Rafael Mendes stunned the BJJ community around the world when he announced his decision to not compete at the IBJJF World Championships this year. At only 27 years of age, Mendes has won six gold medals as a black belt in the featherweight division of the IBJJF World Championships as well as two ADCC titles. As co-founder of the acclaimed BJJ academy Art Of Jiu-Jitsu, the Atos black belt has decided to focus all his energy on his family and coaching career.
“I’ve dedicated the past 16 years to jiu-jitsu. Because of this art, I had the opportunity to travel the world, meet people that I never thought I would meet, and compete against the previous champions that inspired me to push myself harder every day,” Mendes said in an interview.
At just 18 years of age, Prof. Ramon Lemos awarded Mendes his black belt, after winning all World Championships from blue belt all the way to brown belt. In his first year as a black belt, Mendes won a bronze medal at the World Championships and won a gold medal the next year. His highly technical, dynamic jiu-jitsu has set him and his brother apart from the rest of the competitors, amassing a following large enough for them to start their own school.
Today, Evolve Daily pays homage to the talent of Rafael Mendes and looks back at some of his greatest matches:
Rafael Mendes vs Robson Moura
In his first year as a black belt, Mendes went up against the legendary Robson Moura in the Abu Dhabi World Pro. Watch how Mendes was able to pass and sweep Moura, a notoriously dangerous guard player. This match undoubtedly helped establish Mendes as a great contender in the black belt division.
Rafael Mendes vs Leo Vieira
Perhaps one of Mendes’ greatest matches was against an equally talented competitor, Leo Vieira. Vieira was known throughout the BJJ community for his technical prowess and dynamic style, and at that point, Mendes was just an up and coming star. In this match, watch how Mendes completely dominates the match, taking Vieira’s back three times. In the end, Mendes is able to sink in a nasty rear naked choke, ending the match. That year, he became the youngest competitor to ever hold an ADCC title.
Rafael Mendes vs Cobrinha
Of all of Mendes’ opponents, Cobrinha Charles has proved to be his biggest nemesis. After meeting several times in the finals of the Worlds, Abu Dhabi Pro, as well as ADCC, the back and forth action between the two featherweights has gone down in history as one of the most exciting rivalries in BJJ. Before Mendes, Cobrinha had dominated the division, and in this match, he proved that it would be no easy feat for Mendes to take his place. Although Mendes won this match, it was a hard-earned win which would pave the way for more tough battles with Cobrinha.
Rafael Mendes vs Rodolfo Vieira
In the absolute no-gi division of the Abu Dhabi World Pro, Mendes was up against a much larger Rodolfo Vieira. Throughout the match, Vieira was constantly trying to pass Mendes’ guard, but to no avail. If you watch BJJ matches, you’ll know that this is definitely a feat since Vieira is known for his guard passing. Although Mendes lost the fight via judge’s decision, this match is a testament to Mendes’ technique and amazing guard.
Rafael Mendes vs Bruno Malfacine
In this competition, Mendes went down a weight division and faced the greatest roosterweight in BJJ history, Bruno Malfacine. The match was intense all throughout, with submission attempts from both competitors. But in the end, Mendes dominated the match, winning by 7 points.
So tell us, which of these matches are your favorite?