ABU DHABI // More than 340 martial arts experts from 38 countries have descended on the capital to challenge for a share of the US$150,000 (Dh550,900) prize pool and two world titles at the second World Professional Jiu Jitsu Cup this weekend. Among the top entries are Rafael Mendes, the three-times world champion and the winner of the 65kg weight class in last year's inaugural Abu Dhabi event, and his fellow Brazilian Marco Oliveira, who fights Johan Romming, the Frenchman, in next month's mixed martial arts (MMA) Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship.
"This is my game and this championship provides me with an excellent opportunity to prepare for next month's MMA fight," said Oliveira, the Pan American Jiu Jitsu champion, at yesterday's launch at the Armed Forces Officers Club. The three-day championship at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex starts today with the elimination rounds in the five weight categories and the absolute class. The finals are scheduled for Saturday. The action gets underway from 6pm on all three days.
Making its debut this year is the women's event which will feature two weight divisions. "The number of entries can increase significantly as the entries are open until the weigh-in [this morning]," said Fernando Junior, the championship co-ordinator. "The championship is still open to those who didn't make it to the Abu Dhabi event from the 11 qualifiers we had in nine countries. There are more than the number we expected already here besides those who qualified."
The qualifiers were held in the US, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Africa and the UK, and 55 qualified from each weight division. "The first championship received global attention and this year it has become even bigger and better," added Junior. "There has never been an event for the professionals with cash awards and Abu Dhabi became the first to establish it. "The winner of the absolute class, the top prize of the championship, receives $20,000. This prize has been increased from $12,000 last year. There is also a challenge belt introduced for the first time and the fighters will own it only if they win it three times.
"This year we are introducing two women's weight divisions and hopefully more next year, depending on the entries." Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is an art of ground fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint-locks and chokeholds. The martial art took off in the UAE when the first competition was organised in Abu Dhabi in 2000, according to Nasser al Tamimi, the championship director and the general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation.
"BJJ is now in the school curriculum and has over 20,000 students in Abu Dhabi," said al Tamimi. "We started to hold competitions and it drew a lot of foreign entries and then it just took off. Now it has got established as a World Cup. "There are 60 Emiratis entered in the championship and that goes to show how much the sport has developed in such a short period of time. Like judo and wrestling, BJJ has picked up very fast among the youth."