Abu Dhabi World Pro 2019: Gabrieli Pessanha is the rising star of women's jiu-jitsu
Gabrieli Pessanha is the new female sensation of jiu-jitsu and is looking to cement that status at the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship 2019.
The 18-year-old Brazilian is undefeated in 18 fights in eight competitions this season. Pessanha won gold medals at all five UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) Grand Slams leading up to the World Pro, in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi and London, and tops the ranking charts on 1,420, 80 ahead of her closest challenger Mayssa Bastos also from Brazil.
A sixth gold of the campaign, in her 90-kilogram brown/black belt division, in Abu Dhabi will see her crowned world champion.
“I really can’t wait for this championship. I go to sleep thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it,” Pessanha told the UAEJJF's website.
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Pessanha meets Australian Shantelle Thompson in her opening match at the Mubadala Arena and Finn Jonna Konivouru, who has drawn a bye, in the next.
Pessanha’s rise to stardom in the martial art has been remarkable since winning every major tournament, both in the weight and absolute divisions, in the purple belt in 2017.
Raised in the notorious favela of Cidade de Deus in Rio de Janeiro, a neighbourhood made famous in the movie City of God, Pessanha credits jiu-jitsu with helping her lead a better life.
“I have gone through a lot of in jiu-jitsu and it has all made me not only a better athlete, but also a better person, that is the beauty of our sport,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to getting into the arena and doing what I love. The World Pro is one of the biggest championships in the world of jiu-jitsu.
“The UAEJJF has created opportunities for the athletes to not only dream but live the dream of being a champion. This year will be my first time participating at the championship and I hope to do what I do the best, that is competing.”
Pessanha may top the rankings but with compatriot Bastos breathing down her neck cannot afford slip-ups.
“For me, the World Pro is one of the most important events of the year,” said Bastos, 21, who competes in the brown/black 49kg division.
The race to be crowned men’s world champion title is a four-horse race: Brazil's Gabriel De Sousa tops the chart with 1,220, followed by compatriot Diego Ramalho (1,200). Ricardo Evangelista another Brazilian, is level with Poland’s Ivan Wardzinski on 1,040.
All four fighters are competing in different weight divisions: De Sousa in the 62 kilograms; Ramalho is in the 77kg; Wardzinski in the 94kg; and the Abu Dhabi-based Evangelista in the 110kg.
Four-hundred points are awarded to the winner of each weight division, 320 for second place, 240 for third and 200 for fourth.
The Abu Dhabi World Pro runs until Saturday.
Updated: April 24, 2019 08:11 AM