You couldn’t blame Nathiely Melo De Jesus for having a big smile as she claimed gold and the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) World No1 crown in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The Brazilian entered the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship at the top of the rankings and with nearest rival Luiza Da Costa failing to win her Brown Belt in the 62kg, she cemented the spot even before taking to the mat.
But that didn’t stop her from sealing the top prize in the black belt 90kg final. Up against compatriot Talita Nogueira, the scores remained 0-0 but Jesus made her move later on to earn a 2-0 advantage which was eventually enough to secure victory.
It was her seventh gold this campaign, her first full season as a black belt.
“I’m really happy to win not just the gold but the World No.1 title,” she said. “I really didn’t expect [to get World No.1] because it was only ten months ago that I started focusing and competing in black belt categories. It has been a great journey for me and it’s now given me more motivation to succeed in the future.”
Meanwhile, Beatriz Mesquita continued her record of being on the podium at every World Pro in Abu Dhabi since its inception in 2009.
The 26-year-old beat Tammi Musumeci of the USA to get her hands on the 62kg gold, a medal that left her thrilled.
“I fought her a couple of times and was reading her game alll time time. Every day it was like a final for me,” she said. “It was a great match and playing her before was the advantage. It really feels great to have another gold here in Abu Dhabi.”
Another Brazilian to go home with gold was Ana Talita Alencar. She won the 55kg title after beating Great Britain’s Vanessa English.
“I really cannot describe how I’m feeling right now,” she said. “I’m very happy. I was only competing in black belt for less than a year and to win in this competition is really amazing.”
There was more reason for Jose Junior to celebrate after finally claiming his first gold Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship gold while UAE’s Yahya Mansour reigned supreme in the Brown Belt Masters category for the third straight year.
Just 24 hours after clinching the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) World No.1 title, the 32-year-old Abu Dhabi-based Junior finally stood top of the podium in the 110kg black belt after seven attempts following his 2-0 win over Ireland’s Chris Bowe.
The Brazilian, who has lived in the UAE since 2009, was lost for words on his victory.
“It is a dream come true and it’s very special for me,” he said. “It is a double delight and special day for me. Last night despite winning the World No 1 title I couldn’t sleep because I knew today is another important day for me. There were a lot of emotions going through my mind and I don’t know how to react.”
Mansour was watched by Dubai Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Emirati ensured there was something to cheer for the home crowd. He defeated Brazil’s Fabio Nascimento 2-0 to clinch the Brown Masters 1, 110kg division.
The feat was even more remarkable considering Mansour has won every tournament he has entered this season.
“It was a good contest and I was confident going into the fight. I like to thank all my coaches and the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation for their support,” he said. “I’m No 1 Brown Belt Masters and couldn’t have asked for a better finish.
“I will keep working hard in the black belt which I will get soon and that will be different challenge altogether. I will try to do a repeat for all the competitions in the coming season.”
There was disappointment for UAE’s top-ranked Faisal Al Ketbi, whose wait for Abu Dhabi gold in the black belt continues for another 12 months.
Al Ketbi, who has been competing in the highest category for two years, lost to Brazil’s Claudio Calasans 6-0 in his 85kg final. For Calasans, the result meant he went on further than last year.
“I had won here between 2010 and 2012 and this is my fourth gold in this competition so I’m really happy,” he said.
“I haven’t missed any of the tournaments but for the past few years I have not won gold. I was determined to win it this time round. Al Ketbi is a strong fighter but I had the fight in control like all my previous seven fights. I will definitely come here next year to defend the title.”
Meanwhile, Brazil’s Felipe Pena claimed his second gold in consecutive years with victory in the 94kg division while Gianni Grippo of USA, beat Brazil’s and Al Ain-based Tiago Bravo in the 69kg final.
Nivaldo de Oliveira clinched a silver medal at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championships in the Master 1 94kg category, losing to compatriot Eduardo Inojosa in the final.
An Abu Dhabi resident from Guaruja in Brazil, de Oliveira works for the UAE Armed Forces in Souhait where he balances his gruelling schedule between work and his love of jiu-jitsu.
After competing in the sport for over 16 years, the 34-year-old’s crowning moments came in 2007 when he won the World Jiu-Jitsu Championships and the World Jiu-Jitsu Cup as a brown belt.
He may not be competing as regularly anymore, but the Brazilian star is still hugely passionate about jiu-jitsu.
“I never give up. It’s a big part of my life. If I miss training or competitions I don’t feel the same guy. I feel like I’m missing something,” said de Oliveira.
“For me, it’s very good to be in shape, to be confident. It’s good for your mind, especially after training. It means everything to me.”