Today we’d like to introduce you to Bruno Mendes.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am Brazilian, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. I came from a hard neighborhood, but not a poor neighborhood. My family is not wealthy, but I never starved or anything like it. We lived a simple life with basic things. At the place I grew up, I always needed to fist fight to earn my spot. Because of that, I became someone very aggressive and ready to fight. In some moment of my childhood, I wanted to get into martial arts. I really wanted to learn how to fight better and direct all that energy and aggressiveness into something. At the time, and still, Jiu-Jitsu is THE martial art you choose in Brazil. So, I did everything by myself. I research about schools near where I lived and I found the traditional and respected Kioto Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school, from the Grand Master Francisco Mansor. He’s one of the only eight people outside the Gracie family to receive a black belt from Grand Master Helio Gracie. I talked to my parents, asked them for the money to join it and explain what it was. I went there and enrolled immediately, I didn’t even ask for a trial. Into 30 min of my first class, I meet my professor and mentor Alvaro Mansor, and I knew it that I found myself there and that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In less than 6 months I made to the competition team of the school, they got me the nickname Tank, and I started my athlete’s career.
Time passed, I become an assistant instructor, a few more years I got my Black Belt and became the main professor of the HQ school, not so long after the Head coach of the team. At the end of 2005, after a lifetime there, helping to build one of the best results of the school and literally sweat and bleed for that, and for them, I had some disappointments and issues with people there. I decided to leave and open my own school and my own team.
In March of 2006, together with my Brother, Augusto Mendes, Tanquinho (current UFC fighter and 5x world champion in Jiu Jitsu), who left the Kioto school with me, we found our own school and team. For two years, we did everything by ourselves. Then in 2008, together with the black belts and good friends Rafael Barbosa and Leandro Escobar and my old professor Alvaro Mansor, who had already left the old team as well, we five, found the Soul Fighters Jiu-Jitsu in May of 2008.
Fast forward some years, we are consolidated as one of the best teams of the scenario and one of the best representatives of the new generation of Jiu-Jitsu. Since the beginning, I took the lead on the business side and organized the programs, the licensing and all. That helped us grow and expand the team and the business. In 2013 I decided to move to the US, as I wanted to have a better life quality and a safe environment for my family (wife and daughter). I didn’t want my daughter growing up on Rio de Janeiro, and I wanted to expand Soul Fighters in the USA. At that time Rafael and my brother already live in the USA, and for me to come here, sure would help us work closer and expand Soul Fighters across the most import and hot market in the world for Jiu-Jitsu. I received an offer in California, but when I arrived there was not what I expect, and had settled, so I had to make changes to my plans. Throughout my associate in Israel, I got in contact with Tomer Litvin, the owner of Siam Star MMA in Allen, Texas. In January of 2014, We spoke and agreed to do a two-week trial, to see if it would work. After 3 days of that trial, we talked about a contract and we started to work together. Work with Siam Star allowed me to build Soul Fighters brand and program in Texas, and it became our HQ to expand to the USA and the World.
Now, almost four years, we went from less than six Soul Fighters schools in the USA to around 40 licensed schools just in the USA. Also, we consolidated our schools in Brazil and expanded to countries as Chile, Australia, and Japan.
Today, we are restructuring the company with new advisors and new executive positions, with me still on the lead of the business organization. We have an aggressive plan of growth. Soul Fighters today it is not just a Jiu-Jitsu team and school anymore, it is a sports brand. We will use our vision and commitment, that we had all our lives, along with our training and sports results to reach all the goals we set.
Has it been a smooth road?
It was not an easy road at all. I had several obstacles and huge struggles on my path.
Starting on my education. I just have a high school diploma. During high school, I was already working “full-time”: teaching and being an athlete. Even to finish high school was hard. After the graduation, I needed to pay my bills and take care of my life, once my family didn’t give any support to start. That way I worked at the Jiu-jitsu school from 5:30 am, when I started private classes, to around 10:30 pm, when I finished the last class of the day. I had classes, my professional athletes to coach, and my own training program to take care. Not having access to a high-level education, or formal education, made me learn it by myself. I researched and read books about business, market, training, nutrition, marketing and etc. Always when possible, and I had the money, I attended seminars, eager to get some more knowledge.
