinha
I had a strategy, and I stuck to it from start to finish so as to win. The match was an exchange of sweeps and submission attempts. You can’t make mistakes in the final of a World Championship, since this win was too precious to me; it’s my consecration, my personal and professional fulfillment, my goal, focus and dream. So, at a Worlds where there are only the most well trained athletes and the same focus as you, you can leave no openings – and I believe it’s fundamental to lay out a strategy, lay out a winning game plan and stick to it to avoid unforeseen events.

Free-flowing fighting
I saw on the GRACIEMAG Blog how Gurgel said that if I fought a free-flowing match against Cobrinha, I’d lose. I respect him a lot; Gurgel’s a great teacher, is one of the best team leaders out there for sure, but in my opinion he didn’t give me my due recognition. Every time I beat Cobrinha they found a ‘reason,’ came up with some excuse, never recognizing that I was better. Once the reason was the 50/50 guard, another time it was because the match only lasted six minutes, and that he would have submitted me had it lasted ten… It was this, it was that…

I feel that, if I beat Cobrinha, I didn’t discredit him, nor is he ‘worse’ because of it. He’s brilliant and a role model to a lot of athletes, including myself. But I don’t think it’s right that they make statements diminishing my merit. I train all day; my life is dedicated to it.”

Never has a match between me and Cobrinha ended 0 to 0” Rafa Mendes

The controversial guard
Of course Fabio has the right to think that way and say what he thinks. But if it’s just one position that’s responsible for Cobrinha’s defeat, all his opponents would use it and beat him. That’s not what makes the difference, and Fabio as a great teacher knows it. It was not one position that handed me my victory, if just because I didn’t stall. Indeed, never has a match between me and Cobrinha ended 0 to 0. He’s a quick and skillful athlete; if I were to let him move freely, he’d surely feel right at home and let his game go. It’s a fight; I need to neutralize my adversary’s strengths, so I don’t let him move as he wants to. That’s just an obvious part of how you go about winning.”

Rafa and Cobra in a tangle in Worlds 2009 semifinal. Photo: Ivan Trindade

The march to his unprecedented gold medal
I got the submission in both my matches on Saturday: one from back mount and the other an armbar. On Sunday I beat Ryan Hall on points, managed to submit Denílson Pimenta and beat Cobrinha in the final on advantage points. It was fantastic; all the best in the division were there and I won. The Worlds just keeps getting harder and with more and more great athletes, but I was confident and full of desire to win. Thank God, with a lot of training, faith and dedication I managed to make it to the top of the division – I won the ADCC, European Championship, Brazilian Nationals, World Pro in Abu Dhabi and now the World Championship, but I see it as just a beginning, if just because I’m only 20 and I have a lot more competing to do, so I’ll need to keep it up a long time, and that’s no easy task, but I’ll train a lot to do so. I’m going to dedicate myself a lot; that I promise.

Seminars in the USA and Canada
I’m so happy, but I’m taking the chance to rest a lot now. I’ll be back in training soon. I’m going to spend a month and a few days away from home. Guilherme and I will hold some seminars that we’d already scheduled here in the USA. I’m going to San Diego, New Jersey and Washington, then to Toronto, Canada, then we’ll head home to see our family and train. In August we have seminars scheduled in Guam. Once the seminars are out of the way I’ll get back to training with the upcoming championships in mind.

Brother’s light featherweight loss
Guilherme was sad about it. He made a mistake (against Paulo Melo in the round of eight) and that compromised his title run, but he has a good head on his shoulders and knows that one championship doesn’t mean he’s any worse. He’s been winning everything, and he will surely continue to. That’s how competition goes; everyone loses some day. One needs to know how to deal with that; everyone has a ‘bad day,’ but he’s really focused, has won the world championship at every belt, and he’ll surely win a lot more. What’s important is to keep on training, being really dedicated.

Desire to train
I want to thank everyone who has left messages of encouragement for us on Facebook, everyone who admires our work, our sponsors, training partners and our family, who were cheering for us. It just gives us more will to train, more desire to win and surely makes us train harder to get better, breaking new ground with every day. So, every victory we owe to you.

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