Jose Junior
Jose Junior Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: UAE’s most decorated jiu-jitsu coach Jose Junior has moved to fresher pastures and made Saudi Arabia his new home.

Junior, who spent over a decade in the UAE, had played a lead role in setting up a proper module in schools and nurtured plenty of talents.

His move to Saudi Arabia has raised a few eyebrows, but the Brazilian feels that it was time for him to move on as the UAE is an established identity in the sport.

“I have been in Saudi Arabia for six months, working at The Arena, a jiu-jitsu specialising gym. We are developing jiu-jitsu in the country. It’s been there for the last three years and now going through the next phase, trying to grow,” says Junior, who balanced his coaching and sporting aspiration in the UAE and shot into prominence by clinching the World title in 2017.

Leaving UAE, which has helped him achieve everything as a player and coach wasn’t easy, reveals Junior, but asserts that he had given everything possible and it was time to let go a grown up ‘son’.

“I know everyone here understands that I had to move on. It’s a different position and role. I believe there are so many good guys working here to carry on the good work. They are my family. Sometimes you have to let go of your son,” says Junior, who has landed here in the UAE with 50 competitors to take part in the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu World Pro championships.

“Saudi Arabia are still at the beginning stage. We don’t have anything established at the moment to the government and the schools, as in the UAE. But we will get there.

“Right now we want to start in private schools and the initial stage of developing a national team also starting now. We have a big opportunity there. It’s a big country with a lot of talent,” said Junior, who currently holds three portfolios — martial arts director of The Arena Fitness Centre in Jeddah, technical advisor and head coach at the Saudi Arabia Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

“I have to shuttle between Jeddah and Riyadh. The plan is to implement the same benchmark that UAE have set for the rest of the world to follow. I think Saudi has a big potential and we have objectives: both short-term and long-term to develop the sport in Saudi,” said Junior, who is also looking to comeback into competition by the end of this year.

“I want to compete as the best way to teach the kids is to lead by example. And no better way to do that than by you yourself making a mark at the highest level. I would like to be in the best of shape for next. Let’s see how it goes,” informs Junior, who was confident that UAE will keep scaling heights in the sport in the years to come.

“Jiu-jitsu has become so professional in the UAE. They can reach a very good level in the world. It’s a natural pathway. The UAE have achieved so much only in 11 years. They are going to be even better in the next 10 years.

“My most memorable moments in the UAE is winning the world title in and to see some of the kids reaching world level, like Omar Al Fadhli, one of the best talents to emerge from the school programme.”