Faisal Al Ketbi feels he's getting closer to winning World Pro black belt gold after final loss

Denzil Pinto 18:31 01/05/2018
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A force: Faisal Al Ketbi (right)

He might have had to settle for silver but UAE’s top-ranked Faisal Al Ketbi believes he’s ‘taken a few steps closer’ in his bid of winning a black belt gold at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship one day.

The 31-year-old was beaten by Brazil’s Isaque Braz in Saturday’s 85kg final as the Emirati’s quest to clinch a maiden black belt gold in the competition continues for another 12 months.

Although it was a disappointing end to the season, Al Ketbi can reflect back on a promising 2017-2018 campaign. Back in July, he won gold and silver at the World Games in Poland before winning double at the Asian Indoor Martial and Arts Games in Indonesia. He also clinched gold and silver in elite UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation competitions.

But despite coming so close on his home patch at the Mubadala Arena last weekend, he believes he’s not too far off achieving one of his major objectives.

“The final was very close and I feel I have taken a few steps closer (to winning a World Pro),” the 31-year-old told Sport360 on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu World Awards at Emirates Palace.

“The match was tight and it was one mistake from me that my opponent took advantage of. In sport that happens. Sometimes you think about what you want to do during the fight and your opponent is also thinking what he wants to do, so that means you have to change your strategies during the match which isn’t easy.

“At the same time, the clock is ticking so you don’t have much time. Overall, it was a close game and I lost by two points. Hopefully I can win next time and learn from my mistakes.”

Al Ketbi is competing in the highest tier of jiu-jitsu since being elevated from brown in 2015. It was a division where he had a lot of success in especially at the World Pro.

Yet in his short time at the top, he quickly found out that success in black belt is not purely down to agility or skill but using your mind.

“I knew when I started jiu-jitsu that getting black belt is the pinnacle of jiu-jitsu,” he said. “There is so many people who have been competing in black belt for 10 or 15 years so there’s a lot people who are well experienced.

“When you come from brown belt, you are up against new opponents and you think you know how good they are but that’s not always the case. I feel that I’m not less better than them as we have the same techniques and skill. It’s about being calm and focused.

“Whenever I go into my matches, I try to fix a position and be in that position for as long as I can. It’s more about having a plan and making that work.

“Previously, it was all about fighting, but in black belt it’s about strategies and not just jumping around. It’s about focusing and I learnt that with just one game, the match can end with an disadvantage. It can be quite frustrating especially if you’ve worked so many months for that competition but that’s the harsh reality of being a black belt athlete.”

Al Ketbi will have a few weeks rest before turning his focus on the Asian Games in Indonesia. Al Ketbi will step up his preparations during a month-long training camp in Los Angeles with the UAE national team and the Emirati has vowed he will do all he can to raise the national flag high.

“This is one of the most important competitions for the UAE,” he said. “Jiu-Jitsu is making its debut at the Games and our federation (UAEJJF) are showing a lot of support to the national team to ensure they can be at their best. They put their trust in us and that trust will not go away. Our players know the responsibility and we will push ourselves for this competition.”

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