Zayed Al Katheeri produced a stunning performance to clinch gold for the UAE and prevent a Brazilian clean sweep of black belt titles at the 14th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship on Saturday.
The Emirati got the referee's decision against Brazil's Nathaniel Fernandes after a scoreless deadlock to bag the gold in the 56kg category.
Al Katheeri, 22, cleared his first hurdle against Colombian Jelson Mora by submission and defeated Kazakh Samat Aitpanbet by points 9-7 to book his place in the final.
“The final match was tough and technical, and the result was in my favour because I adopted a more attacking strategy,” said Al Katheeri, who was named the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Player of the Award in a gala ceremony later in the night.
“I couldn’t participate in this championship last year due to an injury but I won gold in the purple belt in the previous year.
“Competing in the black belt was very tough. I worked really hard to come back for this championship and delighted of this result fighting in the black belt division. The plan is now to participate in the AJP Tours Sydney Grand Slam in February.”
Omar Al Fadhli had to settle for silver in the black belt 62kg behind Brazilian Meyran Alves.
Al Fadhli had a tougher passage as he had to come through three fights to reach the final. The Emirati defeated Russian Giorgi Razmadze by points 9-2 and the Korean pair Song Hyeon-keun and Wan Ki-chea in the next two rounds to reach the final.
Lucas Protasio and Julia Alves also celebrated their gold medals in the men’s 77kg and women’s 62kg when they received the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Player awards for men and women.
The five remaining men’s golds were taken by Raimundo Sodre (69kg), Protasio (77kg), Felippe Silva (85kg), Catriel Rodrigues (94kg) and Yatan Bueno (120kg). Izadora Silva (70kg) and Gabrieli Pessanha bagged the two remaining golds in the women’s division.
The Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards capped three weeks of competition across two events – the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation’s (JJIF) World Championships and the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, popularly known as the World Pro.
The awards are a recognition of athletes who excelled in the competitions organised by UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s AJP (Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro) Tour for the season.
The elite athletes in the martial art sport from the UAE and around the world were honoured in a gala ceremony following the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi World Pro, which featured 5,000 competitors from more than 100 countries at the Rixos Marina.
Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, Member of the Executive Council, presented the awards.
Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, chairman of the UAEJJF, president of the Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union and senior vice president of the JJIF, stressed that the award’s night has become a dream for the biggest stars of the sport, and the championship proven to be the biggest in the world.
“We are on the right track, and we hope to build on our accomplishments and further contribute to solidifying Abu Dhabi's status as the jiu-jitsu world capital,” he said.
Tariq Al Bahri, general manager of AJP, complimented the winners while pointing out that many players had been looking forward to this moment all year.
“The awards are the result of dedication, ambition, and hard work,” he said. “We have seen incredible competitions between the top players over the last season, so achieving victory was a challenging endeavour fraught with difficulties.
“The players faced extremely challenging obstacles as they advanced through 180 championships in 2022, to qualify for the awards.”