World Pro: Absolute champ gets belt and 20 grand… little fans

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Blue belts Faisal Al Kitbi and Yahya Mansoor and black belts Braulio and Rafael Mendes were called to the table, with the belt as a centerpiece. Photo: Luca Atalla.

The biggest star at the pre-Abu Dhabi World Pro 2010 press conference, held at noon in the Emirates this Wednesday, came from the United States, was in pictures with everyone and weighs just a few pounds.

The star in question is the gold-plated belt made in the USA, to be coddled by the winner of the absolute black belt division. The open weight group will gather the cream of the sport’s crop, at the event stretching from tomorrow until Saturday: Braulio Estima (last year’s runner-up), Rominho Barral, Gabriel Vella, André Galvão, Ricardo Demente, Luiz Felipe Big Mac, Alexandre Souza, Alexandro Ceconi, Claudio Calasans, the Bulgarian Ivanov and some little guys. But not Celso Venícius, who chose to not take the risk even for the hefty sum of 20 thousand dollars. “I’ll leave it to the big guys. My weight class will be tough as it is,” said the Roberto Gordo student.

Celso won't risk taking a stab at the belt. Photo: Luca Atalla

“For sports like tennis or boxing, the reward isn’t that impressive. But for Jiu-Jitsu, a new style on the scene, it’s unprecedented. And that’s nothing yet, next year the thing will be really big,” said one of the organizers after the press-conference. There will be two silver belts for the winners of the blue and white belt division, one for the lightweights and the other for the heavies. As is the case with the World Cup, anyone who wins a division thrice gets to take the coveted piece home with them.

But the money and belts are not the only prizes up for grabs in Abu Dhabi. Yes, there are watches (each weight group winner gets a Rolex, or something of the sort), too, but that’s not what we’re talking about. The recognition of being grand champion in Abu Dhabi means a chance to be a hero to the country’s little ones.

Team Athos Guetho. Photo: Luca Atalla

These days, 20 thousand children practice Jiu-Jitsu in Abu Dhabi – kids between 12 and 15 years of age who are the future champions of the country. “Now the plan is to put together a team of youths who stand out in the sport, since with the Jiu-Jitsu in schools project stretching only to the sixth and seventh grade, the students who move up a year no longer train with us, and oftentimes leave the art for good,” remarks Fernando Antonio, a teacher, at the press conference.

It’s true, being an idol to 20 thousand kids in the Emirates is priceless, but with it comes responsibility. As vice-president of the wrestling, judo and Jiu-Jitsu federation Nasser Tamimi preaches: “Display pretty Jiu-Jitsu, as the kids will want to copy your Jiu-Jitsu.”

Who will be the grand champion of the World Pro 2010? Participate in the debate below!

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