Abu Dhabi World Pro 2019: Jiu-jitsu spreading 'like a virus' in Asia

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation chief executive predicts China to emerge as the sport's next powerhouse as world's best fighters descend on the capital

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - April 15, 2019: Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, chief executive officer of the UAEJJF. The Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2019 press conference. Monday the 15th of April 2019. Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The sport of jiu-jitsu is spreading "like a virus" across Asia with China set to become the next global powerhouse, says the chief executive of UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, chief executive of of the UAEJJF, predicts that fighters from China will make the biggest impact on the sport over the coming years as it gets set to host the next Asian Beach Games and Asian Games.

Sanya, a city on the southern end of China’s Hainan Island, will host the 2020 Asian Beach Games from November 28 to December 5, and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, from September 10 to 25. A Chinese delegation will attend the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, popularly known as the World Pro, as it is popularly known, that runs from April 20-26 at the Mubadala Arena, to observe the UAEJJF's organisation of a marque event.

“China will come in a big way in jiu-jitsu as they will host most of the OCA [Olympic Council of Asia] events in the coming years,” said Al Shamsi, who is also general secretary of Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union (JJAU).

“Like in every Olympic sport, they have the potential. The UAE was the most successful country in the last Asian Games [topping the medals table with two golds, five silvers and two bronze] but we will find it hard to compete for medals in the next Asiad."

Though Brazil is regarded as the world leader in the sport, Al Shamsi says Asia is a hot-bed for jiu-jitsu.

“Jiu-jitsu is spreading like a virus in Asia. The continent will be well-represented in the World Pro with Kazakhstan topping the list with 367 fighters,” Al Shamsi said.

The 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta saw jiu-jitsu make its debut with eight gold medals on offer. Al Shamsi is confident the number of golds will be increased at the next edition with jiu-jitsu firmly established at OCA events.

The UAEJJF has for years been at the forefront to see the sport included for the first time at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

“The Olympics is a frequently asked question nowadays,” Al Shamsi said. “There is a lot of work left for us to take jiu-jitsu to the Olympics but we are optimistic in achieving it with the support of the National Olympic Committees from around the world.”

After more than a decade promoting and developing martial arts across the world, the UAEJJF is reaping the rewards with the world's best jiu-jitsu martial artists fighting in the capital at the week-long World Pro.

“When you look back, that’s where it all started,” said Al Shamsi, referring to the World Pro, which was first staged in 2008.

“The federation had a vision and we worked and re-worked on every strategy that we came up with in the last 10 years to accomplish what we have achieved up to now.

“Our work is still ongoing but after evaluating the success we have already had, we can proudly say we have accomplished most of our objectives and still moving forward.”

The UAEJJF has elevated the status of the sport by introducing world ranking points and a world champions elected every year.

“It was one of the tools to motivate the fighters and elevate the sport with a world champion elect,” Al Shamsi said.

“To become a world champion is unique achievement. A world championship title provides a fighter a status and prize money as well.

“The federation instituted this title in 2016 and it gives an added incentive to every fighter to have a crack at the world title. This year’s world title will be an exciting one with four fighters in the race.”

Brazilians Gabriel De Sousa, Diego Ramalho, Ricardo Evangelista, and Poland’s Adam Wardzinski are the four vying for the men’s world title as they go into the season-ending competition.

Brazilian Gabrieli Pessanha tops the women’s chart followed by compatriot Mayssa Bastos and Samantha Cook of Britain

Abu Dhabi will host the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation’s World Championship for both youths and adults in November.

“The World Pro is for professionals and the World Championship is for fighters representing the country and we are hosting it for the first time,” Al Shamsi said.