Tayane Araujo and Erberth De Mesquita had another reason to celebrate after the Brazilians claimed the top accolades at the Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Awards on Sunday night.
At a glittering ceremony at the Fairmont Hotel, Araujo was named best black/brown belt Female Player of the Year, while De Mesquita clinched the male award in the black belt.
Organised by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, their achievements were recognised after an outstanding season.
Araujo, 21, won gold at the London and Rio competitions of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Tour. De Mesquita competed in all four legs of that event – winning six titles in weight and absolute categories.
It capped a remarkable 24 hours for the duo after Araujo claimed double gold (absolute and +70kg) at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship, while her compatriot won his 94kg division.
“It’s a very special moment for me and it’s of huge importance after the season that I had,” said Araujo.
De Mesquita, added: “I feel so happy to win this top award. It really means a lot to me. I really do have to thank the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation. It’s really difficult to find a federation that really values the athletes.”
Nasser Omar Al Buraiki was awarded the best National Male Player after winning gold in Abu Dhabi, Rio, London and Tokyo.
“I’m happy I won this and it’s a big honour for me. I will work harder to get it again next season.”
Award winners also included Shefaa Moosa Hassan (female national player), Nicholas Meregali (brown belt male) and UAE-based Marcos Oliveira (male black belt master 1).
The UAE’s Mohammed Al Qubaisi added yet another gold to his collection by winning the Masters Brown 77kg title at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship on Friday.
In a tournament that the 31-year-old has happy memories of – after triumphing in 2009, 2010 and last year – Al Qubaisi repeated the feat with his fourth title at the IPIC Arena. The 31-year-old overcame Frenchman Sebastien Garnier 2-0 before defeating Brazilian Marco Filho 4-2 in the final.
“I am so happy because it was very tough for me, it is a strong category,” he said. “It is my first medal in the brown belt and I am glad. Last year I won in the purple belt. Hopefully, after my Open weight fight, my coach will put me in the black belt division.”
There was good news for Nasser Omar Al Buraiki, who won the White Belt Open Division, although not in the manner he would have liked. The 25-year-old was awarded gold after champion, Kazakhstan’s Olzhas Nurtakanov, was disqualified after officials learned he was actually a blue belt competitor.
The victory saw Al Buraiki add to his medal collection after triumphing in four Grand Slams this season, but he was far from pleased.
“We have come here to compete fairly,” he said. “Why did he cheat? If he’s in the blue belt, he should compete in that division. Why change the belt? He doesn’t deserve to win anything. It’s quite disappointing to win in this manner.”
Meanwhile, there will be a new champion in the +94kg Black Belt division after Marcus Almeida, who was set to return to action after nearly a year following a leg injury, made a late withdrawal.
The search for an elusive gold for the UAE’s top-ranked Faisal Al Ketbi continues as he was beaten in the 94kg division. The 29-year-old overcame Brazilian Isaac Dull before exiting in the next round.
After losing her Absolute crown in the semi-final, Mackenzie Dern is on course to retain her 55kg Black Belt title. The 23-year-old American defeated Brazilian duo Ana Alencar and Ariadne De Ol- iveira to book her place in the final against Marina Ribeiro.
Among the highlights in Saturday’s schedule is the men’s Black Belt Absolute final. Having beaten Ricardo Evangelista in Thursday’s semi-final, Jose Junior has set his sights on winning gold when he takes on Felipe Pena.
“This is the first time I have made it to the Open final and it is the biggest achievement of my career,” said the 30-year-old. “I was always motivated and kept working hard. Never did I let my ambition take a beating and that’s what jiu-jitsu is all about. It is what we teach our youngsters.
“I have never fought Pena before but I do know him. It is going to be a great contest and Inshallah I will try. There will be plenty of crowd support and that should help.”
The 43-year-old defeated Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Jumaniyazov to win the white belt Master 2, 62kg division at the IPIC Arena.
The feat is even more remarkable considering he only started jiu-jitsu last year, and he said: “This is my first gold medal in three competitions since I started jiu-jitsu.
“I won a silver at the Dubai Open and bronze at Sharjah Open. Now to stand on the top of the podium with a gold medal in a world championship is like a dream come true.
“I had competed in athletics from 1989 in Dubai and then I gave it up after 10 years. But I never gave up on going to the gym.
“With fitness a passion of mine, I saw a group of people doing jiu-jitsu in their class at a gym in Sharjah and I asked if I could join. I’ve learnt a lot and it’s a sport that I like very much now.”
His compatriots were unable to follow in his footsteps with the UAE winning four silvers and two bronzes during the day.
There was success for Portugal’s Paulo Pereira as the 35-year-old overcame Emirati Obaid Kaabi to win gold in the purple belt Master 2, 62kg category.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement for me. To win a gold medal for my country, especially in an overseas world competition, is amazing,” said Pereira.
“I really had to work hard because Kaabi was a tough opponent and the standard in Abu Dhabi is very high. This will give me a lot of confidence going forward and hopefully it can inspire more Portuguese people to take up the sport back home.”
It was a day to remember for Ali Hemadeh. He will travel back to Lebanon with two medals, having won gold and bronze in the blue belt 74 kg in Masters 2, and then in the Open division.
Although he had to pay out of his own pocket for some of the expen-ses, he insists the decision to compete was definitely worth it.
“During the day, I work as a veterinarian doctor so the only time I can do jiu-jitsu is during nights. This is a reward for all the time I have put in,” he said.
“The Lebanese Jiu-Jitsu Federation has helped us to come here but very little financially. They gave us half the amount for our flights. Then you have registration and accommodation fees to take care of, so it becomes heavy in the pockets. But it is the passion that has brought me here.”