The UAE had field day with all their seven fighters reaching the medal round of the IFMA Asian Muay Thai Championship held in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Having made it to the semi-finals, the host nation is now guaranteed a bronze each but team leader Ilyass Habibali insisted their goal was now to convert them into gold.
“The team is doing really well and that’s all down to the hard work that had gone in our preparations,” Habibali, who won a unanimous points decision over Palestine Ahmad Hilal in 81kg, said.
“I know we have all reached the medal rounds but having reached this point we want to go one step further, perhaps achieve gold or silver, and that would be our goal in the next two days.”
Habibali, 28, who won gold in the World Championship in Mexico in 2018 and bronze at the Asian Championship in Macau last year, meets Kazakh Alexandr Tsarikov in Friday’s semi-final.
“The first fight is always the most difficult because you don’t have a clue who you meet,” Habibali said of his Palestine opponent in his opening match.
“It’s true I won all three rounds but it wasn’t as easy as it looked. This chap arrived on the back of a silver medal at the World Championship in Thailand in July.
“So he wasn’t an easy first fight for me. However, I’m glad I came out of it in one piece and am now looking forward for the next. Obviously I want to go all the way and that’s the objective of all my teammates.”
Zakaria Eljamari scored a similar points decision over Hamed Al Matari of Yemen in 57kg, his second fight in as many days.
“It was my second fight in two days and I played it smart again because I knew I can progress to the next round,” Eljamari said after his second win with a unanimous points decision.
“I have to prepare for a tough semi-final contest [against Kazakh Almaz Sarsembekov] and it was important for me to conserve my energy and stay injury-free.
“It’s not easy to stay in good health in this game. You never know of the blows you receive in every fight. It only gets harder and harder after every fight. I know it’s the same for every fighter but playing smart makes more sense when you know you have another round or two to go.”
Ibrahim Bilal, 18, was impressive again. He followed his victory by knockout in a little over 20 seconds with another equally dominant display over Syrian Hyan Aljmyah in 60kg.
Bilal’s powerful punches and kicks saw his opponent take three standing counts in the first round and a fourth early in the second round before the referee stopped the contest.
“That’s my game, to go all out and win the fight,” he said. “It’s always good to finish them off as quickly as possible when you have four or five opponents lined up.
“I managed to do it twice but tomorrow is another day. I just hope I can take this momentum forward.”
Joining Habibali, Eljamari and Bilal were Nouredine Samir (63.5kg), Mohhammed Mardi (67kg), Amine El Moatassime and Ahmad Bahman (both 71kg).