Young Penha, “Liborinho” and the future in Abu Dhabi

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Penha with young Carlos (black gi) and Duda

While the GRACIEMAG team was keenly capturing every second of the epic matches that unfolded at the World Pro – the result of which will soon be in our beloved readers’ hands – I allowed myself a moment of introspection and took to evaluating another event that was, in my humble opinion, perhaps even more significant: The Abu Dhabi Kids Cup.

Nearly a month after watching the kids in action, I realized that in a decade we will have highly-competitive international tournaments – still predominantly won by Brazilians, sure, but that’s by no means a given. As with soccer, foreigners learn the game. Truth is, the kids are already learning, and there are already some young standouts brimming with promise for the adult category.

The greatest barometer for gauging my statement’s validity was hearing teachers here and even Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed himself ask the following question time and again: “Who is this kid?”

Kids they were, sure, but they put on tremendous displays of technique. Some examples:

Alaa Al Kayed and Aslan Nakhwa are Jordanians, eleven years old, and the former only didn’t get the finish in his first fight – then he warmed up. His build, strength, and agility in catching his opponents’ arms are reminiscent of Ricardo Libório, and hence his nickname stuck: “Liborinho” (“Little Liborio” in Portuguese).

The latter finished all his matches in the same manner: by snagging the armbar after pulling guard. Yes, Jordan has an excellent youth team – thirteen athletes showed up, eleven took home medals.

Jordan's pint-sized army won eleven medals.

Another major talent is Eduardo Penha, a half American half Brazilian. At fourteen years of age, Jiu-Jitsu is his birthright. His master is his father, Sérgio Penha, a stalwart competitor from the 1980s and teacher to a number of MMA fighters back in the United States.

“Dudu” Penha’s colleague Carlos Lozoya, 14, is another bulldozer. The little American walked right through his opponents. Emirates Team’s teachers witnessed the two sparring. According to Alex Negão, “They train like adults…”

Mohamad Zakaria – a 12-year-old Palestinian living in Abu Dhabi – is considered by many to be one of the greatest phenomenons to come out of the school Jiu-Jitsu program. He won by tapout in every one of the World Pro Kids matches, and he spends all his free time checking out positions on the internet. A fusion of zeal and talent.

Another ace from the Emirates is Ibrahim Hassan al Nuaimi, 12. He is from Al Ain, a town that is proving to be a breeding ground for young talent. Ibrahim won all four of his matches by tapout without so much as an advantage point scored against him. Calm and collect with a knack for getting back mount, he’s another one sure to garner applause in the near future. The really near future.

Little whiz Zakaria / Photos: publicity

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