ABU DHABI // To win the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2010 was a source of great satisfaction for Luanna Alzuguir.
To win it for the second time, in 2011, was double delight. And Alzuguir said she would be ecstatic to win it a third time when the Dh3.5 million competition - the richest jiu-jitsu championship - gets underway today at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
"The Abu Dhabi event is well advertised in the world jiu-jitsu circuit and the most looked-forward-to event in Brazil," the 26-year-old Brazilian said.
"Everyone talks of the Abu Dhabi championship. It is biggest in terms of the prize money and now easily the biggest gathering of the top-class jiu-jitsu players. This is my third year and I see it bigger and better at every visit.
"I am fortunate to have won the Abu Dhabi world championship twice and I am here to win it again. It is one of the two world championships, beside the one in California, that everyone would like to have in their CV."
Alzuguir has won three world championships in California, two Abu Dhabi world titles, four Pan American titles and two European championships.
She also is the five-time Brazil champion. She qualified for the Abu Dhabi event in the Under 66kg female category from the trials in Brazil to earn the all-paid trip to the capital city.
"This championship doesn't get any easier," she said.
"There are more and more women arriving for the competitions and very soon they will match the men in numbers. It means more fights and the challenges are physically more demanding."
Alzuguir has been training in the sport for more than 17 years and has made it a living of it. She is a full-time athlete, instructor and lecturer in jiu-jitsu.
"Sometimes you get fortunate by doing what you like best," she said. "I got into jiu-jitsu when I was nine and now it's a full-time job for me. It is not lucrative but good enough for a living and, most importantly, it's something that I love to do."
Penny Thomas is South Africa's first jiu-jitsu world champion and last year's runner up in Abu Dhabi to Gabriela Garcia of Brazil in the Under 63kg class for women.
"Abu Dhabi is now the most-popular venue and everyone who arrived here has been working all year through to win this championship," Thomas said. "I already see a lot of new faces with the more familiar ones and would expect this to be tougher than last year."
For Fernanda Mazzelli, another Brazilian, it is her first visit. She qualified from the trials in the Under 72kg class.
"This is an opportunity to get into the limelight," she said. "I have been in the sport for 12 years and know what to expect in this championship."
Bernardo Faria, the 2010 men's world champion in the California competition, is looking to go one victory better than his third place in Abu Dhabi last year.
"My goal is to win the Abu Dhabi title," said the 25-year-old Brazilian, who will compete in the new Under 100kg class.
"The first day of the competition would be the most difficult because you have to go through several fights to reach the next day's final. Here, in Abu Dhabi, it could be between six to eight fights."
The two-day championship has drawn more than 600 competitors from 48 countries in the fourth staging of the event. Men and women compete in nine divisions in the white, blue, purple and black belt categories.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE