Zayed Alkatheeri made waves at the IBJJF Pan Championship 2023 when he became the very first UAE competitor to win gold in the adult black belt division of a major IBJJF event. This was an impressive feat in itself, but even moreso when considering that Alkatheeri was only promoted to black belt ten months before the event took place. The sport has been developing at a tremendous rate in the UAE over the past decade or so and the country now has a number of popular representatives for it. We spoke to Alkatheeri about him achieving something that nobody else before him ever has, and found out how it felt to cement his place in the history books for his country:
“My feeling of representing the UAE in this major JJ event and winning the gold was incredible. Very proud to be able to represent my country with a good performance. This is what inspires and motivates me daily to work harder and harder.”
In the time since Alkatheeri was promoted to black belt he has been racking up competition experience, travelling around to take as many matches as he could in the build up to his first attempt at winning the IBJJF Pan Championship. That experience paid off dividends when the time came to step on the mats, as he came out strong and submitted his first opponent Italo Frota with an armbar after racking up six points. In his second match he faced Jonas Andrade, who had already defeated him in competition twice. Alkatheeri got one back though when he attacked a brutal armbar that appeared to cause a dislocation to Andrade, prompting doctors to intervene and call a stoppage.
The final was an incredibly close match with one of the pre-tournament favourites to take home the gold, Hiryu Niwa. The two men couldn’t be separated on points and finished at 6-6, but Alkatheeri had managed to score three advantages during the course of the match to secure the win. It was an incredible performance that saw Alkatheeri announce his arrival into a stacked division, and he revealed that he has even more things planned for the future:
“Sport is made of moments, and I’m in for a good year of competition. I have to make an effort to keep evolving with big titles.”
While Zayed Alkatheeri will be hunting for even more major IBJJF titles, his legacy is already secure as the first UAE athlete to take one home. He also shared the news of his incredible achievement in a post to his official Instagram account: