Here’s why UAE nationals love this intense sport

As Abu Dhabi reinforces its position as the home of jiu jitsu, UAE nationals go all in to emerge victorious.

Jiu-jitsu has enjoyed enormous popularity in the UAE

Are champions born or are they made? That’s an age-old debate that never seems to get settled. While some people are definitely born with physical advantages that make them more likely to succeed athletically, others possess the grit and dedication required to become great athletes, and the UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) has laid the groundwork to support the next generation of jiu-jitsu champions.

Ready to roll

The Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC) returns bigger and better for its 11th edition from 20th to 26th April.

The competition is set to host athletes from over 100 countries who will go head-to-head for titles and a piece of the $687,000 (AED 2.5 million) prize fund.

Open to all nationalities from the UAE, the region and the globe, the championship, which is the final event of the UAEJJF World Ranking Series for this season, comprises several events all rolled into one, including the Abu Dhabi World Jiu Jitsu Festival & Para Jiu Jitsu Competitions, the Abu Dhabi World Youth Championship, the Abu Dhabi World Masters Jiu Jitsu Championship and professional competitions for blue to black belts.

Following the overwhelming success of the 2018 edition, Fahad Al Shamsi, CEO of UAEJJF, believes the multi-tournament event is essential for establishing Abu Dhabi as an international jiu jitsu hub and a testament to the sport’s growing appeal globally: “It is not an accident that Abu Dhabi is now regarded as the international home of jiu jjtsu,” he says.

“The sport is embedded in the social fabric and public consciousness of the UAE nation, while the inherent values the sport teaches – discipline, courage, friendship, patience, endurance, leadership and team spirit – are evident everywhere from the gymnasiums in our schools to international competition mats graced by an increasingly strong and commanding contingent of male and female Emirati professionals.”

Hamad Nawad, who had a break out season last year, clinching a gold medal in the adult male 56kg blue belt category, exemplifies how jiu jitsu has grown in the UAE.

He started learning the martial arts discipline through a school programme in 2012 and has been training ever since.

Hamad recalls how momentous his win was last year and affirms that he is ready to hit the mat with the same fervour this year: “We all know how important this win was for us and the competition is going to be so big this year; I’m going to compete in the same way that I fought last year,” he tells us.

“I’m so motivated. I started to train three weeks ago from ten in the morning until eight at night. I am ready, I am ready for my competition.”

Training with the national team and representing the UAE on home soil, Hamad knows all too well that his success is synonymous with that of his country – a challenge that he intends to meet head on.

“A big responsibility is going to be on me because I have to raise my country’s name and it’s going to be a lot of pressure, but nothing is impossible and I think I can do it,” he says.

“My goal is to get the gold medal and I hope so. The gold is going to be mine [again] this year.”

As just one of many of the UAE’s talented players, Hamad is out to showcase the UAE’s prowess on the mat and prove why the country’s next generation of jiu jitsu fighters is a force to be reckoned with.

Need to Know

What: Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship
When: 20th-26th April, match times vary
Where: Mubadala Arena, next to Zayed Sports City, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street
Tickets: Free entry

WORDS Tamara Clarke

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