Ramon Lemos living the dream as he prepares UAE fighters for Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship
Ramon Lemos knew as soon as he arrived in the UAE that he had touched down in the right place.
The Brazilian first arrived on these shores in 2015 and is now the head coach of the UAE national jiu-jitsu team.
From his first visit Lemos recognised that the the infrastructure and facilities put in place by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federeation, along with the calibre of instructors hired to coach the country's practitioners, were among the best on the planet. That, together with the UAEJJF's drive to get the martial art included on the Olympics programme, told him he had made the right choice.
“I have come here to follow my dreams,” he said. “The UAE has a vision to take jiu-jitsu to the Olympics and I want to be a part of this project. I want to do everything within my capacity to see they achieve that goal.
“This is not only my dream but it’s the dream of everybody around the world involved in jiu-jitsu. I have been in jiu-jitsu since I was five. I have never thought anything beyond jiu-jitsu.
“For me this is a great opportunity to be a part the history making when jiu-jitsu will make it to the Olympics. I pray to God to grant me that wish every day, to give me the chance live and die in the UAE.”
Lemos, 39, first arrived in Abu Dhabi to present a workshop during the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship in 2015 and was offered a job as an instructor.
“We discussed the terms and both parties were happy. I started with the UAE national U18 squad and had the opportunity to train many youngsters who are now at a good level."
Lemos was promoted to the senior national team in December and has been busy preparing a squad of 30 for the World Pro that gets under way at the Mubadala Arena from April 16 to 28.
“That’s only one part of the project,” he said. “After the World Pro is the Asian Games in August and as a national team that’s our biggest event. It opens the door for the Olympics."
Jiu-jitsu makes its debut at the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
Lemos believes the UAE can become a major force in jiu-jitsu over the next couple of decades.
“When I first arrived here in 2015 I made a plan to put our fighters at a different level. The levels have kept improving since then,” he said.
“The UAE is still young in the martial art as compared to Brazil, where jiu-jitsu has been practiced for more than 100 years and in the USA for more than 40 years.
“The Emirati fighters have progressed but I would imagine them to be second to none in the world in another 10-20 years time.
“We are already at a good level but we need more experience competing abroad. We have a couple of black belts but I want to see more than 100, perhaps, more than 1,000 Emirati black belts.
“A lot has still to be done but I think they are well on the way. We have more than 600 black belts as trainers in the UAE. They are going to pass all their experience to the Emirati fighters from a very young age. We can already see the results.
“It’s not unusual in any sport for a new generation to emerge and with stronger results. If you see footballers, the new generation are more skilful and with their scientific and modern training methods. Jiu-jitsu fighters are going to be exactly the same.”
Lemos said the school programme started in 2008 by the UAEJJF in association with the Abu Dhabi Educational Council is the best way to take the sport forward.
Jiu-jitsu was included in the public school curriculum and it is estimated more than 70,000 school children in the UAE practice the sport.
“It’s the best in the world,” Lemos said. “I don’t think this programme is available in any other country.
“Kids start from school curriculum, and then jiu-jitsu is practiced in the national services, defence services and the police department. I wish it will be introduced at the universities.”
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