ABU DHABI: The UAE’s Zayed Al-Kathiri created history on Saturday by becoming the first-ever black belt holder in the country to win gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships.
The star of Baniyas Club and the national team took the medal on the final day of the competition at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Zayed Sports City by outperforming Brazilian Nathanael Fernandes, who was competing for the UAE’s Commando Group, in a match that stoked the passion of the spectators.
Saturday saw 12 fights in the professional division in various weight classes, with black belt men, and brown and black belt women, taking to the mats.
The Commando Group emerged the winner in the professional division, with Brazil’s GFTeam in second and the UAE’s ADMA in third. The UAE champions excelled over the course of three days, taking home nine medals, including a gold medal, seven silver medals, and a bronze medal.
“Abu Dhabi proved yet again that it is a global hub of jiu-jitsu, it is capable of hosting events of the highest caliber and raising the bar for hosting major sporting events. It’s the favorite destination for legends from around the world to realize their dreams and ambitions,” said Abdul Moniem Al-Hashemi, chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, president of the Asian Ju-Jitsu Union and senior vice president of the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation.
“Today’s performance by the Emirati champions was spectacular and they showcased their greatest accomplishments to the entire world. Now we can proudly say that the nation’s athletes have won every title available in this sport on the national and international levels,” he added.
Following his historic feat, Al-Kathiri dedicated his medal to Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, president of the UAE, and thanked the leadership for supporting sports and athletes in the country.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the UAEJJF, my coaches, and everyone else who supported me along the way. I greatly value everyone’s support,” he said.
“I am overjoyed with this accomplishment. It was a tough fight as the competitions in the black belt category are different from others as the participants are very strong and experienced. I approached my fight today with optimism and careful analysis of my opponent’s style, (so) I was able to succeed,” he said.
In the finals, Meyran Alves of Brazil from the ADMA academy won gold in the 62 kg division by beating Omar Alfadhli of the UAE’s Al-Jazira Jiu-Jitsu Club.
“Today’s bout was good, and I want to congratulate Alves for his outstanding performance. Even though I didn’t get the gold today, it was still a positive experience that will help me do better in future events,” Alfadhli said.
Brazilian athletes including Clube Feijao’s Raimundo Sodre (69 kg), Commando Group’s Lucas Protasio (77 kg), ADMA’s Fellipe Silva (85 kg), GFTeam’s Catriel Fernandes Rodrigues (94 kg), and ADMA’s Yatan Bueno (120 kg), also won gold in the men’s black belt division.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Brenda Larissa from Commando Group won gold in the 49 kg category of the women’s brown/black belt competition. Other gold medal winners were Ana Rodrigues from ADMA (55 kg), Julia Alves from GFTeam (62 kg), and Gabrieli Pessanha of Infight Brazil (95 kg).
Larissa, who overcame Margarita Ochoa from the Philippines, who competed for ATOS in the finals, said: “I feel very happy with my performance and being able to win the title. I am grateful to all the organizers of the championship and to the UAE, especially Abu Dhabi, which gives us the opportunity to compete at the highest levels.”