Faisal Al Ketbi: Winning World Championship jiu-jitsu gold in Abu Dhabi would be 'special'
JJIF World Championship is held in the capital for the first time at the Mubadala Arena from November 16-24
Faisal Al Ketbi knows what it is to win gold at the JJIF World Championship having tasted success on three previous occasions. Doing it in front of his home fans, however, would top the lot, says the UAE's most decorated jiu-jitsu fighter.
Al Ketbi, the first Emirati black belt and the country's longest serving member, won gold medals at three successive World Championships, starting from Thailand in 2015 followed by Poland and Colombia.
He failed to make the medal round at last year's championship in Sweden, but Al Ketbi said standing on the top step of the podium in Abu Dhabi and seeing the UAE flag raised would beat any of his previous achievements.
“The worlds is another war but if I am successful, it will be another achievement for my people, by bosses and for my family and me,” Al Ketbi told The National.
“To win anywhere in a competition and to see the UAE flag raised is a great honour that I bring to my country, but it’s always special when you achieve it at home in front of your own people.”
The JJIF World Championship is held in Abu Dhabi for the first time at the Mubadala Arena from November 16-24.
Al Ketbi, 32, competes in the 94-kilogram weight in what will be his first competition since winning a silver medal at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in April.
Al Ketbi says he is unconcerned about being inactive from competition for seven months.
“We have a good set of high performance technical staff and a well-planned routine to prepare for each and every competition and I’m ready as always,” he said.
Despite 12 years at the top, Al Ketbi says he is still learning new techniques.
“We are learning everyday,” he said. “I lost last year in the worlds in Sweden, and that’s another lesson to learn. In combat, you never know what is around the corner. It only takes one mistakes to lose.”
As the UAE's captain and most decorated fighter, Al Ketbi draws the respect of teammates and aspiring fighters in a country where more than 140,000 Emiratis practice the sport.
Al Ketbi, though, is too humble to acknowledge his status as a role model to the UAE's youth.
“I love to share my experience,” he said while passing instructions to young fighters during a training session. “Aside from the training there are a lot of off-the-mat stuff to deal with, like how to talk to the media and present the sport in a good way.
“It’s very important for a sport like jiu-jitsu to get a lot of positive media attention if we want to take it to the Olympics.
“That has been our objective and hopefully we’ll achieve it, perhaps in 2024. I wish I will still be around,” he says with a broad smile.
Al Ketbi said Abu Dhabi is now known as "the capital of jiu-jitsu" and hosting the World Championship is "another feather" in the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s cap.
"It also provides more opportunities for the Emiratis at this level. We have a great audience to stand behind our fighters and we are hoping to win many medals,” he said.
More than 1,500 fighters from 69 countries will take part over nine days of competition that includes the Open division, Masters, Para-jiu-jitsu and the Youth Worlds.
Updated: November 13, 2019 11:51 AM