Guilherme Mendes was an elite competitor in his prime and he transitioned quickly into becoming one of the best coaches in the sport, but he apparently believes that becoming a world champion doesn’t change your life. Guilherme Mendes isn’t the first to speak out about the issue either as the current IBJJF world champion Kaynan Duarte recently echoed the same complaints about the lack of monetary reward on the table at the IBJJF world championships. Mendes himself is famous for achieving the same feat incredibly early in his career, being promoted to black belt at the age of 20 in 2008 and quickly becoming a world champion the following year.
By 2014, Mendes had won the IBJJF world championships four times and had established himself as one of the best competitors on the planet alongside his younger brother Rafael. He was the reigning world champion at the time and at just 26 years old, he decided to retire from competition altogether and focus his efforts on growing the Art of Jiu-Jitsu gym that he owned with his brother. It shocked BJJ fans that an elite competitor would retire so early in their career but as Mendes himself explains, there simply isn’t enough money in being a BJJ world champion.
Given that he never competed at ADCC and the superfight circuit didn’t really exist at the time, the IBJJF world championships were the only avenue for him to earn a living and what was available there really was no kind of living at all. He recently sat down for an interview with Vitor Freitas to discuss the issue:
“What I’ve always proposed to do is, not just help the person to be world champion, because I really think that doesn’t change a person’s life,” Mendes said (Translation provided by Vitor Freitas). “We have several examples of people who were world champions and are not doing well. In a lot of other sports, you reach the maximum level and you’ll have a great life, but in Jiu-Jitsu it’s not like that.”
“There is a combination of things that need to be added to the world title for you to leverage your career and opportunities. I’ve always said that my goal was to guide a person to success and provide the right tools and give the right instructions to the guy, not only to be champion on the mat, but to create an opportunity to make a living from Jiu-Jitsu.”
The full interview with Guilherme Mendes where he explains his views on becoming a world champion, conducted in Portuguese, was uploaded to the official YouTube channel of Vitor Freitas: