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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 May 2018

Larissa Paes credits opportunities in Abu Dhabi for rise to world No 1 in jiu-jitsu rankings

Young Brazilian fighter thanks emirate as she celebrates her success in 2017/18

Larissa Paes collected 11 gold medals, 11 silvers and one bronze at the world ranking tournaments this season. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Larissa Paes collected 11 gold medals, 11 silvers and one bronze at the world ranking tournaments this season. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Larissa Paes has paid tribute to the emirate of Abu Dhabi after a successful season saw the jiu-jitsu fighter rise to the top of the women's rankings.

The petite Brazilian collected 11 gold medals, 11 silvers and one bronze at world ranking competitions in 2017/18. She even had the world title in the bag before the season-ending Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship got under way in April.

“I wouldn’t have achieved what I achieved if I hadn’t moved to Abu Dhabi,” said Paes, after receiving her world No 1 trophy at the awards ceremony in the Emirates Palace hotel.

“Obviously it was hard work to deal with my day job and my own preparations for the competitions, but the money I earned in Abu Dhabi provided me the luxury to travel and compete in all major competitions around the world.”

Paes, 22, moved to the capital 16 months ago after securing employment with Palms Sports, the technical arm of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), where she works as a trainer.

“The good thing about being employed in Abu Dhabi was they allowed me to travel for competitions. They gave permission to go wherever we wanted to go, which means we got more opportunities to compete than the others.”

However, it was not the only contributing factor to her success.

“Preparing for a world title is no easy task, especially when you have a day job,” she pointed out. “When we are preparing for a competition, we train three times a day.

"In my case, I train before I start work from 8am to 3pm. I get back home for a short break and back to training all evening.

“I also have to attend English classes twice a week. I want to improve my English in order to communicate better with my pupils. I hope I can achieve fluency in the language pretty soon.”

Paes has not had regular training hours though, having to adjust her timings around the work schedule.

“Sometimes I have time to train before we start work,” she said. “There are days when we have time to train in-between. Otherwise it’s the usual routine of working after duty hours.”

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Paes is taking a much-needed break before she starts preparing for the first major competition of the new season - the Grand Slam Tokyo in July.

“I have already purchased my ticket,” she said. “Once I have got the airline ticket and booked the hotel, I know I’m on-board for my title defence. Tokyo is on the list and thereafter I’ll see where I go next.”

Jiu-jitsu has come naturally to Paes with mother Daniela and father Paulo Flavio being black-belt holders.

“I was three when I first started jiu-jitsu,” Paes said. “My older brother [who is 24] is a brown belt, and both my younger sister [20] and brother [12] are yellow belts, and they have all contributed to my success.”

Paes, who competes in the black belt 62-kilogram division, had to settle for bronze in the World Pro behind compatriot Bianca Basilio and British fighter Ffion Davies.

However, her victory over Charlotte von Baumgarten in the bronze medal fight was a personal triumph after the German had beaten her twice in succession in the Grand Slams of Abu Dhabi and London in January and March, respectively.

“It’s not easy to win every fight even when you have to compete with the same opponent a few times, but I was pretty consistent with my own form throughout the season,” she said.

“I’m very happy with the results and my overall performances. Obviously my target is to retain my world title.”

According to the UAEJJF, the World Pro will be a biennial championship with the 11th edition scheduled for 2020. But it has yet to decide whether the world championship is to be every year or once in two years.