Rafael Mendes :: TATAME
Translation by me

The youngest champion in the history of ADCC, Rafael Mendes was one of the biggest newcomers of the year in Jiu-Jitsu. Between the training with Sheik Tahnoon and seminars, Rafael Mendes accepted TATAME’s invitation and responded to subscribers’ questions. Check it out below.

What’s you’re opinion about those that use Jiu-Jitsu as a form of aggression? What’s the attitude to be taken?

Someone who uses Jiu-Jitsu as a form of aggression doesn’t really understand Jiu-Jitsu and its philosophy of life, because someone who understands knows what they are capable of and doesn’t need to test themself in street fights, they have self-control.

Rafael, tell us how your connection with Jiu-Jitsu began? Remember the first day that you wore a gi?

I began training Jiu-Jitsu thanks to my cousin, Thiago Mendes, today my physical trainer. He taught childrens classes at a club and took me to train, since then I never missed one day of class. After three months he stopped teaching and took me to train with Ramon Lemos, who taught in partnership with Leonardo Santos (Nova União). After I was promoted to yellow belt, at the same time Léo Santos returned to Rio de Janeiro, and Ramon followed through with his work, promoting me through all of the belts and building what is today ATOS Jiu-Jitsu!

What has Jiu-Jitsu taught you as a man?

My parents separated at the same time that I began training, my mother raised me and Ramon was always like a father to me. What he always taught me since I was a child was that the most important thing was not to just be a champion in Jiu-Jitsu, in the championships, but to be a champion in life, to be able to conquer all of my goals through Jiu-Jitsu, to have character, a straight posture, determination and to always help others the most, to give opportunities to those who need one, because we harvest from what we plant. And that character is really my biggest victory.

How do you hope the name Rafael Mendes will be remembered in Jiu-Jitsu?

I hope that they remember me not only for the titles that I won, and that I will yet win because I’m training a lot for it (laughs), but also for what I find most important, which is the way of thinking. I believe that the most important isn’t talent, but really the determination, the focus, the persistence, the training. That makes the difference, because when you are training, you know what you can do, you believe in yourself, and believing is the first step to winning!

What’s the importance of Ramon Lemos and Leonardo Santos in your life?

Léo was very important as well, he taught me many things in the beginning. I used to spend the entire day behind him and Ramon (laughs), he’s a great friend. Ramon was always present in my life, he taught me not only on the mats, but in life, he graduated me not only to blackbelt, but a man.

The natural path for someone who lives on fights, today, is around MMA. Do you have the desire to fight MMA some day? Not long ago we had the case of Marcelinho (Marcelo Garcia) who migrated to MMA, had one fight and ended up stopping, and felt that it wasn’t “his thing”…

I’m very young, 20 years old, and I still have to compete a lot in Jiu-Jitsu, but I have a desire to fight MMA in the future.

Today, Atos Jiu-Jitsu is considered one of the best Jiu-Jitsu teams in the country for the level of athletes that it has. What’s the main difference between Atos and the other teams? Which name would you say is up and coming from the team?

I believe that Atos Jiu-Jitsu is not just one of the best teams in the country, but the world. The difference isn’t just the Jiu-Jitsu, but the character of our team’s people, that have the same thoughts towards the training. And we are devoted to God, because without him nothing is possible. We have two names that will show up a lot in 2010, two newly promoted blackbelts, Eduardo Ramos “Ed” (featherweight) and Rodrigo Caporal (lightweight).

Many people didn’t understand the true reason for the “sword swinging” of the Atos athletes. Who invented the commemoration and what’s the true meaning of the “sword swinging”? **see 5:20 of this video for an example

Sometimes people think we want to attack someone… Far from it, the sword swinging is because of our team’s symbol, a shield and a sword. The shield signifies faith in God and the sword is the Word of God.

Who was the greatest absolute champion in the history of Jiu-Jitsu?

Of all of the absolute champions, the one I like to watch fight most is Jacaré.

Kron Gracie showed up as a real phenom, submitting everyone at brownbelt. Once at blackbelt he lost to Sérgio Morães early in the opening of the 2008 Mundial. What do you find most essential for the athlete to continue finding success among the blackbelts?

I don’t know what Kron’s training is like, so I can’t say anything about his case. The most important thing, without a doubt, is to keep up your training, discipline and to have confidence, and also don’t fall into your comfort zone.

Fernando Tererê, one the most important names in the history of Jiu-Jitsu, is up against the most difficult adversary of his career, drugs. What message of support would you leave for him?

To search for God, because we can abandon him, but he never abandons us. With God, all things are possible!

With every day that passes, Jiu-Jitsu championships are becoming tougher and tougher, at high technical levels. Many times, the judges are deciding the fights. Have you ever felt unjustly treated in any decision?

I always train to the maximum so that this type of situation doesn’t happen. When it does, we must learn with the error. I don’t like the one from the CBJJ 2009 Mundial, in the semifinal.

Back and forth:



Rafael Mendes:


Guilherme Mendes:


Atos JJ:


Most beautiful submission:

Any one from the back.


Thank you.

Tell us how you felt upon receiving the invitation to teach private classes to Sheik Tahnoon?

Extremely happy, for being recognized for my work and effort. It was an unexplainable experience.

What are your plans from here on out?

To continue training in order to always continue evolving.

What was the sensation of beating Cobrinha in the ADCC finals?

It was an unexplainable sensation, winning ADCC in the debut and in a fight like that!

Is there any fight that you would like to have or re-have?

No, I wouldn’t like to re-do, I always learn from a negative result and I absorb the experience so that it doesn’t happen again. My goal is to not have negative results.

How is your training?

I train Jiu-Jitsu three times a day, from Monday to Friday, with different training, from techniques and fights, commanded by Ramon, and once a day I do physical preparation with Thiago Mendes, who uses the Treinamento de Resultados (Results Training) method. All of this with a schedule, including rests and championships.

Have you gone through any tough moment in the sport?

When I was a bluebelt, I had to do a raffle to go to fight in Rio de Janeiro, I traveled with just enough money for food. Many times, I or Guilherme or Ramon pooled our money to go eat. My uncle, Rubens Polido, always helped me, many times paying for my registration. I can’t stop talking about Adriano Rinald, who helped me so much at that time. He was very important in my career! Thank God, today I can help those who train at the academy, to help like those who have helped me.

Who is your greatest partner?

My greatest partner is God!

What is your opinion towards the 50-50 guard?

An innovation, a great lower attack.

Do you feel persecuted by the other athletes for using the 50-50 guard?

I feel that those who criticize don’t have an understanding of the position, they know only how to get in the position and because of that they don’t attack. Those people need to learn instead of criticizing, in order to evolve.

There are people that say that you aren’t the father of the 50-50 guard. What do you say about that?

I don’t concern myself with that. There’s no way to ever know who stumbled upon that position for the first time, but everyone knows that I developed new techniques from the 50-50, techniques that the majority don’t know.

I’ve fought a few championships, I’ve no problems fighting, I’m able to accept my victories as well as my defeats, but I have more difficulty accepting the defeat of my brother and training partners. I’m much more annoyed than if it had been my defeat. For you, what is the difference between you losing or your brother losing a fight?

Myself as much as my brother don’t accept our defeat, nor the other’s. We can’t get accustomed to it, otherwise we stop feeling that hunger to learn and train. We need to learn from it when it happens, and study the most so it doesn’t repeat itself.

With such difficulties that fighters encounter in the beginning of their career, what would be your hint for athletes to not give up?

Keep your focus and have faith!