You are both pretty young and you have already achieved great success in jiu-jitsu both with the gi and without the gi. You medaled in the most prestigious tournaments included the World Championship, Abu Dhabi Pro and even ADCC! What is the next step and how do you keep yourselves motivated?
We keep ourselves motivated by looking at our life and how it has been improving and changing over the past few years. Winning tournaments is one way that we found we could be happy and to live doing what we love to do. To have a better life, it’s not about getting lots of money, it’s about being successful and to be an inspiration for somebody who will come after us. This is what motivates us everyday. We always want to keep doing well in competition and to stay on top of our division. Outside of competing, we want to open our own school and to have our own students. We want to help them to be the best in the world. This is our next step.
I believe that a big part of your success is due to your methodology and your approach to training. How do you approach training? Could you tell us the concepts behind the “ATOS lab”?
The training session is the fuel but you need to be focused on your goals to achieve them. That’s the most important thing. The training at Atos is amazing. There are many great champions on the mat who always try to help one another. We love those guys! They were, and are, our professors, our coaches, our training partners and above everything our best friends, our family. There is no secret, we are all friends who have the same goal and who are always trying to improve our lives.
Andre Galvao is a big believer in the importance of drilling. Do you feel the same about the necessity of drilling techniques again and again?
For sure! Since we started to train BJJ we have been drilling positions at every training session. The biggest mistake we can see in the schools is that the students are drilling lazily. Always do your best. If you drill wrong, then you are training to do wrong. If you are training to do wrong then during the fight you will also do the position poorly.
So make sure you improve each moment, each drill, everyday!
What is the proportion of sparring and drilling in your training?
50% drilling and 50% sparring
Sparring can lead to injuries, which can lead to pulling out tournaments. How do you manage to keep yourselves in good health? Do you roll with all kind of guys or do you prefer to train with guys who are your own size (like Bruno Frazatto)?
We do not believe that sparring can lead to injuries. Injuries are accidents that can happen anytime and anywhere. You could be walking down the street and trip, resulting in an injury. The important thing is that when you are on the mat, you need to be focused. You need to pay close attention from when you start to warm up until the class is finished. We do our physical preparation to keep our body strong which also helps to prevent injuries. We normally train with everybody, it doesn’t matter the size or belt. However, during the week before the tournament, we prefer to only train with light weight guys, to require less of our body.
Speaking about size, when will we be seeing one of you in the absolute division of the Mundial or ADCC?
Until the open class happens after our weight class, it will be hard to do it. This is because we are training all year for the day of this competition and we don’t want getting any injuries or hurt something that can make us enter without 100% of our capacity for our division. In the World Pro in Abu Dhabi, the absolute division is the last division and we are always going to do it. We really like to test ourselves against guys bigger and stronger than us!
Last year, Rafael, you made a great run in the absolute division of the Abu Dhabi Pro, competing against the present king of jiu-jitsu players, Rodolfo Vieira who competes in the under 99kg division. You lost to him but took him to a referee’s decision. This is a great accomplishment for a lightweight, what did you learn in this fight? In the same event you fought each other in the final of your weight-division. How was it to fight a brother? Did you have a gentleman agreement prior to the fight?
Losing is always bad, it doesn’t matter if you lose to a big guy or small guy. So I did not achieve my goal for that tournament. I’m a competitor and when I put my name in the division then I give my best to be the champion. Second place is not enough for me because that is not the reason why I work hard everyday. I learned that you can go there and fight with anybody if you are well-trained, confident and have a strong heart. Rodolfo is great and that day, the referees decided that he fought better than me
When you fight against a brother, it is different. When you step on the mat to fight against a rival, you are motivated with your adrenaline. You want to win and your body knows you do not want to lose and you feel it. You get nervous and you become stronger and more focused to win. When you fight against your brother, you cannot feel it, because there is no adrenaline, you will not be upset if he wins. So it is not a competition, it becomes a training match, only to show the people our skills.
Rafael, in a past interview with Roger Gracie, the interviewer asked him “You’re down by two points and you get one hook in from your opponent’s back thirty seconds from the end. Do you try and get the tap out even if you run the risk of your opponent holding out, or do you put the other hook in for the win?” What would you do?
First I would put the hook in, to ensure the victory and then I would try to submit him. When you are competing the most important thing is the victory.
