It’s hard to argue that both Rafael and Guilherme Mendes aren’t indeed at the top of the heap when it comes to today’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu feather weight aces. 2009 was a tremendous year for the brothers, as they both ruled the major tournaments with Guilherme taking the light feather Gold at the Mundials and Rafael trouncing at the Abu Dhabi Championships held in Barcelona. Each feat can be considered amazing in their own right.

Guilherme Passing Braga

Ramon Lemos announced to GRACIEMAG.com his star pupil’s intentions, “Guilherme Mendes will drop to light featherweight and Claudio Calasans will move to middleweight (for the 2009 Mundials)”. Guilherme confirmed he decided to drop from his natural weight class in order to give his brother a chance to finally over-take the Cobrinha dominated featherweight division, and to increase the number of categories in which Atos athletes would participate. In doing so, Guilherme demonstrated his superb Atos passing and open guard to beat such competitors as Samuel Braga (who was later DQ’d for his post match exploits). Guilherme says of his matches (roughly translated),”All were difficult. Opponents in the plume are quite flexible and with the guard and difficult to pass. But, thank God, I jogged very well and managed to print my pace.”

Rafael’s 2009 was equally, if not better, than anyone else’s for all weight classes. His ADCC performance alone is to be marveled by all submission grappling participants. Disposing of such talent as Jayson Patino, Justin Rader, and Leo Vieira in a lifetime is a feat in itself. But to do it in one tournament, now that’s a horse of a different color. Doing this with a culmination result of a finals match with revered BJJ phenom  and 4-time BJJ World Champion Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles? …PRICELESS! Arguably the best match of the tournament, Rafael overtook the seemingly untouchable Cobrinha via points in the final moments of their epic battle to attain the Gold .

In an interview with TATAME.com, Rafael is quoted as saying after his Gold Medal performance, “I’m really happy… I think that’s all a reflex of my training… I train with love, with will, I tried to do my best and I think that’s all results“.

Rafael continued,  “It was our fifth fight and thanks God I kept the attack the whole time, I could put my rhythm without kimono and fit the positions I’ve trained,” says the champion. “It was 40 minutes of fighting, I was trained, with energy and I went great, I grabbed his back, I was trying the submission in the end but thanks God I won my first Abu Dhabi. I didn’t win the (BJJ) Worlds, but my brother won, so I was happy as if I had win“.

Mendes’ battle with Cobrinha was perhaps the most classic by most fan’s standards, but

Rafael attempts to heelhook Cobrinha

Rafael insists his toughest was his semi-final match with his former training partner and mentor, Leozinho Vieira.

“To be honest I didn’t want this fight, I didn’t want to fight with Léo because we’re friends, I admire him a lot, he taught me a lot, we trained together, but this is my dream, my career, we’re both professionals and there was no way that we don’t fight, so I fought, made a good fight, made the submission, but it’s a fight I don’t wanted to happened”, finished the champion.

I can tell you, all of the fans of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling were ecstatic that this match-up happened. It was refreshing to actually see a fight between friends or training partners happen, rather than having the seemingly more occurring “gentleman’s agreement” to decide which competitor continues on to their dream (I.E. 2009 Mundials, Middle-Weight division). But that’s a topic for another day.

With all of the recent successes of both brothers along with fellow teammates such as Andre Galvao, “Durinho” Burns, and Bruno Frazatto, it appears Atos Jiu-Jitsu is prepared to take over the United States. Kid Peligro broke the news on his blog,

“In major breaking news we’ve learned that Atos BJJ is opening a Headquarters in San Diego. One of Atos main forces Ramon Lemos is moving to San Diego to head the academy. Many of their top team members are also coming here to prepare for the upcoming Pan-Ams and World.

Atos is one of the strongest up and coming teams with tops like Andre Galvao, the Mendes brothers, Gilbert “Durinho” and many others. Their opening in the USA indicates their growth intentions and is a boom for the US BJJ. The new Academy will be located at 4425 Convoy St, San Diego Ca. Phone (858) 602-8310”

Looks as if the Mendes Brothers and Atos are here to stay.