Omar Al Fadhli completed a memorable double gold and in the process was elevated to black belt on the podium on the penultimate day of the 13th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
The 21-year-old Emirati, widely regarded as heir to the throne of the UAE’s most decorated jiu-jitsu fighter Faisal Al Ketbi, clinched his second gold in as many weeks with a 6-3 victory over Brazilian Leonardo Mario at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena at Zayed Sports City on Thursday.
Having clinched gold at the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation’s World Championship at the same venue last week, Al Fadhli produced another masterclass to take the brown belt 62-kilogram weight.
“I have been longing for this day ever since I started my journey in jiu-jitsu at the age of 12,” Al Fadhli told The National.
“It’s one of the most memorable days in my life. To receive the black belt is a milestone in my career but having achieved that tonight I have to take my game to the next level, which means more hard work ahead.
“I love this, though. I have fulfilled one part of my journey after deciding to pursue full time in jiu-jitsu. The federation has backed me all the way through.”
Al Fadhli has now become the youngest jiu-jitsu black belt in the Middle East and was also the first Emirati to receive a professional contract in December 2018.
“To win another gold medal in this remarkable championship is very special,” Al Fadhli added.
“The best feeling any athlete can have is carrying their country’s flag on the podium and I’m honoured to have been able to do that. And to then be awarded with the black belt, it really doesn’t get much better.
“I have trained exceptionally hard for this moment and gained a lot of experience during previous championships such as the Asian Championship and World Championship that brought me to this point.
“This gold is the pinnacle of my career to date as it is my first and as it turns out, the last with a brown belt.”
The UAE national team’s Brazilian head coach Ramon Lemos presented the black belt to Al Fadhli soon after he received the gold medal on the podium.
“I couldn’t be happier for Omar. He thoroughly deserves his black belt,” Lemos said.
“He has worked incredibly hard, has improved his technical ability and his dedication is there for all to see. The way he approached this week and studying his opponents is a great lesson to the youngsters coming through.”
Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, said Al Fadhli’s achievement was largely due to the school jiu-jitsu programme launched by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
“It is the best programme for the dissemination and development of the game, as the foundation for discovering, refining and creating heroes of UAE jiu-jitsu.
“We take this opportunity to thank our partners in schools, families, sponsors and supporters, because what Omar has achieved is an achievement for every Emirati citizen and a badge of pride that makes him a role model for all players from future generations.
“This achievement is a success for the school programme, which now has 180,000 male and female athletes.
“Undoubtedly, reaching the black belt stage in the sport of jiu-jitsu is the dream of every professional player, and this journey may take years, but Omar shortened the time thanks to his diligence to be one of the youngest players in the history of this sport.”