Shamma Al Kalbani 'honoured' to be first Emirati woman to compete at ADXC

UAE's leading female jiu-jitsu athlete defends Asian Championship title in Abu Dhabi this weekend

Emirati jiu-jitsu athlete Shamma Al Kalbani is to take part in the Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship. Pawan Singh / The National
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Shamma Al Kalbani continues to break new ground as the leading light of women's jiu-jitsu in the UAE.

Al Kalbani became the first Emirati female to win a medal at the World Games when she collected bronzes in the 63-kilogram weight class and the open category in Birmingham, Alabama, in July 2022.

She is now set to become the first Emirati female to feature in the Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship (ADXC) when the fourth edition of the competition is hosted outside of the UAE for the first time, in Paris later this month.

The May 18 tournament in the French capital features both jiu-jitsu and grappling, with organisers promising a card packed with European talent going up against some of the best athletes from the rest of the world, all under one dynamic set of rules inside the cage.

Al Kalbani, 21, says she will be delighted to fly the flag for the UAE at the event, but before she digs out her passport, she is determined to defend her Asian Championship title at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“I’m really honoured to be the first Emirati female to feature in this exciting ADXC competition," Al Kalbani told The National. "It's being held for the first time outside the UAE and [I am] obviously looking forward for this new challenge of competing in the cage across three rounds.

“I have never been inside a cage until now and never expected such a turn of events, but when it comes to jiu-jitsu I’m ready for any challenge.”

Bouts at ADXC are contested across three three-minute rounds inside the cage, whereas a traditional jiu-jitsu contest is a single five-minute round on the mat.

“I’ll surely have a few spins inside the cage before heading to Paris. It is a new experience but I believe my jiu-jitsu is good enough to overcome the challenges that I may face,” added Al Kalbani, who has been drawn against Lina Grosset, who is 10 years her senior and ranked No 2 in France.

“In the ADXC, there is a chance to re-energise and come back for the second and third rounds, whereas in the traditional format you may get tired towards the end. So, let’s see how it works out for me.

“But having said that, my focus right now has entirely been on readying for the Asian Championship. I would like to think it’s the ideal platform for my preparation for the ADXC as well.

“We have been training for the continental championship three days a week for the past month. I feel I’m in good shape to aim at a third gold in this championship.”

Al Kalbani won bronze in her first appearance in the continental championship in 2021 and has since followed up with golds in the last two years. She’s also an Asian Games gold medallist from Hangzhou in 2022.

She has won many awards and titles in jiu-jitsu but the Asian Games gong remains right on top.

“For me, the Asian Games is the most prestigious sporting event after the Olympics,” she added. “I wish jiu-jitsu will be in the Olympics and to compete in this world sporting spectacle would be another dream realised.”

Joining Al Kalbani in the ADXC is her national jiu-jitsu team colleague and fellow Asian Games gold medallist Khaled Al Shehhi.

Al Shehhi will have a point to prove when he meets Brazilian Leonardo Mario after losing to him in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship bantamweight final last November.

“The ADXC is a new concept and it’s already popular and obviously I’m excited to experience this contest,” Al Shehhi said.

“I have a score to settle with Leonardo and that has motivated me more. It will be our second meeting in six months and of course in a different format, although it’s jiu-jitsu.”

Al Shehhi, 20, is also competing in the Asian Championship and believes the event is an ideal lead-up for his debut in the ADXC.

“As part of the national team we train throughout the year and I’m always ready for the competitions,” Al Shehhi said. “Obviously my focus is on my next fight and it will be great to go into the ADXC with a win in the continental championship."

Updated: May 02, 2024, 2:44 PM