5 lessons we learned from the 15th ADWPJJC

November 15, 2023

On the 15th anniversary of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, hearts clashed in the mats of the traditional Mubadala Arena. The tournament, which took place from November 1st to the 10th, gathered the best and brightest of the Jiu-Jitsu competitive scene in UAE's modern capital.

After over a week of intense battles, with many athletes overcoming daunting odds to reach the top, our team did a deep dive into the tournament's greatest hits, bringing to you the five most important lessons that the 15th ADWPJJC has left to the Jiu-Jitsu community. Check it out below!

There's always room for improvement

Recognized worldwide, the ADWPJJC has become a milestone in any athlete's career. The champions of the professional black belt divisions had not only the gold medal and a beautiful title belt in store but also a handsome cash prize to reward their efforts. However, as the years go by, AJP and its partners deliver more and more to the athletes, who are the real stars of the show. In addition to supporting all competitors and coaches - a successful approach employed by the AJP since its creation - the tournament also added a spicy bonus to the finals. Instead of being confined to the stands, the attending crowd was able to experience the action closer to the mats with chairs positioned at the fight area. And it didn't stop there, as AJP went all out with a true show of lights and sounds, proving that Jiu-Jitsu has a boundless potential to put on a spectacle that will capture the hearts of fight fans.

Crush your ego and fight your way up

Every season, we see the rise of new stars on the competitive scene. Over time, the athlete's recognition can lead to different expectations, with his image weighing heavier than his feats at times. Completely letting go of his ego, the grand champion Fellipe Andrew gave up his guaranteed spot in the 85kg division and decided to start from scratch at the 94kg category, earning his place with each fight from the country qualifiers up to the semifinal, and then finally taking the title after emerging as the winner in the bracket. A great showing from Alliance's ace, who took no shortcuts to reach glory in Abu Dhabi.

More countries are coming in hot

In addition to the more traditional countries in terms of competitive Jiu-Jitsu, such as the USA, Brazil, and UAE, other nations have shown their worth in the leveled and globalized stage of the ADWPJJC. Portugal, for instance, added not one but two titles in the Elite's finals. Making history in the Abu Dhabi World Pro, Pedro "Paquito" Ramalho not only beat the then 77kg title holder Lucas Protasio by referee's decision, but also became the first Portuguese to win the biggest Jiu-Jitsu title in the UAE. But that wasn't even the end of it, as the 84kg category held another surprise. Also hailing from Portugal, Bruno Lima got the better of the Brazilian favorite Uanderson Ferreira, landing a convincing victory on points. The message to the fans who only put their chips on the more traditional countries was loud and clear: The world of Jiu-Jitsu is growing bigger.

Winning the battle doesn't mean you won the war

It is worth remembering that the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship marks the end of that year's campaign, as the next big tournament will only take place in the following year, in this instance, the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Tokyo in 2024. Therefore, to reach the top of the rankings as a black belt, it's not enough to just win gold in your ADWPJJC division. On the men's side of the ranking, a peculiar situation showcased this reality, as Leonardo Mario, the ranking's number one, was defeated in the semifinal of the 62kg division. A few points short of the lead, it was Yuri Hendrex's chance to reach first place, he just needed to come out as the winner in the 56kg bracket. Yuri did his part, beating Thalison Soares and Zayed Alkatheeri to take the gold, but on the previous day, Leonardo Mario had won the repechage to secure the bronze medal, maintaining his lead over Yuri by just 400 points. The race to the top of the ranking was defined not by the championship's results, but by Leonardo's continuous efforts throughout the season.

Can an athlete truly be unbeatable?

A big name in Jiu-Jitsu today, Gabi Pessanha has become a powerhouse in Abu Dhabi. Competing since 2019 among the sport's elite in the brown/black division, Gabi has never known defeat in the ADWPJJC. She now has five titles at the tournament and is getting closer and closer to the legends who made a name for themselves at the event. Standing above her in title count are Beatriz Mesquita and Gabi Garcia, with six and nine titles respectively. It's worth noting that both Mesquita and Garcia fought when absolutes still existed in the competition, so Gabi Pessanha is equal in terms of longevity in Abu Dhabi, with six years at the top of the women's division. Can anyone stop Gabi's enigmatic game in the UAE? Only time will tell.