Fogolin not pleased with new Mendes Bros. Academy

Not everything was upbeat and positive during the grand opening of the Mendes Bros. Art. of Jiu Jitsu Academy in Costa Mesa on Sunday.

While a celebration took place in the new studio, other fighters did their best to ignore that party and trained at Team Triunfo gym next door.

A driveway separates the front doors of each studio.

Team Triunfo, a gym for jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts with about 100 members, has been on the block in Costa Mesa for the past year. The new academy has moved in next door, making it hard to avoid any type of controversy.

Felipe Fogolin, who runs Team Triunfo, is not pleased with the situation.

The Costa Mesa resident said he didn't think the city would allow a new jiu jitsu studio to move in next door and have access to the small parking lot that also has spaces for the Beach Pit restaurant.

"But it passed; I got frustrated," Fogolin, 29, said Sunday in his studio during the grand opening next door. "Wow, it's such an awkward situation, putting two martial arts studios so close. If it's across the street it's one thing or down the street, but sharing the same parking lot and we're door to door, it makes it much more awkward.

"It's an awkward situation for me now ... I know it's free enterprise, but, for my beliefs, I believe in karma and energy. It's bad karma for them. I feel bad for them. I feel bad for their option, their choice."

Pat Tenore, who sponsors the Mendes brothers as the president of RVCA in Costa Mesa, declined to comment about the situation. He said he found out about the open space from "a lady who lives down the street," from his home in Costa Mesa.

Tenore said he wished Fogolin the best and hoped he could improve his business with the new Mendes brothers academy. But the reality of the situation is it will be difficult for the smaller Team Triunfo gym to stay in business.

Paul Song, who said he is the lease owner of Team Triunfo, also declined comment about the situation. Song seemed friendly with Tenore and visited him during the grand opening.

Fogolin didn't attend the grand opening. He trained at his gym. He noticed some potential members of the Mendes brothers academy look over at the Team Triunfo gym with a puzzled face and some others who shot mean looks.

The jiu jitsu community is a small one and they are known to have respect for one another. However, it's a competitive sport that attracts alpha males who don't step away from confrontation.

"... I'll keep doing what I'm doing over here," Fogolin said. "Pat came and talked to me and whatever. I was here before. He offered me to relocate and I looked for other places. But I came here first. It's my place and I have 100 students who are backing me up. They don't want to let go. They are my family right now. It's just a hard situation. But fighting this, we have to prevail this hard situation. Everything is going to be all right."

Fogolin said Tenore wants Team Triunfo to move, but Fogolin said he likes the area. He said he worked hard to produce his studio. He worked at a restaurant and saved money while he trained for fights. Fogolin said Tenore and his friends would sometimes visit the restaurant.

"I used to hook them up at the restaurant," Fogolin said.

Fogolin, from Brazil, has never met the Mendes brothers, but like many in the jiu jitsu community he knows of the elite fighters, who are also from Brazil.

Guilherme Mendes is a six-time world champion (all belts, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011) and Rafael Mendes is a five-time world champ (all belts, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011).

The brothers saw their dream come true with the grand opening of their jiu jitsu academy on Sunday.

Fogolin also reached a high point in his life when Team Triunfo opened a year ago. Fogolin remembered his late father, who would drive him to judo classes for so many years.

But now, Fogolin sees adversity for Team Triunfo.

"Things in your life come like this and you deal with it," Fogolin said. "It's my dream and I won't let anybody crush my dream."

Tenore stressed the positive impact the Mendes brothers academy will make in the community. The new academy will have a strong focus on teaching the youth. The Mendes brothers plan to conduct an anti-bullying class once a week.

However, Fogolin said the new studio moving in next door sends the wrong message.

"We have to unify to make the sport grow," Fogolin said. "Jiu jitsu is a small community. But it's becoming more and more popular around the world. It's spreading. We're going to be big. Everything about jiu jitsu is positive. This is not only about competing or being the best. It's about building character, teaching the kids the skills and teaching them how to be honest, respectful and about discipline and how to control their mind. When things like this happen they throw it all out the window. That's what makes it sad. It's bad energy and bad karma. But I know everything is going to work out for the best."

Fogolin said he doesn't wish the new academy any ill will.

"In my heart I don't want to wish them the worst," he said. "I want to wish them the best. I wish them the best in the gym and hopefully they prosper."

steve.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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