Rafael Mendes is one of the most successful BJJ athletes of all time, and he’s just started hinting at making a return to competition in 2024. There’s no news on where or when this comeback might take place just yet, as it’s clearly still in the earliest stages and he hasn’t even announced any concrete decision yet. It would be one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of the sport, as Mendes hasn’t competed since he won a gold medal in the featherweight division of the IBJJF World Championship back in 2016.
Not only was that a fantastic performance in that specific tournament, it also capped off an amazing unbeaten run stretching back to 2013 that involved another two IBJJF world championship wins within that timeframe. That final performance brought Mendes’ total of IBJJF world championship titles to 6, along with the numerous other titles he won during his career. In fact, Mendes’ last loss in competition came in the final of the 66kg division at ADCC 2013 when he was chasing his third consecutive world championship win under that ruleset.
Rafael Mendes dropped a close decision to Rubens ‘Cobrinha’ Charles in that match, another legendary competitor who has coincidentally also been considering a return to BJJ competition. The pair shared the mats an astounding 14 times during their careers and although Mendes won the series by a decent margin at 10-4, fans would no doubt still be interested in seeing them go at it again. Outside of that, there are plenty of interesting new matches waiting for Mendes like Fabricio Andrey, Isaac Doederlein, or Diogo Reis.
Tainan Dalpra was first to hint that Rafael Mendes might be making a return to BJJ competition in 2024 in a post to his official Instagram account, and it can be found below. The Mendes brothers commented on the post and added further fuel to the fire with the following comment (Translated from the original Portuguese):
“Osss 🙏🏻👊🏼 You know, I’m not training at all. 2024 🔥“