Rafael Mendes is one of the most exciting competitors in the history of the sport and he’s just been announced as the latest inclusion to the ADCC Hall of Fame as a result. When he was first invited to the 66kg division at ADCC 2009, Rafael and his brother Guilherme were already regarded as the biggest prospects around at the time. While fans were excited to see what he could do at his biggest tournament to date, there weren’t many who expected him to be able to reach the podium against a field of more experienced competitors.
He ended up being the youngest man to win gold at the ADCC world championships that year when he submitted his first three opponents in a row before defeating Rubens Charles ‘Cobrinha’ on points in the final. He returned again in 2011 to win the 66kg division once again, also defeating Cobrinha in the final in an incredibly close match. Although he tried one final time in 2013 and defeated Joao Miyao on his way to the final, Cobrinha managed to gain the upper hand this time around and Mendes had to settle for a silver medal instead. He chose not to compete again at ADCC and famously, Rafael Mendes actually retired from the sport entirely right in the middle of his prime at the age of 26.
Rafael Mendes was announced as only the second 66kg competitor to be inducted in to the ADCC Hall of Fame in a post to the promotion’s official Instagram account, joining the legendary three-time champion Royler Gracie. While he is the youngest men’s world champion, the youngest female world champion has already been included in the inaugural class, Kyra Gracie. Of course, the Gracie family does make up a significant chunk of the Hall of Fame as the undefeated ADCC Heavyweight Roger Gracie was actually the very first person to be included.
Mendes’ inclusion also continues one of the most prominent trends of the Hall of Fame so far, that almost every inductee is Brazilian, with Dean Lister being the only American included so far. He will join several other elite Brazilian competitors including other lighter athletes like Marcelo Garcia, or the lightest ADCC double champion in history Braulio Estima. Although naturally, the Hall of Fame does trend towards the heavier competitors like Ricardo Arona, as these are the most likely to be emerge victorious in the absolute division and also then have a chance to fight for the superfight championship like the current reigning superfight champion Andre Galvao.