Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan Chairman of Abu Dhabi Sports Council with UAE astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri - the first Emirati to go to space - at a packed Jiu Jitsu Arena at Zayed Sport City. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The stars of global jiu-jitsu shone bright on day four of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC), as Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, and UAE astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati to go to space, enjoyed a watching brief at a packed Jiu Jitsu Arena, at Zayed Sport City.

Al Mansouri presented Sheikh Nahyan with a UAE Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) badge he took with him on his historic mission in July 2020, during the official opening of the 13th ADWPJJC, the largest and most prestigious event on the global jiu-jitsu calendar.

Day four of the championship, which runs under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, until 19 November, saw leading professionals from all corners of the globe, in blue, purple, brown and black belt, take to the mats.

Exceptional performances

“It is a great honour to stand here in front of you and welcome you to Abu Dhabi, the capital of tolerance and co-existence, the capital of jiu-jitsu. On behalf of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and jiu-jitsu community, I would like to express our gratitude to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. His wavering support for jiu-jitsu, has enabled our belove sport to flourish and we see that this week with 4,000 athletes competing on these mats over six days,” Mohamed Salem Al Dhaheri, Vice Chairman, UAEJJF as he gave the opening speech.

“This year’s Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship is themed ‘The Capital of Heroes’ and Abu Dhabi has proven to be a true capital of heroes this week with some exceptional performances on the mats here at the home of jiu-jitsu.”

On the mats, the UAE’s jiu-jitsu heroes took inspiration from the presence of Sheikh Nahyan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri and Hollywood actor Steven Seagal, with medal winning performances.

Hollywood star Steven Seagal - a huge Jiu-Jitsu fan - was present and handed out medals to the winners.

Omar Ali Al Suwaidi, 18, claimed gold in the 56kg purple belt final cheered on by an expectant crowd. After his victory, the Baniyas Jiu-Jitsu Club athlete, said: “I’ve worked really hard and it’s so rewarding to be first in the world. It was great being able to compete in front of Hazza and I felt really inspired. He brought so much pride to the nation, and I am glad I was able to do the same in my own way.”

Meanwhile, US athlete Mary Jones admitted she “feels like a superstar” after her victory in the women’s 62kg blue belt final: “I live in Jordan and started training there. I played soccer my whole life and thought it was time for a new sport, so I picked up jiu-jitsu four years ago and haven’t looked back since. I feel in love with the sport. This is my third time in Abu Dhabi competing at the World Pro and it just gets better every time. I feel like a superstar.”

“I am so happy to be on the podium, especially as I work, I was even working remotely yesterday. I was weight cutting at the sauna and was trying to answer emails and then jump back in. Balancing the two can be quite challenging but I have an awesome gym, awesome team members and I’m thrilled to represent them on the podium.”

Purple belt final

Sacrifice also paid off for Kaune Ramos Da Silva, who took gold in the women’s 70kg purple belt final. The 21-year-old said: I’ve had so many obstacles to get to this point. When I was 12, I used to sell candy at traffic lights in order to make money. I know how hard it is for Brazilian fighters to come out of the country and conquer such a big thing.”

“Since those days selling candy, I always wanted to go to a World Pro. So, this means so much to me. It’s not just about jiu-jitsu but the amount of effort I put into this to make this dream come true. It means the world to me. The World Pro is the best there is. The professionalism from the entire team, staff and organisers is unbeatable. It’s not like any other country.”

The 13th ADWPJJC continues on Thursday 18 November with the qualifiers in the men and women’s brown and black belt divisions for a place in the finals on Friday.