In time, we were expanding and my networking was growing. I took any chance I had to have conversations and learn about business, managing, marketing, technology, and the market with people, who had expertise in those areas. Even with my students, when I discovered that they have professional expertise in something I knew it could be used for our growth and on my learning. I always approached them and tried to work something like have them as external advisors on the projects we set.
People is one of the most challenging things to deal. To find reliable, trustful and commitment people, it’s the hardest thing. I like to work with people who don’t see it as just a job. If you want work with me, at this mindset of I’ll come here, do my job and leave, craving for weekends and days off, I know beforehand that this will not work. I want the passion. I want to work with people who don’t accept less than excellence in what they do. This is hard to find, and bring a lot of disappointments and headaches. That’s one of the reasons I like to build up and give opportunities to people I teach from the beginning.
To move to another country, and do business worldwide it was another big step. Start your life from zero again after you already have a “setup” life in your birth country was very challenging. To do that and build the business at the same time was hard. Until today this is something present. But I learned a lot, and I came a long way since I finish my high school. Today I know, and I have the expertise to do what I do. I have the confidence to sit with anyone and talk business, and do business. I sit and make business with businessmen from all around the world. To be respected by them and see Soul Fighters reaching what we planned is something that makes me very proud.
And I know that the next steps and projects will have their own obstacles and struggles, but like before, I will face it and work my way through it.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Soul Fighters – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Soul Fighter was created as a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not just a martial art, it’s a lifestyle. When someone came to enroll in our classes, they will learn the technics, they will have the tools to defend their selves, but more than that they will start an endless journey of self-discovery and self-improvement. Through our classes, people are able to adapt to the situations they face on the mat to their everyday life, business, and family.
We have programs for kids to professional athletes. With kids, we work all the discipline, self-confidence, respect the martial arts bring as tools to build a better human being. Also, we create an environment that prepares the kids to stand against and fight bullying. Confidence and the sense you are part of something big, make a huge difference for those kids. Most of our customers are the regular person next door. Dads, moms, young, old. We have all kind of people on the mats. What makes the difference and set us apart is we know we are a business, but we treat and take care of our people as a family. We provide and create the environment to create deep bonds and the sense of community that we really are.
We reach success on the professional side of martial arts. We build and have several World’s champions, Pan-American’s champions, and we are very respected on the competitive community.
What makes me more proud is that we, as a company, and through our work, we touch and change people’s life. From the insecure kid who is being bullied to the person who wants a better and healthier life, the person who struggles with depression to the person who wants be a world champion, or make a career as a professor, or own a school we are there for them, and to help them to find what they desire. I am very proud of the bounds, friendship, and community we build at Soul Fighters. Doesn’t matter if you are in Rio’s, Dallas’ or Tokyo’s school, when you travel for business or vacation and visit a Soul Fighter’s affiliate in another state or country, or meet people who attend it in any other Soul Fighter school around the world, you will receive the best support and instruction you can have, and for sure will be treated like family. This, for me, is priceless.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
My family and I are fortunate to live in Allen. It’s an amazing community, with friendly people and outstanding schools. I really can that say that, in the last four years here, I made true friends and met people I love as family. Not just in Allen, but North Dallas area and the great DFW, this is a place I love to live and have my business. We are here to stay and for sure to live here until the old age.
- Address: Soul Fighters Dallas HQ
Siam Star MMA Facility
1314 W Mcdermott Dr., #130,
Allen, Texas 75015
Soul Fighters Richardson
Corvo Martial Arts
810 W Arapaho Rd #94,
Richardson, Texas 75080
Soul Fighters DFW
1607 W Mockingbird Ln,
Dallas Texas, 75235
- Website: www.siamstarmma.com www.corvomartialarts.com
- Instagram: @brunotankbjj
- Facebook: @soulfighterstexas