For the third consecutive year, the end-of-season gala organised by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation recognised the best Emirati and international athletes during the 2017-18 season at Emirates Palace across 26 categories.
Al Ketbi was beaten by Isaque Braz in Saturday’s 85kg final at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. However, that didn’t stop him picking up the Best Emirati Black Belt Award.
During the season, Al Ketbi won gold and silver at the World Games in Poland before clinching double gold at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games at Indonesia.
Meanwhile, there was a double celebration in the Al Hinaai household. Sisters Maha and Mahra, won the Best Emirati Purple Belt Player of the Year and Best Emirati Blue Belt Youth Player of the Year awards. After a busy campaign, even they cannot remember how many medals they won this season.
“We don’t really count how many medals we have because there are so many,” said Maha, 18, who is a member of the UAE national team. “It’s an amazing feeling to win this prestigious award because it shows you can be rewarded if you work hard. We were both nominated last year but finished second. Inshallah, hopefully we can win again in the future.”
After a year filled with great moments of passion, skill, and celebration, the season has finally come to an end. Let's look back at some of this season's highlights!#ADWJJA #TheHeroes #UAEJJF#Jiujitsulife #jiujitsu #AbuDhabi #UAE #YearofZayed #Oss pic.twitter.com/zHl2LNPznz— UAEJJF (@uaejjf) April 29, 2018
For Igor Silva, he picked up two personal accolades. The Brazilian topped the world rankings to win the Best Player of the Year and South American Player of the Year respectively having won a tally of 18 medals (13 golds, three silvers and two bronzes).
Silva finished ahead of Adam Wardzinski in the world rankings but despite the latter losing his 94kg final at the World Pro on Saturday, he still walked away with the Best European Player of the Year award thanks to his 16 medal tally (eight golds, six silvers and two bronzes).
“It was a tough and busy season for me but the organisation of the UAE competitions are really high in standard,” said the 27-year-old. “It was just a pleasure to compete during the season and it’s great to be part of this. It was a fantastic season for me and to be the top-ranked European athlete while also finishing runner-up in the world rankings. I’m now looking forward to the next season.”
Meanwhile, UAE-based Larissa Paes clinched the Female Player of the Year accolade after a dominant 10 months which saw her claim 19 medals (11 golds, six silvers and two bronze).
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.”