If the first decade of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship was about maximising participation, the next about raising the quality of competition, say event organisers.
Last year, the World Pro, as its popularly known, drew more than 10,000 entries across 14 days of competition. The 11th edition, which starts Saturday, will feature half that number and run for seven days.
“We have achieved the first part of our objective and now heading for the next with plans to enhance the quality,” said Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, chairman of UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), at Monday's launch ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
“The World Pro is now well established as the biggest and most successful jiu-jitsu championship on earth.
“From the onset, our objective was to bring the jiu-jitsu fraternity together by providing the maximum participation.
“We have done that and achieved the results. Now we want to take this competition onto the next level. From now on, everyone who wants to earn a medal at the World Pro will have to have a minimum qualification to compete.
“In the higher or elite divisions, there are qualifying competitions for the overseas competitors. For the locals, they need to be successful in the local competitions to qualify.”
This year's championship has drawn men and women from 102 countries, from white to black belts, youth world championships, masters and para jiu-jitsu.
The championship will also see the world champions crowned at the end of the week-long event at Mubadala Arena.
The black belt division will reach a climax with four fighters in four weights divisions vying for the men's world title.
Gabriel De Souza of Brazil, in the 62-kilogram weight, tops the chart with 1,220 points as the players head into the season-ending competition.
There are 400 points up for grabs to the winner of each weight division. If De Sousa is successful, he will join fellow Brazilians Erberth Santos, Jose Junior and Igor Silva in being crowned world champion, a title introduced by the UAEJJF at the World Pro in 2016.
Breathing down De Sousa’s neck are compatriots Diego Ramalho (1,200) in the 74kg weight class, and Ricardo Evangelista (1,040; 110kg), as well as Poland’s Ivan Wardzinski (also 1,040; 94kg).
Brazil's Gabrielli Pessanha, 18, leads the women’s world title standings on 1,420 points from compatriot Meyssa Bastos (1,340). Britain's Samantha Cook is third on 1,100.
According to Fahad Al Shamsi, chief executive officer of UAEJJF, the changes were made after a technical study of the achievements of the championship over the last 10 years.
“We had 70 qualifying competitions and the majority of those in the higher belt divisions have qualified through those events held around the world,” he said.
“The local entries too had to come through a qualifying system. We now have quality at every level of the competition throughout the seven days of the World Pro.”