Upon returning to his room after a training session in Abu Dhabi, Rafael Mendes came upon an email from GRACIEMAG.com asking a number of questions. Quick on the trigger, just as he is in Jiu-Jitsu, the Atos ace attacked the questionnaire and promptly sent back the answers. On the subject list was the training session with Sheikh Tahnoon and Renzo Gracie, alongside Rodolfo Vieira, and the feeling of taking silver to Rodolfo in the absolute final.
What lessons have you derived from this first stage of the World Pro, following your good run in the No-Gi absolute division?
Once again I could see that I can trust my Jiu-Jitsu. As well as have faith in my training and even my self. I proved once again how Jiu-Jitsu techniques are efficient, and I saw how when you’re well trained you can fight anybody, regardless of strength or size. I entered to test myself, and – who knows? – maybe even win. I was seeking a challenge like this one; I knew I could do it and, thank God, I fought well.
Will you venture into the Gi absolute as well?
We’ll see. I’m going to maintain my focus on my weight class like I did last week, and I’ll decide when the time comes. I’m physically one thousand percent, very confident and well trained.
What did you learn from training with Renzo, Sheikh Tahnoon and, later on, from competing in the finals?
It was great to again have the opportunity to be with them. Renzo always teaches me something when I train with him – this time he taught me a really great No-Gi choke! I’m going to train with them again today; this time Guilherme (his brother) will come along. He told me he wanted to meet and train with Guilherme too. It will be cool! I have truly been blessed by God, and I have nothing to be sad about, do I?
What’s your take on the final result? Do you feel the judges could have handed you the win?
When a match comes to a draw both teams will want to claim victory, so there’s nothing I can say. It was tied and the judges gave it to him. If they asked my opinion on the fight, from my point of view I attacked more, pulled guard, and tried to get inside and sweep the whole time. But if you were to ask him, he’d say it was fair. You can’t question a tied fight, so props to him. The video is there for people to watch. I didn’t think the judges didn’t give me the win for my being lighter, as I was asked here. The truth is I don’t want to win just because I’m lighter, I want to win by showing my technique, my Jiu-Jitsu. I don’t want to leave it in the hands of the refs, I don’t like letting an outsider determine the result, I have to fight to decide the outcome of the fight and not need the ref’s opinion, but it didn’t work out. I want to make it clear that the refs didn’t make a mistake; it was their opinion and I respect and congratulate Rodolfo.
How have the repercussions of the campaign been?
The thing now is to keep up my training, my focus, to continue training a lot and winning everything. And every now and again enter the absolutes to give the big guys a hard time, always with the aim of being number one. After the fight I was really bummed about the result, and a lot of folks here, even the sons of the Sheikh and locals here came up to me to congratulate me and tell me they look up to me and that I showed everybody the true Jiu-Jitsu, where a little guy can fight a big guy no problem. I’d like to thank everyone for the kind messages and incentive; I’m training a lot so I can show better and better Jiu-Jitsu for you all.