Cover Story

Packing a punch

February 28 - March 5, 2024
Gulf Weekly Packing a punch
Gulf Weekly Packing a punch
Gulf Weekly Packing a punch

BAHRAINI martial arts champion and two-time winner of the Best Asian Athlete trophy Ali Monfaradi has made the kingdom proud yet again by winning two gold medals at the London International Open IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2024.

The 30-year-old clinched a dual victory in both, the ‘gi’ category that’s fought wearing the kimono-like uniform and ‘no-gi’ in regular sporty attire.

While the rules for both are similar, the nature of the game changes as there are no sleeves, pants, or collars to grip in the no-gi format.

Ali has participated in the IBJJF tournament twice before, in 2017 when he won a silver and bronze, and again the next year, when he bagged a bronze. However, this year, the championship wasn’t on his calendar as he was more focused on the APJ Tour and national-level fights.

“I was there to support my students, but it would have been odd for me to sit back and watch someone fight in my division, which is why I decided to fight,” the owner and head coach of Elements Jiu Jitsu Academy told GulfWeekly, adding that watching two of his young students win bronze and gold made the victory even sweeter.

The tournament was no easy feat as Ali went up against the best in the game.

However, through sheer focus and a forward, more proactive and refined game, which Ali attributes to his years of experience – his Jiu-Jitsu journey began when he was 12 – he was able to conquer his oppponents.

“I usually fight in the lightweight division – 76kg – but moved up to middleweight - 82.3kg - which means most of my opponents were bigger than I am. I did this because there were no participants in my original division, which would have gotten me a medal without a fight, and I’m not about that.

“My first gi fight was against last year’s champion Sam Cook and he put up a tough defence but halfway through I was able to get ahead,” the professional athlete said. The match ended in submission when Ali applied the rear naked choke on the Brit, a constriction technique performed from behind the opponent, with ‘naked’ referring to the move not requiring contact with the latter’s uniform.

Ali also defeated Michael Brook 9-0, a pro athlete famous in the Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts circle in the UK, ending the first day on a high note, which boosted his spirits for the no-gi fights that were to follow.

“On the second day, I was supposed to have two fights but one of my opponents pulled out as he was unwell, catapulting me to the finals. I wish I had the chance to fight him though. Qualifying that way would have meant more to me.

“William Dempsey, my opponent in the no-gi finals, is a tough guy and the match, like the others up to that point, wasn’t easy. However, I spotted an opportunity and was able to apply the triangle choke, a move where you encircle your opponent’s neck and one arm with the legs, forming a triangle, and the game ended in a submission,” the Hamala resident explained.

Speaking of his performance at the tournament, Ali highlighted that while it wasn’t flawless, there was a certain refinement to his technique, which he attributed to his years of experience and new training approach.

“I’ve always been very methodical about my training. I study techniques, implement them, develop them in my own style, and practice them in actual fights. But this time, I’ve also been emphasising on detail, so my technique would depend less on physicality and pace, and more on refined technique,” he added.

In November last year, Ali accomplished a major dream when he won the AJP Tour Abu Dhabi World Masters Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2023 in the UAE.

“I have failed many times in that particular tournament, getting six bronzes and a silver throughout the years, so that victory gave me a new motivation and drive. And this new season, I’m much more focused on having a forward, refined game that is all about the performance. Not that I’m not focused on the results. I’m trying to improve myself as an athlete,” he added.

The first and only Bahraini black belt competitor to have been trained by four-time world Jiu-Jitsu champion, Brazilian national champion and European Open champion, Fabio Gurgel, Ali has won more than 200 medals in various competitions around the world.

He is not ready to rest on his laurels and is preparing for the first-ever Abu Dhabi Grand Slam to be held in Rome from April 12 to 14, aiming once again for nothing less than a gold.

The Grand Slams are a series of events that are the largest and most prestigious in the AJP Tour.

For more details, follow @alimonfaradi on Instagram.

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