By his own admission, Tarek Suleiman is on the biggest stage of his professional fighting career.
The Syrian is pitted against Marvin Vettori, former Venator FC welterweight champion and UFC middleweight contender, in a No Gi jiu-jitsu contest at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship (ADXC 1) at the Mubadala Arena on Friday.
“I have been waiting for an opportunity like this and when it came my way, I jumped at it straight away. In fact, this is the biggest match in my pro fighting career,” Suleiman told The National.
“When they offered me a spot in the ADXC, I said to them: I never get the chance to fight a top-level fighter, and now I get the opportunity to face the No-5 ranked middleweight.
“Of course, it’s not MMA but I’m ready to take him on in jiu-jitsu. I think I was in the right place at the right time to get this opportunity. This kind of magic happens only in Abu Dhabi and I happened to be there.”
Suleiman, 33, is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and he explained that the martial art formed part of his daily training in MMA.
“It’s a natural progression for me to jump in and test myself in this part of the game,” he said of his jiu-jitsu background. “I’m looking for a tough fight from Marvin, and I can’t wait to submit him. My message to him: let’s put on a great show.”
Suleiman is a UAE Warriors powerhouse with 12 wins on his record, six of which were secured through submission.
“ADXC is very close to MMA, and I believe I have an advantage over other jiu-jitsu athletes due to my ability to use the cage, footwork, cutting corners, and pinning them to the fence to my advantage, allowing me to take them down and gain an advantage,” he said.
“I’m very excited about this event; it’s one of its kind. I love grappling; half of my MMA wins have come through submissions. There are a lot of big names on the card, so I’m pretty overwhelmed by how prestigious the card is. Looking forward to starting fight week and getting the ball rolling.
Suleiman has been fully engaged in training and preparations in Dubai
“Training has been great, and the UAE is the best place for jiu-jitsu training,” he added.
“I did my camp at Team Nogueira Dubai with Coach Thiago Sa, who has a great No Gi game. I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve learned into practice. I think it’s a natural progression for my career to transition from MMA to grappling, which has always been my passion.”
The ADXC 1 fight card features 14 contests that include two main events and two co-main events. In the No Gi main event, Neiman Gracie – who holds the record for most submissions in his division – faces former UFC fighter Ben Henderson.
In the Gi main event, Brazilians Isaque Bahiense and Gustavo Batista will do battle in a bout where no love is lost, while n the No Gi co-main event Suleiman faces Vettori and Roberto Cyborg Abreu clashes with Anton Minenko in the other.
The ADXC card also boasts a star-studded Arab lineup, including Emirati Zayed Al Katheeri, who has made a name for himself in the world of jiu-jitsu with success at various local and international championships. The Emirati champion will face Thalison Soares.