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Bahrain martial arts star Ali Monfaradi has proved that teen dreams can come true after clinching the coveted gold in the AJP Tour Abu Dhabi World Masters Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2023 in the UAE capital earlier this month.
Fifteen years ago, Monfaradi faced off against fighters from around the globe in the fierce competition and while he may have thought his golden glory was out of reach, over the years, his sheer drive and will to succeed in the sport that he loves did not allow him to let up.
Finally, the 30-year-old Jiu Jitsu athlete and coach achieved the gold in this championship .. ending his year on a high note.
“I fought in the very first edition of this championship 15 years ago, as a 15-year-old kid thrown into the adult division as there were no teen divisions at the time,” the owner and head coach of Elements Jiu Jitsu Academy told GulfWeekly. “Throughout the years, I earned six bronze medals and a silver. Year after year, the gold medal eluded me.
“It finally came because of how thick-headed and stubborn I was. It would’ve been completely understandable to quit after five, six, 10 or even 12 years…assuming that the day wouldn’t come. I guess the moral of the story is — don’t do the thing for a particular goal, be it a medal, money or fame. Do it because you love it and everything else will eventually follow!”
Monfaradi had no easy fights in this championship.
“I prepared in a way to theoretically outclass the competition, but life doesn’t work that way,” he explained. “Everybody at that level trains hard. My first fight was against Russian Magomed Ansarov, who had a very tricky game, one that I specifically trained for numerous times.”
Monfaradi won 5-3 and took on the Italian Mario Urbani next.
“He shocked me with his physical prowess,” said Monfaradi. “The amount of strength he displayed was surprising. I’ve rarely met people in my weight division of 77kg who are that strong.”
He was able to play a tight game, however, and began racking up the scoreboard towards the second half of the fight, winning 9-0.
For the semi-final, he went head-to-head with Russian Ilez Khashagulgov.
“We’ve fought twice before this season, and while they were tough battles, I did win,” added Monfaradi, who was the Best Asian Athlete two years in a row, from 2019-2020 and 2020-2021, by the AJP. “This time though, he had a very good game plan — prevent me from scoring, end on a draw (0-0) and then win during Golden Score; where admittedly he would’ve had the advantage.
“He blocked me at every attempt during the fight, and with a quick last-minute change in my strategy, I managed to score a single point with 10 seconds remaining. I won 1-0!”
The final was against a rival of his — Talison Soares from Brazil, who has beaten him twice this season, both in very close fights.
“I went in with a good mindset, knowing that I’ve only lost on technicalities and minor errors (not to discredit him in any way), but I knew the key was to not make mistakes,” Monfaradi said.
“Sure enough, I made a mistake. He started with a takedown attempt and a back attempt which had him winning 2-0 from the start of the fight.
“Now losing, and in three successive vulnerable positions (back, front headlock and side mount), I defended and escaped each one, calmly but with a sense of urgency as well. I was able to do that because I trained for all of those scenarios countless times.
“And so, I began attacking again and managed to tie the scoreboard 4-4 with 20 seconds left. In a 0-0 draw, the last person to score is declared the winner. We both knew that and he tried to outpace me, but I held my lead and just like that, a dream came true.”
His Elements Jiu- Jitsu Academy teammates Ema Janahi, 48, and his father, Seena, also swept their opponents to grab gold medals.
“My father fought on the same day in his age division (Master 4, black belt) and won as well, after three impressive fights,” said a proud Monfaradi.
“I believe this is his fifth gold medal in this event. By the time it was time for the main event finals, he was in the spectator box, cheering me on, and I had nothing to worry about except my own performance. I was grateful to share this moment with him!”
Monfaradi started his Jiu Jitsu journey at the age of 12. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ is based on grappling and ground fighting, focusing on the skill of controlling opponents through techniques that force them to submit.
As an adult, he spent five years training at the Alliance Headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, under legendary professor Fabio Gurgel and is the first and only Bahraini black belt competitor to have been trained by him.
Over the years, he has won more than 200 medals in various competitions around the world. He is now preparing for the AD Grand Slam in Tokyo on January 13-14. The Grand Slams are a series of events that are the largest and most prestigious in the AJP Tour, second only to the aforementioned World Championship.
For details, follow @alimonfaradi on Instagram