Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Thiago Marques: From teenage tearaway in Brazil to jiu-jitsu champion in Abu Dhabi

Marques added Zayed Ramadan Games gold to Abu Dhabi World Pro title at the Armed Forces Officers Club on Saturday

Thiago Marques, 35, won the Masters-1 black belt 77kg gold medal at the Zayed Ramadan Games Tournament at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Thiago Marques, 35, won the Masters-1 black belt 77kg gold medal at the Zayed Ramadan Games Tournament at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Thiago Marques dreads to think what would have happened to him if he had not taken up a career in jiu-jitsu.

As a teenager, the Brazilian and trouble were comfortable bedfellows. A hyperactive child was often involved in street brawls growing up in Natal, the capital city of Rio Grande do Norte state.

“I was a crazy at school but jiu-jitsu changed my whole life,” Marques said after winning a gold medal at the Zayed Ramadan Games at the Armed Forces Officers Club on Saturday.

“My parents had enough of me and enrolled me in a local jiu-jitsu gym. I enjoyed practicing jiu-jitsu because I was successful in competitions from the very beginning.

“While I started to enjoy the new adventure and [became] full-time involved in the martial arts sport, I also became more disciplined. It helped me lead a decent life to this date.

“My parents were so happy to see the change in me. I thank my lord for that.”

Marques’ rise through the ranks was rapid. He achieved black belt in 2007 and went on to win the CBJJE South American Cup in 2011, followed by six gold medals in eight appearances in the black belt 69-kilogram weight at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.

Marques won silver on his Abu Dhabi World Pro debut in 2012 and followed up with a gold 12 months later. He failed to reach the medal round in 2014 but has known only gold the past five years.

The 35-year-old has been living and competing in Abu Dhabi since 2015 after being employed as a jiu-jitsu instructor by the Commando Group, one of the training arms of the UAE Armed Forces.

“I loved this place from the time of my first visit,” Marques said. “I have spent four beautiful years in Abu Dhabi and as a jiu-jitsu person you couldn’t have wished for more.

“I can dedicate my all my time either teaching or training in the sport that I love so close to my heart. Life was also becoming hard back home and the move to Abu Dhabi was like god’s gift.”

Marques’ Ramadan Games gold followed soon after the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s season-ending Abu Dhabi World Pro in April.

“The Ramadan Games wasn’t planned but I entered my name when I accompanied some of my Commando Group teammates and friends,” he said.

“It’s the first time I participated in a Ramadan Games. I don’t train in the No Gi but I wanted to just get on to the mat and compete.”

Marques drew a first-round bye and won his two fights over compatriots Basther Rocha and Eduardo Santana, both by submission, in the Masters-1 black belt 77kg weight.

“The Ramadan Games was good to start with because I plan to compete in more competitions than I did in the past two years,” he added.

“Usually it’s around 20 to 22 competitions each season but the last two years I cut it down by half because I wanted to concentrate on the World Pro.

“The beauty in jiu-jitsu is that you don’t get too old to compete but become a more experienced fighter. So I’m looking ahead for a busy season.”

Updated: May 20, 2019 11:48 AM

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