Jiu-Jitsu fever is sweeping across the United Arab Emirates this week as the 10th Abu Dhabi World Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship kicks into gear. The UAEJJF festivities will span over two weeks, from April 16-29, once again to be held at Mubadala Arena, at the Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi. The event is open to all nationalities, from white to black belts, kids to masters, and also includes an event exclusive to para-athletes.
April 16-21: Abu Dhabi World Jiu-Jitsu Festival
April 22-23: Abu Dhabi World Youth Championship
April 24-27: Abu Dhabi World Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship
April 28: Abu Dhabi World Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship Brown & Black belt finals/King of the Mat
April 29: Awards ceremony
Being the premiere competition on the UAEJJF calendar there’s over $1,000,000 worth of cash prizes to be won, as well as huge points on offer that go towards the end of season UAEJJF international rankings (which also earns the winners plenty of dough).
One competitor who’s no stranger to the international Jiu-Jitsu circuit is SJJA founder and world champion, Bruno Alves. In 2017, Bruno won gold at the Abu Dhabi World Championship for the third time. He successfully defended his 2016 title in brutal fashion, racking up 3 fights with 3 submissions and not a single point scored against him.
In 2017 a total of 6 SJJA competitors travelled to Abu Dhabi with 4 winning gold and becoming world champions. One year later and SJJA have doubled the number of competitors going to Abu Dhabi. These 12 courageous fighters will be stepping onto the mats in Mubadala Arena come next week and, according to Bruno, they are ready to do our club proud.
Competing in the World Youth Championship for SJJA, we have Simon Chandra (defending champion), Hunter Sasikin (SJJA Dee Why), Eemil Iivonen, Isabel Iivonen, and Matilda Iivonen. While in the World Pro we have Piia Iivonen, Tom Strembickyj, Samantha Garces (defending champion), Tamara Garces, Lucas Kanard, Igor Almeida and Bruno Alves (defending champion).
Four SJJA competitors travelling to Abu Dhabi for the first time will be Piia, Eemil, Isabel and Matilda Iivonen, who’ve been preparing and training hard out of our Crows Nest gym for months. This week I spoke with Piia and her three kids about training as a family and how they’ve been getting ready for this huge international competition.
How long have you guys been training?
Eemil: Nearly 4 years.
Isabel: 3 and a half years.
Matilda: Less than them.
Piia: I started training recently.
Piia, what inspired you to start training?
Piia: I thought I’d give it a go after watching the kids train for many years. It looked like great exercise and when the kids got sponsored at Crows Nest I figured why not give it a go – I knew I’d be there a lot anyhow!
Okay kids, so who knows where Abu Dhabi is?
Great! Where is it?
Matilda: Far away.
Isabel: I think it’s near Dubai?
Eemil: Don’t look at me.
On competition day, standing on the edge of the mats, what will you be thinking about?
Matilda: Fighting hard.
Eemil: I will think about my game plan, but also try to relax.
Isabel: I’ll try to remember all the tips given to me by my coaches and imagine fighting hard to win.
Piia: To be honest, competition days are so busy for us that my concentration is usually on my kids.
What’s your favourite thing about Jiu-Jitsu?
Eemil: It’s really good exercise.
Isabel: It’s a fun sport and I get to see my friends at the gym.
Matilda: I like fighting hard and sparring. It’s fun to roll with mum too.
Piia: It keeps my kids busy : ) And of course it’s very good fitness.
Kids, what achievement are you most proud of from last year?
Eemil, Isabel, Matilda: Winning at the Kids Worlds!
Apart from competing, are there things you want to do in Abu Dhabi while you’re over there?
Eemil & Isabel: We want to go to all the theme parks and swim in the pools.
Matilda: I want to have some fun with my teammates.
Piia: I look forward to watching the kids in the pool from a lounge chair whilst sipping a large coffee.
As well as being a Jiu-jitsu champion, is there anything else you want to do when you grow up?
Eemil: I want to be a pilot or in the police.
Isabel: I want to be a police woman or a teacher and travel around the world.
Matilda: I want to teach classes at school, or be a principal, and sail on a boat to a nice place.
Piia: When they grow up I’ll be able to swap that poolside coffee for a cocktail!
All the best to the Iivonen family and all 12 of our Abu Dhabi competitors this year!
If you’re interested in watching the World Pro live then sign up at Flo-grappling or stay tuned for livestream sessions happening at our Crows Nest gym.
Written by Chris Burke
PS. To get you all pumped, here is a link to Bruno’s final from last year!