For someone so young Omar Al Fadhli is an old hand at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
For the past six year the Emirati, 18, competed in the junior and juvenile categories, winning gold in his division last year to go with his collection of two silver medals from previous tournaments.
The next time Al Fadhli steps on to the mat at the Mubadala Arena for the 10th staging of the Abu Dhabi World Pro, which runs from April 16 to 28, however, he will face off against adults where he is confident he can replicate his juvenile success.
“Obviously it’s tough but I’m confident I can make it,” said Al Fadhli who remains undefeated since his gold medal winning performance in the Abu Dhabi World Pro last April.
Al Fadhli is entered in the blue belt 62-kilogramme weight division. His undefeated season has seen him win eight gold medals, including the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan which was an open belt competition for adults.
Other notable victories came at the Grand Slams in both Tokyo and Abu Dhabi (juveniles), a competition in Brazil when the national team were on a 25-day training camp, and the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation’s competition for juniors and aspirants in Abu Dhabi.
“That gold I won in the World Pro in my final year as a juvenile was very dear to me,” Al Fadhli said.
“There was a lot of pressure because it was my last chance to win gold in the juvenile division. That success set the tone for me through the year.
“I think I have prepared well for my debut in the adult division. No doubt, I have to face some strong opponents but that’s expected. If you want to be successful, you must be ready to take on anybody, and I’m ready for it.”
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Al Fadhli’s coach in the age group division, Helder Medeiros, popularly known as "Coach Bobby", is uniquely placed to speak of his charge's rise to the upper echelons.
“Omar is part of the UAE national team’s high-performance training and he’s gone through several coaches in the age group before coming to me in the U18 and U21 high performance training,” the Brazilian said.
“We have seen him improve all the time. Omar is part of the UAE jiu-jitsu project. He was identified as a potential for the national team at a very young age and he has now had around seven years of training under this programme.”
So what sets Al Fadhli apart from others?
“The most important is he wants to win every time he steps on the mat. I have never seen anyone else with the commitment of Omar, whether it be training or competition.
“He has paid a high price on his development. He trains every day. We already have a vision for him, where he has to be in another two years. We have drawn up a plan both short term and long term for him.”
Medeiros believes Al Fadhli can handle the pressure when he competes against some of the best fighters from around the world in the adult division for a slice of the US$1 million (Dh3.6m) prize fund.
“It is definitely going to be tough for him but he’s worked so hard. And when you work so hard it may be easier for him in the competitions,” he added.
“He has had an amazing year. He has been undefeated since his victory in the World Pro last year.
“Omar works with the black belts. We see no reason why he shouldn’t win first time competing at the highest level in the adult division. He’s been preparing for the World Pro all year.”
Medeiros says Al Fadhli has the talent and determination to become the No 1 jiu-jitsu practiotioner in the country, if he stays in good health.
“He’s still young,” Medeiros said. “On the long term, we want to see him as the top three jiu-jitsu fighters in the country. If he continues with his work, which we are very confident he can become the country’s No 1.”