UFC fighters Demian Maia and BJ Penn have been impressed by the level of talent, as well as the support, for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
UAE jiu-jitsu could be as big as Brazil, says UFC legend Demian Maia
ABU DHABI // As the fifth Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship kicked off today, with the largest and most competitive field yet, a former jiu-jitsu legend and MMA fighter believes the UAE could become another Brazil, the spiritual home of the martial art.
This year's event has 750 male and female fighters from around the world competing for the Dh1.45 million in prize money, the tournament reaffirming the capital's position as the premier destination in the sport. The event began yesterday with the World Jiu-Jitsu Children's Cup at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (Adnec).
"The support for the sport here is phenomenal," the UFC fighter Demian Maia said. "In six to eight years the fruits of what is happening here will really begin to show. The UAE could be as big as Brazil, in terms of jiu-jitsu, and maybe eventually even bigger."
Fittingly, the UAE this year has arguably its strongest group of competitors, with coach Maiky Reiter expecting a doubling of their five-gold medal haul from last year. The strongest chances for medals come in the shape of Faisal Al Ketbi and Yahya Al Hammadi. Al Ketbi won gold last year in the under 100-kilogram purple belt category. But there will also be plenty of interest in the much-talked-about 17-year-old Abdulrahman Al Tamimi, who won a gold in Portugal at a European Championship event in January. Al Tamimi and his brother Khalid are both products of the local school system and good enough, believe officials, to challenge at a senior level already.
Shamsa Hassan, the most heartening Emirati success story from last year's championship, also returns, aiming to add to the gold medal she won. She is competing in the under 60kg category blue belt this time round.
This year's event has attracted effectively the 10 top-ranked fighters across almost all weight and belt categories. Most eyes will remain on the open-weight, black belt category, the headline category in which fighters such as Rodolfo Vieira (who won the title last year in Abu Dhabi) is among the favourites. Tarsis Humphreys and the former Abu Dhabi winner Claudio Calasans will also feature heavily among the favourites.
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