Action from the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro
Action from the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Abu Dhabi once again demonstrated its ability to host major sporting events safely with 500 local and international jiu-jitsu athletes taking to the mats at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena for two days of strong competition in the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro.

Organised by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), the governing body for the sport in the UAE, the Abu Dhabi International Pro, a key stop on the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro (AJP) Tour, welcomed male and female white and blue belts on day one, while purple, brown, and black belts took centre stage on day two. The event was held in adherence to strict health and safety protocols in coordination with local and federal authorities.

Held under the theme ‘Road to Recovery’, the Abu Dhabi International Pro gave athletes a platform to amplify preparations for the biggest and most prestigious championship on the global jiu-jitsu calendar, the 12th edition of Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, which will take place from 6-9 April 2021.

Jiu-jitsu athletes representing Brazil, Colombia, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine, El Salvador, Israel, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, India, France, Canada, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Ireland, Bahrain, Italy, Sweden, Tajikistan, Iran, the Philippines and Iraq took to the mats at the weekend.

Local UAE athletes showed how much of a force they have become on the global stage, topping the rankings with 43,410 points and 86 combined gold, silver and bronze medals across juvenile, adult and masters male and female categories. Brazilian athletes finished second overall with 32,300 points and 65 medals, with fellow South Americans Colombia in third with 20 medals and 10,500 points.

Pedro Alexander (69kg) from Brazil who captured the gold in the men’s masters’ black belt category, added: “The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation gave us the opportunity to compete on the mat again following a challenging year with the pandemic. I have trained extensively for this championship and the hard work paid off. Abu Dhabi once again proved why it is the capital of jiu-jitsu with its ability to successfully host such an international championship while ensuring the health and safety of all participants.”

In the Best Academy competition, Commando Group Club topped the podium with 21,450 points, ahead of Sharjah Self-Defence Sports Club (19,950 points) and Al Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club (17,200 points).

After bagging the gold in the adult 49kg women’s purple division on day two, Wadima Alyafei, from Al Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club, said: “We proved today as UAE jiu-jitsu players that we are able to match up against anyone in the world. Today’s victory is an important step that brings us closer and strengthens our readiness for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship next month. The Abu Dhabi International Pro provided us a great opportunity to fully understand what it takes to compete in an international championship amid strict precautionary health and safety measures.”

The UAE’s Mayed Al Shehhi (62kg), who bagged the gold medal in the blue belt division said that the experience of participating in a high-quality field was extremely beneficial and had allowed him to test his full range of skills.

“The tournament was a great experience as we had some really strong participation. I am happy to finish with a gold medal in the 62kg category, especially after closing out a few tough bouts. The experience of competing in this tournament will help me as I fine-tune my preparations for the upcoming Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship,” he said.

Marwa Al Hosani claimed the gold medal in the 70kg class in the adults’ blue belt division and said: “I am just glad that I got the chance to get some competitive experience and sharpen a few techniques that I have been working on. The mentality during training and in competitions is very different and I am happiest about the fact that I was able to compete according to my plans even when I was under pressure.”