Guilherme Mendes on his true “‘mano a ‘mano” match

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Of the teams represented, Atos was the big standout at the Abu Dhabi World Pro. And so being, there was one particular match between Atos representatives that grabbed the most attention. It wasn’t because of the quality the fighters possessed or the importance of the title, it was due to the fact that two brothers were the ones going at it on the mat: Rafael and Guilherme Mendes. Gui spoke to about the experience and much more, as you will find in the following interview.

Rafael and Guilherme (in blue) in the under 65 kg final. Photo: Luca Atalla

What was it like to fight your brother, Rafael? Was it really a full-on match?

Let’s just say it was a true training session, a match without strategy where we flowed through positions for the public to see. It was on Abu Dhabi TV, so we couldn’t forsake fighting, if just because the event pays those big-money prizes and didn’t deserve to be left without one of the finals. We did the match because they hold an event that values the athletes.

Will that, in some way or another, put an end to the idea that athletes from the same team don’t face off in the final? After all, besides being from the same gym, you guys are brothers and fought.

We’re brothers and everyone knows there won’t be that rivalry they would expect in a final. We wanted to do a match for the folks there to see and understand why we were the ones who made it to the final, so it wouldn’t be a conclusionless division. We decided to do a training session, like we’ve been doing together since we were white belts, and my brother trained better than I did. Now, fighting with that rivalry, that desire to win, was impossible for us to do. The title and the prize are already back at home. The event was first rate, like nothing we’d ever seen, with fireworks, punctual timetable, local television, the press, hotel accommodations, meals, press conferences… In the end, they provided all the backing needed to make it as perfect as it was, not to mention the rewards that, besides the money, provided the athletes with clothes and watches.

What do you expect at the IBJJF Worlds? You going in as a light featherweight?

Yes. I’ll be in that division by Worlds time. I’m going for my second title at light featherweight and then will join Rafael at featherweight. I wanted to go in as a featherweight already, but the team wants me to continue at light featherweight till the Worlds to have athletes in different divisions at black belt.

And what about the Brazilian Nationals, you in?

Yes. I’ll be there.

Calasans was a surprise, but only to those who don’t train with him” Guilherme Mendes

Atos made it onto the winners’ podium in several divisions at the World Pro. Tell us about the gang’s performance.

The whole team fought really well and even those who didn’t win displayed really great and efficient Jiu-Jitsu. But, sometimes, details cost you the result. One needs to keep training and correcting themselves to get better. The difference is that we’re united and focused, everyone training together, living together, and with the same objective. I feel that makes our training all the more productive. I’ll speak about the ones who were champions. Rafael is getting better with every day. At just 20, he’s a second-year black belt and has accrued titles like the ADCC, the World Pro twice over. To me he is, without a doubt, the best light grappler around these days and he will be much more. He’s the prodigy at Atos. Durinho has been coming up with good results for some time, has aggressive Jiu-Jitsu and is improving with every competition. And that made his more confident. He won everything he was in this year and promises much more. Now, Calasans was a surprise, but only to those who don’t train with him because all of us who are around him knew of his potential. We knew he would be champion. He’s very confident and, if last year he made it to the semifinal of the absolute at the Worlds, getting the takedown on Roger Gracie, this year he’ll provide a lot more to talk about.

You invested a lot in physical conditioning. Tell us about what you do that gave everyone such a gas tank.

We’ve been working for a good while with Thiago Mendes, at the physical conditioning gym Octane. He’s been helping us out on the physical conditioning side of things and we’ve been seeing great results. We’re stronger and have more wind. These days physical conditioning needs to go hand in hand with Jiu-Jitsu training. Of course the most important thing is the mat work, which is what polishes your game up and gets your timing of positions up to speed. But physical conditioning makes it so you can put your technique to practice in a match. If you tire or lack strength, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to impose your pace.

Guilherme against Vella in absolute. Photo: Luca Atalla

You and your brother both fought in the absolute and did well. What was it like facing the big guys? Does technique overcome strength, or not?

It was great! Since we had already made it to the final and our “mission” was accomplished, we figured we would help the guys out in the absolute. We’re a team, and we went in to help the heavier guys by getting some opponents out of the way. And it all worked out. I won my first match with a choke and in the second I faced Gabriel Vella. It was a good match. He spent the whole time trying to pass my guard and scored two advantages. Vella is a great athlete and really was better than me in that match. Rafael beat a big guy right off the bat; the guy weighed about 100 kg and Rafa submitted him with an armbar. In his second match, he submitted a heavy purple belt and in the third beat on advantage points Big Mac, who had just beaten Romulo Barral. He fought really well. It was unbelievable!

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