– An interview with Guilherme and Rafael Mendes

Mendes Bros. Seminar at NYC BJJ in Staten Island

Submission Control recently had the opportunity to cover and participate in a rare east coast seminar at Joseph Capizzi’s NYC BJJ with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu revolutionaries, Guilherme and Rafael Mendes.

In the last five years, these siblings have amassed a total of twenty four major titles. These two BJJ phenomenon’s have fought and beaten legions of world champions black belts such as Samuel Braga and Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles Maciel; and at the young age of 23 and 22 respectively, these two highly skilled competitors have years and years of heart stopping sensational battles ahead of them.

Enjoy the interview.

Submission Control: What drove you guys to start jiu jitsu?
Rafael Mendes: We had our first contact with jiu jitsu through cousin Thiago Mendes, who at that time was a blue belt in a small academy in Rio Claro, a town inside Sao Paulo state. This was where we were born and raised. Guilherme was 12 years old, while I was 11 years old when we started training jiu jitsu under the supervision of our cousin in a social program for children.

SubCon: Who was your toughest opponent at this past mundial?
Guilherme Mendes: First, myself; because I had to do a really hard diet to arrive in the weight feeling good, I had to prove myself how much I wanted to win, because it is hard to train in Atos, the training is really hard so it was harder to train on the diet. I need to thanks my nutritionist for the good work! In the tournament, my toughest opponent was Samuel Braga.
RM: The workout! Hahaha! My cousin made a circuit program that we did for three months, every week was harder! It was really good because it made me confident, I know that gas will not be a question for sure! Hahah! In the tournament my toughest fight was my final match.

Rafael explains how to react when caught in deep half-guard.

SubCon: Who was your toughest opponent ever?
GM: I don’t know… I think I don’t have a rival, I never fought against the same guy more than three times. I think it is Rafael when training haha!
RM: Cobrinha.

SubCon: If given a chance, who would you want to fight against… Anyone ever.
RM: We don’t have the wish to face some special opponent, we want to win titles. If any person is in our way to get the title we want to face to reach our goal.

SubCon: The approach to bjj has changed so much in the past 5 years, what do you think started this revolution?
RM: I think the new generation is coming really strong and smart. They are training more than ever. Then we can create techniques to innovate the sport. If you watch the tournament today, we have much more blue and purple belts “professionals” than before. The tournaments are harder than ever. To win, you need to surprise your opponent, you need to have a different thing to do, so everybody is training more than ever, creating more than ever, and improving really fast.

SubCon: Where do you see Jiu Jitsu in the next 10 years?
GM: We would like to see BJJ in the Olympics, but we don’t know if is possible. We like the work that IBJJF has been doing, they are more professional each year, the event is more serious and beautiful each year. We expect this evolution to continue and achieve the best possible way! We also see that the U.S will have great champions in a few years, we can already see some champions in purple and brown belts, and a lot of tough fighters in the black belt.

Mendes prefers leg drag drag passes because it leads to taking their opponent's back.

SubCon: What are the key points to your guard passing-game.

RM: We have been working a lot the “leg drag” style, that is a position that you can do where ever you are. The key to our passing style is always kill the opponent’s hips… always blocking the hips to take the back. Our main goal is to take the back, we think it is the easier way to finish the fight.

SubCon: You guys have won so many major titles in you BJJ careers, what is the secret to your success?
GM: We believe that only training hard is not enough nowadays, most people who want to be champions train hard, today it’s easy, it’s cool. So you need to go beyond, you need to do more of what people have been doing, you need to make a lot of sacrifices, like eating a really healthy diet, you can’t have a nightlife, no drugs, finally… live like a real athlete.

SubCon: In your mind, what does it mean to be a champion?
GM: To be a champion is to live like a champion, everything that I said in the last answer. You can’t be champion in the tournaments and be a loser in the life, you have to be an example of healthy life, you can’t be a mad man doing crazy things, be an athlete, a champion is to be an example for the children, for the people who like you.

SubCon: Both of you have similar games, but with some slightly different approaches. For example, Rafa does not believe in using the Brabo choke, but Gui does. Why is that?
RM: We always train the same positions in the academy, but everybody is different, everyone has their own characteristics, own quality, no one can be fully equal to the other, I think that’s why this sport is so nice, there are no “clones”, the fact of fighting in different categories makes the game different too.

SubCon: Rafa, why do put the supporting hand on top of the head instead of behind the head when you do a mata leao (RNC)?
RM: Sometimes I just cannot get the hand behind the opponent’s head, because he supports his head on my chest and left me with no space to enter the hand. So I developed a technique and I put my hand on top of the head and turn his head. It’s really good!

SubCon: Yeah! You choked me silly with that! HAHAHA

Gui explains how to control the back position.

SubCon: Roger Gracie once said that competition is about proving yourself and as a Black Belt at the world championship level he feels that he has a responsibility to put on a show for his fan. This is why he is very against closing out brackets with his teammates; he would fight Braulio if he had the chance. What are your thoughts on this?
RM: When you start to live and train with someone, you get to know his dreams, challenges, and fears. This causes the person to be your friend, your partner, and teammate. Being on the same team, we train together, help each other every day to win and to help each other to achieve our dreams of people. How can I face someone with whom I train with every day, as I try to destroy his dream? It does not move us forward; we cannot fight without the feeling of “challenge”, the desire to outdo the other. Maybe Roger can, that is a personal feeling, he said he only trains with students and sometimes trains with Braulio, so I think it is easier. It’s harder when you live with them. But Roger is really an example, the right way is to fight, for there is only one champion, but for us it is still difficult.

SubCon: What are your thoughts on steroids in the sport, do you think it’s as rampant as what Caio Terra says it is?
GM: I think they can do the test but it will stop steroids in the sport, everybody knows that. But I think it is good if they did the testing because it will look more “professional” for the people who are outside. We agree with Caio, but we knows that it will not change anything.

SubCon: Can you tell us a little about the new website?
RM: Our website is an easy way people can meet, learn a little bit about our thoughts by reading our posts, watching videos and looking photos of our career. But the main goal is our virtual academy, which will launch soon. We will have a restricted area where people can watch our techniques in detail, our thoughts and strategies and also see rolls with several athletes. We are having great ideas and working very hard to conclude it as fast as possible. We promise you’ll like it too!

SubCon: Any final thoughts?
RM: Trust in God, go to church and always try to be a better person, we know that nobody can change the world, but you can change yourself. You can do your part be a good person and follow Jesus, he will surely make you the happiest person in the world, because when we are walking with him all things go perfectly, you can live in peace in a world of war. Trust in God and never give up, work as hard you can to reach your goals, do today, and never leave to do tomorrow. Everything is possible when we are on the path of truth.