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Being world champ doesn’t change your life - Guilherme Mendes on difficulty making a living in BJJ

Gui Mendes joined the VF Comunica podcast to to discuss professional opportunities in jiu-jitsu

Brothers Rafael and Guilherme Mendes are two of the most successful lighter weight jiu-jitsu competitors of all time. Rafael won six IBJJF World and two ADCC titles while Guilherme won four IBJJF World titles. In 2012, they opened Art of Jiu Jitsu, an academy that not only created champions but also revolutionized the way jiu-jitsu academies looked and were marketed. Art of Jiu-Jitsu laid the foundation of for its success by initially focusing on building a strong kids program. The idea was to build a strong foundation in the youth competitors that would ultimately translate to a strong adult team once they reached those ranks. Tainan Dalpra and Johnatha Alves are two shining examples of this program’s success. In their first competitive year at black belt, Tainan and Johnatha won both major tournaments and super fights.

The success of the Art of Jiu Jitsu students on the mat is unmistakable, but Guilherme Mendes is not content with merely building their physical skills. He wants to provide them with the tools to have successful careers off the mats as well. Many professional jiu-jitsu competitors have been vocal about the financial opportunities in the sport, and are thus rethinking their athletic career paths. A jiu-jitsu world championship alone will currently not change an athlete’s life significantly from a financial perspective. Guilherme Mendes joined the VF Comunica podcast hosted by Vitor Freitas to discuss these issues and his vision for building his athletes.

“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.”

Currently, jiu-jitsu world champions tend to either crossover to mixed martial arts or focus on teaching, whether that be through opening a physical academy or through creating instructionals for various online learning platforms. Sponsorships are another way to create a revenue stream, but jiu-jitsu based companies often don’t have the resources to provide lucrative deals. As the sport continues to grow in 2022 and beyond, coaches like Guilherme Mendes will play a critical role in the development of the athletes and the sport as a whole.

The full interview (Portuguese only) can be found below: