The Royal Family in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Eliezer Flores

The United Arab Emirates is the setting for many different sporting events around the world. From PGA (golf) to Formula One (racing) many sports hold events in UAE.  Since 1998, it’s been home to the most prestigious tournament in submission grappling, the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship. The tournament is supported by Sheikh Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahayan.  Tahnoon saw to it that the sport became the national sport in UAE.  Another tournament held in UAE is the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Cup. Promoted as the largest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) event in the world  it’s supported by Sheikh Tahnoon’s older brother, the Crown Prince and commander in chief of UAE national Army, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. These two princes of UAE are both practitioners of BJJ.

Not much is known of how Sheikh Tahnoon’s attained his black belt in BJJ.  He came to the U.S. to continue his education. Watching his first UFC, he fell in love with BJJ thanks to Royce Gracie.  Royce is of small stature and is able to submit huge opponents using BJJ. Tahnoon signed up for the Gracie BJJ gym in San Diego under instructor Nelson Monteiro.  Practicing for three years, he returned to UAE highly trained in BJJ. Wanting to implement his vision or standard for MMA, head trainer (Monteiro) and he came up with a plan grow the sport in his country, and grow “all ground fighting martial arts.”  “He spends millions in a year to promote this sport and doesn’t profit from it.” Teo said, “You want to talk about someone who is selfless and really wants to promote an activity he believes in.”

Tahnooon created the ADCC in order to promote the sport in UAE, setting up a facility where you can learn from the top instructors in the world. “He has adopted children form his country and raising them  in teaching Judo, Jit-Jitsu, wrestling and mixed martial arts as his own children,” Teo said. The second part of his plan was to setup a tournament, the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. The rules resemble the rules of BJJ and from other mma. JJ historically have the greatest success in the tournament, but other grappling art have won.

Tahnoon’s older borther, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, has made it mandatory for all schools to teach jiu-jitsu in UAE. Mohammed has increased martial arts centers and is sponsoring high level JJ practitioners with the support of schools to succeed better in representing UAE in tournaments. Education is high priority for him as he supports talented JJ students financially by furthering their education.

These tournaments have advanced the popularity of the sport throughout the world. The two tournaments have the biggest purses in the sport. The winners of the ADCC received $10k in 2015. The WPJJ Cup began in 2009 with the inaugural purse being over $111,000 dispersed among the winners. These are the biggest purses in JJ or grappling MMA tournaments.  The royal family has made it their mission to advance the sport. Professor Teo said, “He (Tahnoon) is doing this humanitarian effort not because he is going to get rich off it.”