Emirati Faisal Al Ketbi ready to test himself among jiu-jitsu black belt elite

The Emirati has been conferred to black belt, which means he will be able to brush shoulders with the likes of the Brazilian world champions Marcos Almeida and Rodolfo Vieira.
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -April 19, 2014: Faisal Al Ketbi of UAEJJ National Team prepares to compete in the Male Brown Adult Open Weight Category during the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, at the First Gulf Bank Arena in Zayed Sports City. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -April 19, 2014: Faisal Al Ketbi of UAEJJ National Team prepares to compete in the Male Brown Adult Open Weight Category during the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, at the First Gulf Bank Arena in Zayed Sports City. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // Faisal Al Ketbi, one of the star names of UAE jiu-jitsu, is gearing up for his biggest challenge.

The Emirati has been conferred to black belt, which means he will be able to brush shoulders with the likes of the Brazilian world champions Marcos Almeida and Rodolfo Vieira.

“The black belt is a new beginning for me. To fight in the black-belt division has always been my long-term ambition,” Al Ketbi said.

“To win gold medals in the blue, purple and brown-belt categories in the world pro event [the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu Jitsu Championship] wasn’t easy either. The bar has now been raised and I hope I can meet the challenges that are ahead.”

Al Ketbi, 26, has won the gold medal in each of the six championships staged in Abu Dhabi, barring in 2011 when he had to settle for silver in the blue belt.

He completed a double gold in the brown belt, in the 100 kilograms and the open weight, at last month’s championships in the capital.

Al Ketbi praised the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJ) and his coach Alex Paz, saying: “I am very glad to achieve what I aimed for. I thank God and thank all those who supported me, including the federation, the national team coach, the people around me and the fans.”

Al Ketbi tried his hand at wrestling and judo before pursuing a full-time career in jiu-jitsu in 2009. That year he won his first gold medal in the blue belt at the inaugural championships in Abu Dhabi.

He has been coached for five years by the Brazilian Paz, who said that Al Ketbi’s fights in the first year as a black belt would be all about gaining experience.

“It will take him a year or two to get to grips at this level, and of course, more hard work,” he said.

“Faisal has an excellent work ethic and that’s one of the reasons for his success. He is a quick learner and fully committed to his work.

“He has improved all the time to reach the level he has reached now and I am sure he will continue to do well and achieve good results because he is still the same humble and disciplined person that I have known all along.

“He is an amazing guy. I have had a long association with him as the national team coach and have become close friends aside from the training and preparing him for competitions.”

Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, the general secretary of both the UAEJJ and the Ju-Jitsu Asian Union, thinks Al Ketbi is an inspiration to Emirati children.

“The success he has had, the way he has dedicated himself to the sport and the charisma he carries makes him a role model for thousands of Emirati kids to pursue on his path,” Al Shamsi said.

“He is turning a new chapter in his career and we can only wish him well. He has been in the sport for long enough to be aware how hard it is to reach the top flight.”

Al Ketbi said his greatest moment in the sport was the day he was embraced and congratulated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, when he won the gold medal in the brown belt 100kg division in the Abu Dhabi championships last year.

Sheikh Mohammed made a special trip to watch him fight in last month’s championships.

“It doesn’t happen too often and it doesn’t happen in many other sports, so for me, it was a great honour when Sheikh Mohammed was present and then embracing me after the win,” he said.

Al Ketbi’s first competition in the black belt will be the Elite Championship No-Gi on June 13-14 followed by the Ramadan Cup in July, both in Abu Dhabi.

apassela@thenational.ae

Published: May 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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