Faisal Al Ketbi has won gold medals in three belt categories at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, but the black-belt title has eluded the Emirati thus far.
Al Ketbi twice came close before falling at the final hurdle in the 85-kilogram final. The 31-year-old hopes to finally set the record straight when he takes part in the week-long championship, popularly known as the World Pro, that gets under way at the Mubadala Arena from Saturday.
"It's another challenge and another opportunity," Al Ketbi told The National during a recent training camp. "Of course the main goal is to win gold, represent the UAE in the best way, fight and honour our flag.
“The World Pro is one of the best competitions that I look forward to every year. I have won gold in three different belt divisions in both the weight and open categories.
“I haven’t won gold in the black belt and it will be my fifth attempt this year. Hopefully I can fulfill that goal this time.”
Al Ketbi has appeared in every edition of the World Pro since it was first staged in 2009.
He won gold the first two years as a blue belt and a silver medal in 2011. Promoted to purple belt, he won gold in 2012, and then went on to win successive double golds in both his weight division and absolute class in the brown belt in 2013 and 2014.
Al Ketbi was elevated to black belt soon after his securing his second double gold at the World Pro in the brown belt.
He missed out on a bronze on his first year as a black belt in 2015 and lost to the 2016 world champion Erberth Santos of Brazil in the semi-finals the following year.
Al Ketbi was the losing finalist to Brazilians Claudio Calasans and Isaque Bahiense the past two years.
“The competition in the black belt is always high and there is no room for any errors,” Al Ketbi said.
“It’s is like a game of chess; one mistake can cost you the game. In jiu-jitsu, you need to think quick according to the situations.
“Our preparations are not just going out there doing fitness and fighting opponents but working out strategies, always trying to learn something new, improve skills and tactics you already know.”
Al Ketbi won the UAE’s second gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August despite carrying an injury which he kept secret even from his teammates.
“I had a muscle injury behind my thigh and with the team management and coach [Ramon Lemos] it was decided we keep it under wraps.
“Any adverse news may have an impact on the team, particularly when the team leader is suffering an injury. I competed while undergoing treatment. I was careful not to aggravate the injury, but it all worked out well for me.
“The Asian Games was important for the country and for me. It’s the first time jiu-jitsu was included in the Games and it may be a once-in-a-lifetime medal for an athlete.”
Al Ketbi insisted he is fit and ready for the World Pro. He also competed in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in January, missing out on a bronze medal to the Brazilian Igor Souza.
“We began training for the World Pro from December and didn’t participate in some of the competitions for strategic reasons,” he said.
“We normally do a camp overseas before the World Pro but this time we didn’t because we already did one in Los Angeles before the Asian Games.
“We spent almost a month and our management decided to hold a camp inside the country.”