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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Faisal Al Ketbi determined to win elusive gold medal in black belt division at Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship

Faisal Al Ketbi celebrates a milestone when he competes in the 10th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the Mubadala Arena from April 16-28.

The UAE national team captain and the first Emirati black belt holder in jiu-jitsu holds the distinction as the only fighter to have competed every year in the World Pro since it was first staged in 2009.

“I have had lot of success, some great moments and some sad moments as well. But when I look back, it has been an amazing and incredibly beautiful journey,” Al Ketbi said.

“It’s difficult to single out a good moment because every time I won it was a good moment for me. Likewise, it’s the same when I lost, it’s very hard for me to get over the disappointments.”

A moment Al Ketbi will cherish all his life was when Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, got up from his seat to embrace him after watching him win the double-gold in the brown belt.

“It was in 2014 where I won both my weight and the absolute class,” Al Ketbi said.

“I wish more good moments will come, but for His Highness to watch my fight and then come up to embrace and congratulate me in front of an audience and thousands of TV viewers is something that will live in my memory forever.”

Al Ketbi, who turns 31 next month, began as a blue belt in the World Pro and remained undefeated in that category for three years. He enjoyed success in the purple and brown belts, all in all winning 11 gold medals, two silver and a bronze in the last nine years.

However, a gold has eluded him in the black belt division. His first appearance in the black belt in the World Pro ended in the third round in 2015. The following year, he suffered a dislocated finger after reaching the semi-finals. He reached the final in 2017 only to go down to Brazilian Claudia Calasans by points 6-0.

Al Ketbi aims to go one better this time around.

“It has been a lot of blood and sweat for me on this long journey, but I have been enjoying every moment,” said Al Ketbi, who shed a few kilos from his last competition in the Grand Slam London in March to fight in the 85kg weight division in the World Pro.

“Usually I fight in the 94kg in the other competitions but in the 85kg in the World Pro. It has become easier to lose weight with the help of our dietitians and still maintain the strength and good shape.

“The challenges are high at this level with the best fighters in the world on stage. I’m prepared to take them on as always.

“My experience in the black belt is nothing compared to the others. It’s my third year and I’m aware the others have many years more than me. I have come through the ranks and know what to expect.”

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Al Ketbi has seen the Word Pro as no other, and he said there is more room for it to grow in every sphere despite it being well established as the world’s biggest and richest jiu-jitsu show.

“The sky is the limit for the World Pro,” he said. “It has drawn the highest participation this year and it’s the richest in terms of prize fund [of Dh4 million].

According to Fahad Al Shamsi, this year’s World Pro has attracted more than 9,000 participants, including over 2,500 from overseas.

“Fighters in the main events have to be successful in the qualifiers held around the world to come here and compete,” Al Ketbi said.

“That makes the World Pro as the stand-out jiu-jitsu event on the earth. Our federation has left no stones unturned to make the 10th anniversary another memorable event for the jiu-jitsu fraternity.

“This year’s World Pro is special for me because I’m as old as the championship which has given me so much. I wish I can celebrate it with a gold. I’m not guaranteed of success but I’ll do everything within my capacity to achieve it.”

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