ABU DHABI // The big guns are set to come out blazing when the competition proper – the eighth Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Championship – gets under way from today at the Ipic Arena.
As usual, the five-day event, has drawn the cream of the fighters in all weights and belt categories in both men and women vying for a slice of the Dh2.5 million prize that is up for grabs.
The Brazilians are set to dominate the black belt categories as they have done it in the previous years while the Emiratis with their bigger participation are expected to rack up medals in the lower divisions.
Faisal Al Ketbi, fresh from a silver medal at the Grand Slam London and a double gold at the West Asian Championship, will be carrying the home players’ hopes in the top flight.
“Our preparations have been very strong,” he said. “We have participated in a lot of competitions inside and outside the country and we also had a training camps.
“My own form has been encouraging and the medals that I won in the last two competitions has given me a lot of confidence. It is only my second year in black belt, so it’s going to be real tough but nothing is impossible.”
Al Ketbi took part in all four Grand Slams in Tokyo (silver), Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro and London (silver).
He expects a majority of compatriots to reach the medal rounds. “Their chances of winning are very good because most of them have won either gold, silver or bronze in the Grand Slams,” he said.
“They have had good preparations since last year and now everyone is ready and I hope to see them doing well. I expect more medals this time and they will do their best I am sure.”
Al Ketbi believes he is in fine health going into his 94-kilogram weight and also the absolute class, if he qualifies for it.
“Usually I am around 96-97 two days before I go into the weigh-in but this time I’m around 91-92, which means I am in great shape,” he said.
The other medal prospects for the hosts are Yahya Mansour Al Hammadi, Mohammed Nasser Al Braiki, Hamdan Al Baloushi, Zayed Al Mansouri, Saif Al Qubaisi, Zayed Al Kaabi, and Mohammed Al Qubaisi.
Al Hammadi (in the Brown belt Masters-1) and Al Braiki (white belt) have struck gold in all four Grand Slam events.
Al Braiki, a 25-year-old policeman, is the eldest of the seven boys in the family. During off-duty hours, he would drop-off and pick-up his younger siblings for jiu-jitsu training.
“All six of them were attending jiu-jitsu training and one day my second-last brother [Mana, 12] asked me why I wasn’t joining them. That’s when I started,” he said.
“I love the sport so much that I have overtaken all my brothers,” Al Braiki said with a grin. “This season I have been at my best as I have won 11 golds, two silvers and won at all Grand Slams.”
Al Braiki has been in the sport for only two years but has emerged as the top-ranked player at 332 points, under the new ranking system introduced by UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
Meanwhile, the highlight of yesterday’s Abu Dhabi World Youth Cup for boys 10 to 17 years were the impressive victories for the Emiratis Khalifa Mohammed Al Baloushi, Khalifa Al Kaabi, and Saeed Ahmed Al Haj to reach the finals.
Khalifa overcame three opponents to set up a final showdown with Gilgamesh Blanch in the 61kg blue belt juvenile division.
The Emirati, who has stumped fingers in his left hand, battled his way through Ala Al Kayed of Jordan, and his national junior team colleagues Manea Khalifa Al Kaabi and Ahmed Bader Al Rejaibi in the semi-final.
“I use my right hand to grip and the left hand to roll around like a hook,” said Khalifa.
“It is not a hindrance to me anymore. I have been in this game long enough to learn how to overcome the disadvantage. It was three hard fights and now looking forward to the final.”
The Youth World Cup drew over 1,100 competitors from 47 countries battling for honours in six different belt categories.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport