x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Fighters take on the world

Emirati jiu-jitsu fighters are aiming to build on recent success in the national capital by being the first UAE national team to participate in an overseas competition.

ABU DHABI // A hardy bunch of Emirati jiu-jitsu fighters are aiming to build on the success of the recent World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup in the national capital by being the first UAE national team to participate in an overseas competition. The tour party for two competitions in Tokyo and Las Vegas is made up of 14 Emirati fighters while the instructors are headed by the three-time world champion Carlos Santos, Olavo Abreu and Suyam Queiroz.

The team will travel to Japan for the Rickson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Cup in Tokyo on June 28. They then head to New York for a week's training with the renowned Renzo Gracie - a practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu - before the Grapplers Quest UFC 100 championship in Mandala Bay, Las Vegas on July 10-11. "This is a fantastic opportunity for the Emirati fighters," said Santos, the man behind the setting up of a base for Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Abu Dhabi.

"Taking part in such established competitions will provide the national team the experience of facing some of the best fighters around the world. It is part of their preparation for next year's second world professional championships in Abu Dhabi. "One of our objectives is also to showcase the Emirati fighters and promote Abu Dhabi as the world capital of the professional jiu-jitsu. Abu Dhabi will host the next two world professional championships after the success of the inaugural event last month."

The team include those who participated in the inaugural world professional championship in Abu Dhabi in early May. Among them are Tareq al Ketbi and Faisal al Ketbi, the gold medallists in the second tier competition of the world professional championship. Santos feels the entire squad have the potential to win at the highest levels. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art and combat sport emphasising ground-fighting techniques and submissive holds.

"Brazilian jiu-jitsu or [simply] jiu-jitsu has been practised for a long time in the Middle East but the lack of competitions had stunted the growth," said Santos. "When I first started coaching alone, the response was overwhelming, and the promise of competitions encouraged those already in training to get more active. "The Abu Dhabi Cup became an instant hit. The numbers began to swell in no time for the second year's competition and continue to grow. I had to bring in more instructors to handle the demand. I started alone and now have 25 instructors to assist me, including those who are coaching in the schools.

"Abu Dhabi will be the venue for the world professional championships for the next three years. The inaugural event at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Stadium was a massive success and the next two staging of the event is going to be definitely bigger and better." apassela@thenational.ae