UAE's most decorated jiu-jitsu fighter Faisal Al Ketbi said the 2020 Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship will be a “very special edition” when the tournament takes place, as scheduled, in November.
The championship, also known as the World Pro, is the highlight of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation’s (UAEJJF) international calendar. It is usually staged in April but this year’s edition was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event will now be held later in the year.
"Under the present situation when every sporting activity around the world is at a standstill, it is like music to the ears to hear jiu-jitsu's biggest event is going to take place. It will be a very special edition," Al Ketbi told The National.
“The World Pro is the biggest jiu-jitsu event in terms of numbers and prize fund (Dh2.5million last year).
“It will be a very special gathering of the international jiu-jitsu community after the catastrophe of Covid-19. We are still not sure when this situation will improve, but we are hopeful it will be behind us soon.
“It wasn’t easy for our federation to announce that the World Pro is happening this year under these circumstances. I believe my jiu-jitsu friends across the world will appreciate and applaud the UAEJJF’s decision.”
The World Pro drew more than 10,000 participants from over 100 countries in 2018, when it completed 10 years.
The numbers were restricted to 5,000 last year with the federation insisting they wanted quality rather than quantity.
Al Ketbi has won gold in blue, purple and brown belts in the World Pro but a gold in black belt has eluded him. He came close in 2018 and 2019 when he reached the final.
“I can only do my best and keep trying like every year,” he said about his chances in November.
“It’s going to be a difficult championship this time because we still don’t know when we can resume training.
“These days, with the stay at home orders of the UAE government, we are confined to training alone and indoors. I believe it’s the same in other parts of the world.
“I have been going through my fitness programme. I have been doing it twice a day and now it’s just once a day because of Ramadan.”
The Emirati has taken additional responsibility by serving as section leader of volunteers in one of the Covid-19 testing centres.
“If we want to resume sporting activities, we need to first control the spread of the coronavirus,” Al Ketbi added.
“It’s a massive task and our government is doing everything within their control to put an end to this.”
As part of the volunteer work, Al Ketbi assists medical staff and those who arrive for the tests. He has been working from 9am to 3pm, seven days a week, for more than a month.
“Many members of the jiu-jitsu community, including some of my colleagues in the national team (including Emirati jiu-jitsu referee Ibrahim Al Hosani and Asian Games gold medallist Hamad Nawad) have joined me.
“I shuttle between Adnec (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) and Musaffah, where tests are carried out every day.
“It’s a huge and challenging task for the medical staff and me and my team are doing whatever we can to help, including logistics and other services.”
In addition to the volunteer work at the test centres and his own training routine, Al Ketbi also runs an online fitness class to encourage people to exercise during the lockdown.
And whenever possible, Al Ketbi, 33, makes the most of his time at home with his young family – eldest son Tahnoun (5), daughter Fatima (3) and the 18-month old twin boys Mohammed and Zayed.
“As a professional athlete I have to give most of my time to jiu-jitsu, which has taken me to where I am today,” he said.
“These are extraordinary times and I joined the voluntary services because my country needs everyone to contribute in whatever way they can to combat the coronavirus.
“Our main task is to protect everyone living in the UAE and make it a safe place for them. Of course I miss my family very much but when I’m at home, I spend as much time as possible with my wife and kids.”