Mendes brothers' dream comes true with academy

COSTA MESA — Back when Guilherme and Rafael Mendes were growing up in Brazil, they weren't like most kids who fell in love with soccer.

They found their passion in fighting, more specifically jiu jitsu.

Guilherme, also known as Gui, the older brother, said their cousin introduced them to jiu jitsu. Soon enough, the boys, Gui, 12, and Rafa, 11, started to dream. They would dream about championships and someday of opening their own academy so they could teach others.

That was back in 2001.

Fast forward to 2012, the dreams came true and the satisfaction could be seen during the grand opening of the Mendes Bros. Art of Jiu Jitsu Academy in Costa Mesa Sunday. The grand opening was everything the Mendes brothers envisioned. They smiled and posed for pictures with fans. They played with toddlers and provided autographs. They shook hands and hugged everyone who came to support them.

"This is a dream for us," Rafa told the crowd before later providing a free seminar with his older brother. "Thank you so much for the support."

The brothers have worked hard to make their dreams come true.

Gui is a six-time world champion (all belts, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011) and Rafael is a five-time world champ (all belts, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011). The brothers, who live in Costa Mesa, are well known in the jiu jitsu and fighting community.

In 2007, they fought in the U.S. for the first time winning world championships in the purple-belt division. At that time they met Pat Tenore, president of RVCA (pronounced roo-ka) based in Costa Mesa. Back then Tenore would joke with the Mendes brothers promising them to open an academy if they could attain the black belt.

Tenore sponsored them instead. They did reach black-belt status. He would then tell them to win world titles and then their academy would be created.

It wasn't too long after that Tenore was helping them open their academy.

"I put the promise in action," Tenore said. "It's a good thing for them and it's a good thing for the community. I'm excited about it. They are really focused on helping kids and working on the kids' future."

Tenore also said the jiu jitsu academy was like a dream come true. Tenore lives nearby the studio on 17th Street, as do the Mendes brothers.

Those who wanted to learn from the Mendes brothers lined up near the new studio. They later packed the new mat and took in the instruction from Gui and Rafa. BJ Penn, also a renown fighter with RVCA, attended and provided support.

Tenore said the academy will be solely for jiu jitsu training, and it will come from some of the best in the sport. Championship medals and pictures of the Mendes brothers' victories hang on the walls in the studio.

The brothers said they want to teach young children and help increase popularity for jiu jitsu.

Once a week, they plan to conduct an anti-bullying class. Also, the brothers plan to reach out to underprivileged children and teach them once a month.

They said they want dreams to come true for all children who fall in love with jiu jitsu. On Sunday they saw their dreams come true.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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