x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Marco Oliveira saves himself for Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship

The risk of an injury could jeopardise his chances of winning Dh1million in a lucrative event in the capital next month.

Jared Hallidas of South Africa throws Daniel Agard of England during their bout yesterday.
Jared Hallidas of South Africa throws Daniel Agard of England during their bout yesterday.

ABU DHABI // All hopes of a world professional championship Brazilian jiu jitsu belt have been put on hold for Marco Oliveira because of the risk of an injury that could jeopardise his chances of winning Dh1million in a lucrative event in the capital next month.

The Brazilian, who would have been among the favourites for the title, has been told to keep himself ready for the MMA Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship, in which he is pitted against Johan Romming of France, at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre on May 14. "A clause in my contract doesn't permit me to fight in another competition with less than a month before my MMA fight," said Oliveira, who had to watch some of the world best exponents of the martial arts go through the preliminary rounds of the World Professional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex last night.

"The organizers of next month's event felt an injury can hinder all their efforts in putting up this inaugural fighting competition, which is true, because my main focus is on that. It is indeed sad to forgo this title but the stakes are much higher for my planned MMA fight, and I already have a contract. "Initially, I thought participating in this championship will benefit me and help me to prepare for next month's competition. On second thoughts, I have realised the men who fight in the world championship mean business and won't stop hurting one another for a world title and US$20,000 (Dh73,458) for the absolute class, which is a lot of money for jiu jitsu."

Oliveira is the Pan America jiu jitsu champion and is based in Abu Dhabi preparing for the MMA event next month. Meanwhile, there are 19 finals and two semi-finals (absolute class) lined up for tonight's Abu Dhabi event to decide world champions in five different weight categories and the open division. The theme of diversity plays out on an international stage which organizers hope will attract an audience as wide-ranging as the number of competitors.

The three day-event attracted more than 360 entries from 38 countries, and the qualifying rounds continued until after midnight over the last two days. "The entries have been overwhelming," said Carlos Santos, the championship director. "We had to work overtime to get the preliminary rounds completed. But this is good for the sport in Abu Dhabi as well as in general. "The championship in Abu Dhabi has been elevated from last year's inaugural event. We have introduced world championship belts and the prize money is increased to $150,000 from $110,000 for the five weight divisions and the absolute class.

"The women's event staged for the first time in Abu Dhabi at this level has already got the thumbs up to become a regular championship from next year." apassela@thenational.ae