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Zayed Al-Kathiri (right) created history by becoming the first-ever black belt holder in the UAE to win gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s Zayed Al Kathiri created history on Saturday by becoming the first-ever blackbelt holder in the country to win a gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. The star of Baniyas Club and the national team won gold on the final day of the competition at Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Zayed Sports City by outperforming Brazilian Nathannael Fernandes, who was competing for the UAE’s Commando Group, in a match that stoked the passion of the spectators.

Saturday saw 12 fights for the Professional division in various weight classes, with men with black belts and women with brown/black belts taking to the mats.

The Commando Group emerged winner in the Professional division handily, with Brazil’s Gfteam coming in second and the UAE’s ADMA coming in third. The UAE champions excelled in Professional category competitions over the course of three days, taking home nine medals, including a gold medal, seven silver medals, and a bronze medal.

Unwavering support

Competitions were attended by Abdul Moniem Al Hashemi, Chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, President of the Asian Ju-Jitsu Union and Senior Vice President of the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation, Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, Vice Chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, Fabricio Satiro Oliveira, Mayor of Balneário Camboriú city in Brazil, Mansour Al Ketbi, Executive Director of Digital and Corporate Services at Mubadala Investment Company, and Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, Secretary General of the UAEJJF.

Abdel Moneim Al Hashemi handed over medals to the winners and stressed that the UAE’s visionary leadership’s unwavering support of jiu-jitsu was the true driving force behind the championship’s success.

“Abu Dhabi proved yet again that it is a global hub of jiu-jitsu, it is capable of hosting events of the highest calibre and raising the bar for hosting major sporting events. It’s the favourite destination for legends from around the world to realise their dreams and ambitions,” he said.

“Today’s performance by Emirati champions was spectacular and they showcased their greatest accomplishments to the entire world. Now, we can proudly say that the nation’s athletes have won every title available in this sport on the national and international levels,” he added.

Following his historic feat, Zayed Al Ketheiri said that he is dedicating his medal to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and expressed his gratitude to the visionary leadership for its limitless support to the sports and athletes in the country.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the UAEJJF, my coaches, and everyone else who supported me along the way. I greatly value everyone’s support,” he said.

“I am overjoyed with this accomplishment. It was a tough fight as the competitions in the black belt category are different from others as the participants are very strong and experienced. I approached my fight today with optimism and careful analysis of my opponents’ styles, I was able to succeed,” he said.

In the finals, Meyran Alves of Brazil from the ADMA academy (UAE) won gold in the 62kg division, leaving Omar Alfadhli of the UAE’s Al Jazira Jiu-Jitsu Club in second place.

“Today’s bout was good, and I want to congratulate Alves for his outstanding performance. Even though I didn’t get the gold today, it was still a positive experience that will help me do better in future events,” Alfadhli said.

Brazilian athletes including Clube Feijao Club’s Raimundo Sodre (69 kg), Commando Group’s Lucas Protasio (77 kg), ADMA’s Fellipe Silva (85 kg), Gfteam’s Catriel Fernandes Rodrigues (94 kg), and ADMA’s Yatan Bueno (120 kg) also won gold in the men’s black belt division.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Brenda Larissa (Commando Group) won gold in the 49 kg category of the women’s brown / black belt competition. She was joined on the podium by Ana Rodrigues (ADMA) in the 55 kg category, Julia Alves from Gfteam (62kg), Brenda Larissa of Commando Group (49 kg), and Gabrieli Pessanha of the Infight Brazil club (95kg) winning gold.

Larissa who overcame Margarita Ochoa from the Philippines (ATOS) in the finals said: “I feel very happy with my performance and being able to win the title. I am grateful to all the organisers of the championship and to the UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, which gives us the opportunity to compete at the highest levels.”

56kg division

Earlier, Mayed Alshehhi (purple belt) of the UAE won silver in the 56kg division, giving the hosts a strong appearance on the medal table.

“For any player hoping for a future professional jiu-jitsu career, winning a medal at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship was a huge step. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get the gold, but we must recognise that losing is a necessary component of the game. This is a lesson for me to keep improving myself and win more medals in the future,” the Baniyas club champion said.

Omar Ali Alsuwaidi, also a Baniyas player, won silver in the same division.

“I made double efforts to outperform the opponent, and we were tied until the end of the match, and he won with a tiny advantage. I am sure that the next championship will a greater one for me as I will be getting myself ready with the lessons I learnt this year,” he added.