The Jiu-Jitsu Times is covering the 2018 UAEJJF Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship live and in-person in an effort to bring our readers a bit closer to this incredible international event.
The 2018 Abu Dhabi World Pro is officially over after a week of excitement, disappointment, and joy. And what a ride the last two days were as some of the best brown and black belts in the world went head-to-head to win gold at one of the most prestigious tournaments on the planet.
The first day of the main brackets involved a few surprises (like Poland’s Adam Wardzinski making it to the finals and leaving Tanner Rice in the dust) and a few non-surprises (like both of the Miyao brothers making it to — and ultimately winning — the finals). The brown belt matches were just as thrilling, and we got to watch some of the world’s most promising rising stars like Kennedy Maciel and Kaynan Duarte claim their spots at the top of the podium
The atmosphere on the final day of the event was supercharged, and the single massive stage, bright lights, and dramatic entrances certainly helped. There wasn’t a single match that the audience didn’t watch with baited breath, and things got particularly heated when two UAE athletes (Faisal Al Ketbi and Talib Saleh) went up against Brazilian opponents (Isaque Braz and Thiago Marques, respectively) — the UAE side of the room was very vocal for their “hometown heroes”, while the Brazilian side roared for their preferred athletes (both of whom reigned victorious). The national support for two high-level competitors at a tournament of this caliber was incredible to see.
As you might expect in finals matches of this level, every single match was jam-packed with emotion and heart. Losing competitors took defeat gracefully, even if they had to fight back tears, and winners celebrated their victory (even backflipping across the stage, as Bianca Basilio did). It seems cliche to say that the two hours of finals matches were “magical,” but after watching all the hard work that the competitors had put forth over the past few days and knowing that we were only seeing a tiny snippet of the effort they’d exerted to get where they were, I don’t know that there’s a better word to describe it. The scale of production at the World Pro parallels the production it takes to turn a “regular” jiu-jitsu practitioner into an athlete that puts it all on the line for a final match that determines their place in their sport’s history.
Now, the medals have been distributed, the athletes and media personnel are packing their bags to go home, and the 2018 Abu Dhabi World Pro has officially concluded. The competitors who both won and lost are going back to the everyday grind to improve upon their performance for the next World Pro and every competition until then. That constant push forward, that drive that makes victory that much sweeter and defeat that much more bitter, is what makes a World Pro athlete a World Pro athlete, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing many of this year’s competitors in Abu Dhabi again.