ABU DHABI // Members of the national team could have a Brazilian master in their corner when the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship begins Thursday.
Renzo Gracie, a member of the Gracie jiu-jitsu dynasty, is scheduled to attend the tournament and that should provide encouragement for the UAE fighters.
Members of the team have had extensive training at Gracie's famed New York academy in their preparations for the championship.
"We are better prepared than the previous years," the Emirati fighter Mohammed Nasser Al Qubaisi said. "We are aware of the levels we have to reach to win against the best in the world and feel we have achieved it by participating in several international competitions in Europe and the United States in the past six months."
The Gracie family have changed the face of unarmed combat since moulding the teachings of a visiting Japanese judoka into their own martial art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1900s, turning the confused chaos of ground fighting into a dynamic science, and Renzo Gracie's friendship with Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed has been pivotal for the growth of the sport in the UAE.
And this year sees record numbers taking part in the championship with more than 600 competitors from 48 countries fighting for a share of the Dh3.5 million on offer at the fourth staging of the tournament at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre that runs until Saturday.
"The participation from the first year to this year has [increased] more than 50 per cent," said Nasser Al Tamimi, the general secretary of the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
"The prize money was increased last year and remains the same, but the level of the competition has increased incredibly."
Qualification for the championship was decided at trials in 24 cities across six continents.
The Finnish trio of Hannu Karjalainen (purple belt), Risto Vesanto (blue) and Otoo Kuikka (white) are first time arrivals in Abu Dhabi. They were winners of the trials in their homeland.
"I want to just go out there and give my best performance because everyone from around the world has come to win this championship," said Karjalainen, who is ranked in the top 10 in Finland.
"This is my first time in Abu Dhabi and I wouldn't know how big this championship is, but I will learn soon.
"In terms of the prize money, Abu Dhabi is bigger and I suppose this kind of prize will attract the best from around the world."
Magdalene Tan is another newcomer to the championship and she arrived after qualifying from the Malaysian trials.
"The sport is new in Malaysia and I had to qualify against those who travelled from other countries in the region," Tan said.
"I know it is going to be really tough competition in Abu Dhabi. It is a matter of using the tactics and skills.
"For me, it is the experience to see how far I could go in this competition against the best in the world."
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