Brazilian UFC fighter Rani Yahya says MMA and jiu-jitsu has bright future in UAE

Brazilian, who competes in the featherweight division of the mixed martial arts series (MMA), took part in a two-day jiu-jitsu workshop in Dubai and is impressed with the level of participation in the region, writes Ali Khaled.

Brazilian UFC fighter Rani Yahya, left, was impressed by what he saw during a jiu-jitsu workshop in Dubai. Courtesy Fit Republik
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UFC fighter Rani Yahya says that the UAE and the Middle East will become a focal point for competitions and action in the sport and jiu-jitsu in the future.

The Brazilian, who competes in the featherweight division of the mixed martial arts series (MMA), has been taking part in a two-day jiu-jitsu workshop in Dubai at Fit Republik, which finished on Friday, and is impressed with the level of participation in the region.

“In the future there will be some more fighters, with all the tournaments happening here, in jiu-jitsu and in MMA, like Desert Force,” he said.

“The UAE is doing a lot of work with the kids, so they are starting to do jiu-jitsu young,” he added when asked about the UAE’s chances of developing future superstars of the sport.

“There will be some really good fighters in the future. But they already have good fighters in the UAE, they just need some more opportunities around the world.”

Yahya, who has a record of 21 wins and eight losses in MMA competition, was impressed by what he saw in Dubai. But he said he was not surprised, having previously visited Abu Dhabi and seen the interest young Emiratis had in the sport.

“When I went to Abu Dhabi it was amazing because jiu-jitsu was everywhere,” he said. “It’s growing so much. I think what they are doing in promoting martial arts here is something very important for the people.”

Having won two ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling World Championships titles in the past, the UAE is increasingly a favoured destination for Yahya. But he says he has an affinity for the region due to his father coming from Syria.

“Half of my blood is Arabic and I still consider myself an Arabic fighter,” he said.

“Alex Nacfur, head coach for MMA at Fit Republik, is a good friend of mine and was one of my coaches in Brazil,” he said about his time in Dubai this week.

“After he moved to Dubai, he set up a seminar for me to help promote the gym in the martial arts aspects and teach some students, so that’s how I got here.”

One of the reasons that Yahya was able to come to the UAE at this time was because he is now on an enforced break from fighting after beating Masanori Kanehara in the summer at UFC Fight Night, but he is eyeing a return early next year.

“I don’t have a fight coming up as I’m under medical suspension after my last fight in July,” he said. “So I’m going to be clear to fight in January. At this moment I’m focused on training and at the beginning of next year I’m going to be fighting again.”

While his immediate goals are on returning to competitive action in the UFC, Yahya is already looking forward to his next trip back to the UAE.

“Every time I have the opportunity I will come here,” he said. “It’s always a great to be here, it doesn’t matter if I’m here for holiday or teaching.

“I love it here and I really want to come back. I haven’t left yet, and I already miss it.”

akhaled@thenational.ae

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