Rafael Mendes – Age Is Nothing But A Number

Have you ever wanted to do something in which you were told “No, you’re too young!”? I’m sure we’ve all been there once or twice in our lifetime, and it probably didn’t sit too well with you. Patiently, you waited your turn and it finally came; ah, sweet redemption!

There are times when I wonder if anyone ever told Rafael Mendes that he is “too young” for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At a young age—both when he started, and currently—Rafael has taken the grappling world by storm and has made it his own property.

The young man has already conquered many mountains, and doesn’t seem to be letting up. However, if you aren’t that familiar with Rafael Mendes and who he is exactly, allow me to help you out with that.

From Humble Beginnings

Me with the Mendes Bros after interviewing them in New York.

Me with the Mendes Bros after interviewing them in New York.

Every great athlete got their start somewhere, arguably in a less fashionable situation than what they are presently in. This was is exactly what happened with Rafael Mendes when he began his journey in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

From Rio Claro, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Mendes began grappling at the tender age of 11. With BJJ being a huge staple in the Brazilian culture, Mendes became fully engulfed in it and began evolving on the mat. However, this evolution would have never occurred had it not been for one outside influence on Rafael.

“My cousin started first in Jiu Jitsu,” Mendes recollects. “He told me, ‘Hey, you have to train Jiu Jitsu!’”

And just like that, Rafa began his quest. Alongside his brother, Guilherme, Rafael began training with Ramon Latos and Leonardo Santos.

Years later, Rafael would go on to earn his black belt under Ramon Latos.

Talk The Talk & Walk The Walk: Rafa’s Hardware

Anybody can talk a big game, or be hyped up as the next big thing. But it’s another to actually put this into action and display your talents. Many times—in BJJ & MMA—we see people come up the ranks with great glory only to crash back to reality once they find out they aren’t ready for the limelight.

For Rafael, however, this wasn’t the case. At just 23 years old, Rafael has already witnessed outstanding success in the Jiu Jitsu world. A globe trotter, Mendes has been to country-to-country, displaying his talents and showing why he is arguably the best in the world. One of Mendes’ greatest talents is his vicious guard pulls. This article by BJJEE goes over some of his guard pull strategies.

A few of his accolades are:

  • ADCC
    • Gold (’11, ’09)
  • BJJ World Cup
    • Gold (’10, ’11, ’12)
    • Bronze (’09)
  • Pan Am’s
    • Gold (’12, ’13)
  • Brazilian Nationals
    • Gold (’10)
  • World Cup
    • Gold (’09, ’10, ’11)
  • NoGi World Cup
    • Gold (’11)
    • Silver (’11)

Impressive, eh? But don’t let me tell you, do yourself a favor and check out his matches on YouTube (you can see the MendesBros Channel, here). You won’t be disappointed.

Dan Faggella

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