The UAE made a bright start to the 2023 International Mixed Martial Art Federation (IMMAF) Youth World Championships at the Mubadala Arena in Zayed Sports City on Wednesday.
Saif Al Blooshi won gold for the UAE, while Rakan Al Yammahi and Aisha Al Hammadi clinched silver medals. Sara Al Zarooni grabbed bronze. All of them bagged medals in their first appearances on the world stage.
Al Blooshi’s victory over Tajikistan’s Khurshedjon Shokirov in the boys 40-kilogram division triggered wild celebrations.
The UAE bagged a gold, silver and two bronze on their debut in the youth worlds last year, and with 31 more athletes to compete over the next three days, the host nation will be hoping to add to the opening day tally.
Aisha (57kg) and Sara (40kg) etched their names in the record books by becoming the first Emirati girls to win medals at the MMA youth worlds.
“I’m thrilled and proud to win a medal for my country, and I’m already thinking of next year when the championships will be staged again in Abu Dhabi,” Aisha told The National.
“I have been training in jiu-jitsu and muaythai for a while, and more recently in boxing. I took to MMA a year ago and won gold in a domestic competition last April and was selected by the national team for the youth worlds.”
Aisha, 13, is a yellow belt in jiu-jitsu has won several medals in domestic competitions.
“I think I was about three when I first started jiu-jitsu,” the Sharjah schoolgirl said.
“My elder brother practiced the martial art. I don’t know if that was the reason for me to take up combat sports, but I just loved it from early days. My parents, particularly my mother, supported me all through my journey until now.”
Aisha lost to the eventual gold medalist Lama Baltagi of Lebanon in the opening contest before bouncing back with victories over Mahi Dongre of India and Esmira Bayramova of Azerbaijan.
“I was nervous going into the first fight,” she added. “Had it been the second or third fight, the result of that contest could have been different.
“Lama was the strongest fighter as the result proved but I’m very happy with my own performance and result. As a team, I think we have had a great first day and hopefully can add a few more medals for the UAE.”
Ukraine topped the medals table with four golds, three silvers and three bronze, followed by Ireland (2 golds, 1 silver). Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Britain, Israel, USA and Lebanon picked up a gold each.