Mary Jones has come a long way since first taking up jiu-jitsu.
The 26-year-old American claimed her second gold on Saturday in the white belt on her second visit to the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Festival, which served as the opening day of the 11th Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
Jones got the better of Emirati Marwa Al Hosani by points 7-0 in the 70kg weight final at the Mubadala Arena.
Jones took a 3-0 lead by passing a guard and another four points towards the end with a mount. She had to overcome three other opponents, including a narrow victory over Fatemeh Doustdary of Iran in the semi-finals by points 2-0, on her run to the final.
“It’s such a happy moment for me to win gold for the second time in two visits,” said Jones who had won the 62kg gold in her first appearance in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago.
“I had only trained in jiu-jitsu for six months when I won here last year. I was competing in the heavier weight this time and had the same success. I’ll have to compete in the blue belt, if I have to return next year.
“Hopefully, I will, be back next year, but will try to get down to 62kg, because it will be tougher in the heavier weights.”
Jones played football and was involved in other sports before she discovered jiu-jitsu after moving to Jordan to work as an NGO on information management for a humanitarian programme four years ago.
“I came across jiu-jitsu and I loved the sport from day one I joined training,” she said. “It was a new challenge with strong women in the martial arts sport. I haven’t stopped training since I started.
“I work until six in the evening and then go for training straight from there and finish only at 9pm. That has been my routine for a year and a half.
“This couple of years have been exciting to say the least. We have four competitions in Jordan including a UAEJJF Qualifier.
“I have participated in all competitions and also took part in the Austrian National Pro on March 2 and won gold.
“My father is excited about the sport now. I keep sending him videos of my bouts and he simple enjoys it. He will be delighted with my effort today.”
The opening day of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship saw white belts from the age group and adults, and the para-jiu-jitsu fighters compete.
Hamad Eissa Al Blooshi, who was the only para jiu-jitsu fighter when the category was first staged in 2017, said he was glad to see more Emirati participants this year.
“It’s good to see the participation of more people with disabilities, particularly Emiratis,” said Al Blooshi. “Earlier it was just me competing but now more than 100 para jiu-jitsu from all over the world travel to Abu Dhabi to compete.”
Al Blooshi suffers from polio in his left leg. He has been practicing the martial art for 10 years, is a purple belt, and competes in the regular divisions.
“It’s not about winning and losing, but putting my own skills to test, which I enjoy doing,” he said in competing against able bodied opponents.
Emanuel Araujo travelled from Brazil and claimed his second gold in two visits.
Araujo lost his left arm in a motorcycle accident five years ago. He’s been practicing jiu-jitsu for more than 10 years and is a brown belt.
“This a great opportunity provided to us as disabled athletes,” he said. “It gives us so much joy and good moments.”