Dubai: Jiu-jitsu World champion Omar Al Fadhli is less interested in medals and titles than he is in ticking all the right boxes and leave behind a sporting legacy for generations to come in the UAE.
Al Fadhli defeated Kazakhstan’s Nurzhan Seiduali in the 56kg final at the 2018 Jiu-Jitsu World Championships in Sweden and become the first Emirati to win gold in the competition. Al Fadhli defeated his Kazakh opponent in the final by advantage points 1-0 after a 2-2 deadlock at the end of the regular six-minute bout.
Less than a year has passed and the Abu Dhabi lad — who turns 20 on Saturday — has set goals well beyond his years. “I want to do many things. It’s not about winning any more. It’s about an idea I have in my mind,” Al Fadhli told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Nad Al Sheba (NAS) Ramadan Sports Tournament, late on Thursday.
“I’ve got what I wanted and I have the gold medals in my house and they are all covered in dust. Finally, all this is just material. What doesn’t disappear is the legacy. I want to leave behind my legacy. I want to be a true sporting legend in this country. I don’t want more gold medals or I don’t want more spotlight or I don’t want what people desire. I want to be different. I want to be remembered after 20 or 30 years and have people talking about me,” he added.
Al Fadhli’s entry into jiu-jitsu and his evolution as a top-class fighter has more to do with a quirk of fate. Invited one day by a friend to spar against an opponent who was much younger than him, Al Fadhli was stunned and left in a daze when the younger fighter choked him and left him sprawled on the mat.
“It was 2012 and I can never forget that bout simply because it changed my entire life. I was so angry because I lost to that small guy that I wanted to beat him up badly. But in that quest, I discovered so many things that changed my life forever,” Al Fadhli recalled.
His first round loss at the 2012 World Pro Championship saw Al Fadhli nearly walk away from the sport. “I lost 2-0 by a takedown and I was devastated,” he said. “That was one moment I wished I could die. But then, I saw my friends winning and the thought that I too wanted this same thing kept me going. So I started to work hard and kept the dedication going until today.”
Gradually, success followed success until that golden moment in Sweden when Al Fadhli was crowned world champion in the last week of November last year. “It’s not always about winning medals,” he said. “It’s about being a true champion. I consider myself a champion not because of the medals and achievements, but because I never gave up. I never gave when I faced adversity. I never gave up when I lost. I never gave up during setbacks and injuries.
“I am passionate about this sport because of the legacy I can leave behind. I believe God has put me in this world to do exactly this and I love what I am doing. If I don’t do this, then I feel like something is missing from my day.
“In this country there aren’t any great athletes even though our leaders have provided us with everything. I am privileged to have the best of everything — the best coaches, the best facilities, the best conditions and if I don’t make use of all this and deliver, then I feel it would be a sin. God made all this for me and now he has left all this for me to become someone special.”