The Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship is proving to be a special tournament for Felipe Pena. Before making the long trip from Brazil, he had already won four golds in three years in the UAE capital and the 26-year-old added to his medal collection with his fifth triumph in the 94kg division on Saturday night.
The victory in the weight division is no real surprise considering that now four of his five golds have come in this class. But while he cherishes every single medal, there’s one that stands out from the rest – his gold at Absolute in 2016.
Back then, he defeated home favourite Jose Junior, making up for his loss in the 94kg that year.
“All the medals that I’ve won here are all the same for me,” he said. “A gold here is the same as anything else but if I have to choose what is the most special I’ve won then for sure it was when I won the Absolute title in 2016.
“That was the first time that I won that category and it was tough because I had to beat the best of the best in the world. So that is something that I’ll remember for a long time.”
He added: “The World Pro is one of the most important tournaments in the world and it’s one I don’t want to miss because it’s an opportunity to see where you stand against the world’s best.”
Having competed in Abu Dhabi every year since 2015, Pena has seen the World Pro go from strength-to-strength on every visit. He lauded the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation for their vision in making the sport grow not just in the country but abroad.
“The UAEJJF is doing great things for the sport and everyone in the world knows about Abu Dhabi and their efforts in promoting the game worldwide which can only attract more youngsters to take up jiu-jitsu.”
For the chairman of the UAEJJF, Abdulmonem Al Hashimi, he declared the 10th edition of the competition a big success. “The tenth edition of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship has been a great success that we are particularly proud of,” he said. “It has represented the UAE’s deep capabilities in hosting and organising global championships of the highest calibre. This is paving a new path for jiu-jitsu, which now holds the deep interest of Emirati society.
“The UAE has succeeded in drawing global attention, having taken its place at the forefront of the sport. At the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, we have worked diligently to build a generation of professional Jiu-Jitsu athletes that are capable of taking on the world’s most notable champions and represent the UAE across international tournaments.”
She left the mat in tears following her defeat but Ffion Davies says she’s proud of her efforts on her Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship debut.
The 23-year-old Brit was beaten by Brazil’s Bianca Basilio via the referee’s decision after it was tied 2-2 in a closely-fought 62kg brown-black final at the Mubadala Arena.
Davies could have clinched her elusive gold after winning two points before it was withdrawn via video replay. But she had no complaints and will fly back to Wales with plenty of positives.
“I thought I won the two points but it’s fine,” she said. “I’m a little bit disappointed to not have won gold but winning and losing is part of sport. I’m just happy to have reached the final on my first visit in Abu Dhabi.”
“Overall, it was a good experience and great learning curve. The fights were really hard and I had to be on top of my game but happy to win silver,” added Davies, who defeated 10th-ranked Charlotte Van Baumgarten in Friday’s semi-final.
Hailing from Cardiff in Wales, jiu-jitsu might not be one of the popular sports, but she says it is growing gradually. “The sport is definitely growing in the UK a lot. I’m from Wales so it’s not as big there but it’s growing in small steps.
“I work part-time on weekends so jiu-jitsu is what I do during the week. It means I can put in a lot of training for five days which suits me and helps with my development.”
Ana Carolina is making it a habit of winning gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.
At just 24, she has already won three golds in four years (2013, 2014 and 2017) and added yet another to her collection in the brown/belt 70kg final at the Mubadala Arena.
Up against Jessica Swanson, the Brazilian showed her class with an impressive 9-0 win. She immediately set her sights on winning the World Championship in California in June.
“This was good preparation for me for that tournament,” said Carolina. “Although it was a 9-0 win, it wasn’t easy by any means. Every fight that I compete in is important and now I want to go and continue my good form in California.”
Meanwhile, Angelica Galvao weighs just 65kg, but the American showed it’s agility and skill that matters on the mat as she retired from jiu-jitsu in style with 90kg gold in brown-black division.
The 32-year-old was making her second appearance at the event, six years after winning gold in purple/brown way back in 2012.
Before making the long trip from the US, she already decided that the UAE competition would be last event in her 14-year career and she bowed out on a high. Despite her opponent Poland’s Marta Szarecka being heavier, she won in convincing fashion 8-2.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Galvao. “She was a lot heavier than me and I could only think about myself and executing the moves. I didn’t worry much about her skills and wanted to put my game first. For sure, this is one of my best accomplishments so far as this is my first gold in black in Gi.”
She added: “I’m 32 now so I knew my days in jiu-jitsu were coming to an end so I wanted it to give it a go. I just wanted to do something that I hadn’t done before and happy to have won gold.”
Meanwhile, there was a major upset when brown belt competitor Amal Amjahid overcame black belt’s Amanda Monteiro by submission in the 55kg final.
Belgium’s Amjahid was thrilled with her win and said self-belief was key to her success.
“It is always going to be hard against black belt fighters but I never lost hope,” she said. “I knew if I stuck to my game, I could win and that’s what I did.”