The new Abu Dhabi Grand Slam season will begin next month in Tokyo, one of five cities on the 2018-19 season.
The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) announced details of the new campaign on Thursday for their competition, which will be held across four continents. As well as Tokyo, Los Angeles (September 22-23), Rio De Janeiro (November 16-18), Abu Dhabi (February 7-9) and London (March 9-10) will also be hosting their own legs.
Abdulmunam Al Hashemi, chairman of the UAEJJF, president of Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union and senior vice-president of Jiu-Jitsu International Federation, said: “These five host cities are a key part of UAEJJF’s international expansion strategy.
“The demand and growth from our fans to continue to bring live events to these cities has been overwhelming, and with the vast potential these markets hold for us, we are delighted once again to bring the most prestigious jiu-jitsu world tour back to Tokyo, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi and London.”
The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam will have a combined cash prize of more than $800,000 and is open to all nationalities with world rankings also on offer.
The top three academies will also receive cash prizes in each host city and top ranked athletes will receive prizes at the end of the season according to the UAEJJF World Rankings system.
Now in its fourth edition, the competition has gone from strength to strength not only in competitors but TV viewers.
“Last season the Grand Slam was watched by more than 11 million fans around the world through our 18 broadcast partners in more than 100 countries,” said Fahad Al Shamsi, chief executive officer of UAEJJF.
“With invaluable support and inspiration from our leadership, especially His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation has become the largest Jiu-Jitsu content provider in the world.”
Mohammed Salem Al Dhaheri, Vice President of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), has predicted a spurt in the popularity of the sport following its successful debut in the Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament.
With competition for gold medals in 29 different categories, the first edition of the NAS Jiu-Jitsu Championship attracted more than 400 participants from many different nationalities and Al Dhaheri was impressed with the quality of the competition and turnout.
“The Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament, organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, has risen from the local stage to become a truly international event,” said Al Dhaheri.
“It keeps growing stronger and stronger with every passing year and we, the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, are proud to be a part of this tournament and I believe our partnership with the Organising Committee of NAS will give Jiu-Jitsu a boost, expanding the base of the sport and increasing the number of participants.
“This year we had more than 400 participants and I am confident we will see bigger numbers in the next edition because the number of people joining this sport keeps increasing significantly every year.
“So we are looking forward to the next edition of the NAS Sports Tournament. Participating in this tournament has been and will continue to be on the agenda of the UAEJJF. We at the Federation want to take Jiu-Jitsu to every home and every family in the UAE, and the NAS Sports Tournament will be one of our main partners in this endeavour.”
Meanwhile, in the NAS Padel Championship, the pair of Mohammed Al Mansouri and Saeed Al Marri will take on Abdullah Ahli and Mohammed Ahli in the final of the UAE Nationals category.
In the semi-finals on Friday night, Al Mansouri and Al Marri defeated Abdullah Amiri and Majed Al Falasi 6-0, 6-1, while Abdullah and Mohammed Ahli qualified at the expense of Sheikh Saeed Hasher and Omar Sharif, winning 6-1, 6-1.
Adam Wardzinski, European athlete of the year at the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards, fears that if the sport is included in the Olympic Games, the rules could be changed just like judo that would affect the quality of matches.
Jiu-Jitsu continues to grow rapidly with the sport practised by thousands around the world, especially here in the UAE. However the International Olympic Committee are yet to be convinced that it’s worthy of a place on their programme roster.
That is despite the sport making its debut at the Asian Beach Games in 2014 and then the Asian Indoor Games, as well as the inaugural 2017 World Beach Games in San Diego.
Jiu-jitsu will take another step forward when it makes its debut at this year’s Asian Games in Indonesia, which UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation chairman Abdulmunam Al Hashemi is hopeful that a strong competition can boost their bid of making the Olympics one day.
If jiu-jitsu is accepted by the IOC, it would join judo and karate on the programme. Judo has been on the Olympic roster since the 1964 edition in Tokyo but their sport’s governing body have set out new rules for the 2020 Games. It’s part of their goal in trying “to promote the rules of judo and make them easier to understand, as well as to simplify them”.
For Wardzinski, he believes that with so many elite competitions taking place across the world, it’s not essential for jiu-jitsu to be accepted by the IOC, but would be concerned if rules are implemented to make it more spectator friendly.
“It can be included in the roster and there’s nothing that jiu-jitsu doesn’t have that Olympic sports have,” the 27-year-old, who finished runner-up in the 94kg final at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, told Sport360.
“I think the Asian Games is good for viewers but to be honest, I don’t think it’s highly needed for us athletes to bring jiu-jitsu into Olympics.
“Changes are mostly done to make jiu-jitsu safe for the white belts and same for black belts, but to be honest, if jiu-jitsu is included in the Olympics, it will mess up with the rules and could end up like judo. It would be less options in fighting, like no ripping down the pants and all that stuff. That’s what I’m afraid, but we’ll see.
“Maybe it will go in a good way. For me, I’m enjoying the phase of jiu-jitsu that it is today and right now it’s good for jiu-jitsu. If it goes to Olympics, then it goes.”