Do you study your opponent’s game before a tournament? Did you watch Ryan Hall or Jeff Glover’s instructional videos to help your understanding of their jiu-jitsu?
We study our opponents. We are always figuring out all of their strong and weak points. This is so when we fight against them, we already know the easier way to defeat them. We like to watch the guys competing, because this is when you see them trying their best and you can find what they really do when they are being tested.
You made an online site “www.mendesbros.com” where you will publish online lessons of your system, when will it be unleashed and what can we expect to learn in it?
We cannot wait to launch our online program! We have been trying to have it for a long time but we have had lots of trouble getting it started. It is not a simple thing to make and it takes a long time. We are perfectionists and we have had some guys make our web site but we did not like it so we had to start over. Now the site is almost ready and we are waiting for the right moment to launch it. It will be soon and we can’t wait because we want to have the best online training program. We are working hard to make it happen. We will be teaching all our techniques, we are guys who don’t like to hold back secrets. We want to show the world what we are doing.
If I remember correctly you declared in the past that all your guard work is about controlling distance, you are big users of De La Riva guard, reverse de la riva guard, inverted guard, knee-shield half-guard. Did you stop working the “traditional” closed-guard? What do you think about rubber guard? These systems are pretty much the complete opposite of yours?
Our guard work is about controlling distance. This is one of our key concepts. We like the kind of guard that you can fight against big guys or small guys, because you cannot choose your opponents, you need to be ready to fight against anyone. We use a lot of closed guard, from there you can control your opponent very well! We don’t like to play the normal half-guard or deep hard guard, because if you fight against a guy much heavier than you, then you will be in trouble. But for sure you need to train all these techniques and positions because you need to be ready for any situation that you find during the fight.
Do you think that this approach can work in a MMA context?
Everything can work if you spend your time making it better. MMA is about everything, you can play half guard, closed guard, you can do take downs, you just need to be sharp and prepared.
Do you think jiu-jitsu is still a self-defense system, a martial art or “just” a sport?
Both, if you are training the jiu-jitsu techniques, then you are also training self-defense. All the movements that we train to be champions in the sport you can use to defend yourself. I think that academies are showing the BJJ in the way of the sport because the sport is always evolving, but I really like it when I see schools teaching the kids and women jiu-jitsu as a self-defense system.
Do you plan to make the big jump into MMA someday?
We do not know yet, we are so young and we have a lot planned to achieve in our BJJ career before anything else.
What adjustments do you think a stellar jiu-jitsu player has to make to be successful in MMA?
I think they need to train standing but never stop training jiu-jitsu. They should never forget where they are strongest. We see a lot of guys doing stand up and forgetting about their BJJ and that is a big mistake.
What do you think about someone like Rousimar Palhares, who is making a career leg-locking people? Do you think your 50/50 guard can be a major tool that jiu-jitsu focused MMA fighters should learn and develop?
Palhares is a really tough fighter and has a strong heart, he is doing very well!! Like I said before everything can work well if we spend time sharpening it and training it.
How do you train leg-locks to avoid injuries?
Train to not let your opponent get it. If he got it, it is because you made a mistake somewhere before, so tap fast and start over.
In the past, jiu-jitsu fighters were known to be quite reluctant to engage themselves in leg-lock battles. This has obviously changed as most elite fighters are now well versed in leg attacks, what do you think about it?
I like it. The foot and the legs are a part of our body and we need to know how to attack and also how to defend it when we are fighting. Foot locks are a good way to win the fight, so we need to train these positions!
And the last and most important question, between you two, who owns the other in the academy? (you didn’t believe you would escape this crucial question, did you? -laugh-)
Who gets tired first, dies! lol
Thank you for answering to our long list of questions! We hope to see you both again in this year tournaments, we let you the lasts ligns to send a message to our readers!
Thank you so much for the nice questions, we hope people like it! We are guys who are really dedicated from a really small city in Brazil. We have been working hard to be successful. We are Christians and we believe in God, HE is the way of truth, follow him and you will be a better person and things will happen. NEVER let go of your dreams, you are the size of them! God bless and please follow us on our Facebook fan page: www.mendesbrosfans.com and twitter.com/mendesbros tell us if you guys read this interview! OSSS