When it comes to jiu-jitsu in Ireland, then there’s no name more synonymous than Chris Bowe.
With more than a decade of experience under his belt, the 32-year-old black belt competitor has made a name for himself in his native homeland and it’s not just down to his medal collection.
While his trophy cabinet includes multiple World and European Championship medals, as well as his first silver (110kg) at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC) on Saturday, teaching the tricks of the game as head coach at his Gracie Barra Dublin gym remains one of his priorities.
And it’s definitely not easy considering he’s juggling life as a full-time PE teacher at Drimnagh Castle Secondary School and being a husband to wife Magba and father to their three-year-old daughter.
“I have a very forgiving wife who allows me to go straight from my work as a teacher, to my gym and teach until 11pm at night most of the time,” said the Dundrum-based grappler.
“She puts up with it all the time although I have cut down on the hours in the gym on weekends so I can spend more family time.
“Usually my family wouldn’t come to Abu Dhabi for the World-Pro but I promised them that this year I would bring them along and it was great to have their support.”
His participation at the ADWPJJC came at a perfect time for Bowe. The school was closed for the Easter holidays, presenting another chance to add to his ever-growing trophy cabinet.
A veteran of the ADWPJJC for six years, it was only a matter of time before he claimed a medal, but he admittedly surprised himself by winning silver in the 110kg final.
“To be honest, not a long of people at the school know that I’m a jiu-jitsu athlete,” he said. “I don’t tell the kids and some only find out because they’ve seen something on YouTube or Instagram. When they do ask, then that’s when I tell them. Some of them say they can still beat me but it’s good to know they are interested.”
Since opening his gym on Dundrum’s main street in 2012, it has become the hotspot for potential jiu-jitsu athletes.
“The sport is becoming more popular especially combat sports with Conor McGregor competing in UFC,” he said. “Jiu-jitsu has its place and is now becoming really popular. When I first started training jiu-jitsu, there were just three gyms where you could train in Dublin but now there around 20 in the city alone.
“What makes me more proud is that some of my students have opened their own gyms elsewhere in the UK. I encouraged them to do that and that is good for their development which enhances the profile of the sport in Ireland.
“Now I’m black belt, I’m not looking to get as many world titles as possible. I will continue taking each fight as it comes and give me best.”
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.