Brazilian star hails UAE for bringing paradigm change to Jiu-Jitsu. TOTALCOMP

Prolific gold medal winner Jackson Sousa has paid tribute to the UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation for bringing revolutionary changes to the sport, after making a winning start to his first full campaign on the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam World Tour.

The Brazilian athlete, whose career has been revitalized by support from the UAE, won the Masters 94kg division in Istanbul held on 8-9 June, at the start of the ten-round 2024-25 World Tour.  

Sousa, backed by UAE tech venture company, Scalo Technologies, said, "What the UAE Jiu Jitsu Federation has done for our sport is nothing short of a paradigm change.

"They have opened up our beautiful, gentle art to people and places that weren't on the map before. They have shown real leadership and innovation by valuing the sport and the athletes, both men and women, in a way that other jiu jitsu federations don't.

"All the UAE jiu jitsu events are beautifully designed, impeccably organised and it's a real honour to be part of them. Without the Federation’s support, some of the top athletes who compete in Abu Dhabi’s World Pro event, many of them young talents, would never make it."

Souza (C) won the Masters 94kg division in Istanbul held on 8-9 June. TOTALCOM
Souza (C) won the Masters 94kg division in Istanbul held on 8-9 June. TOTALCOM

Sousa says his own tough upbringing gives him extra motivation on the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam World Tour, which also includes rounds in Brazil, USA, China, Japan, Australia, London, Italy, Abu Dhabi and Moscow.

"Every time I get on a plane, I tell my family and my students that I will try to bring home the gold. I grew up in a favela. There were times in my childhood where we didn't have a roof over our head, or food on the table. But despite the poverty, my mum instilled in me that I had to strive for excellence.  

“Just competing to participate wasn't enough. She expected me to win, and I still carry this fire within me. I’m very excited to do the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam World Tour for the first time." The athlete runs training programmes at his own London gym, and won at the last two Grand Slam events on the 2023-24 World Tour, in Rome and Abu Dhabi.

"I didn't participate in previous years because it takes a lot of time and commitment. It's only thanks to Scalo that I can do as many of the Grand Slams as possible. It's really the dream of every Brazilian jiu-jitsu athlete." Sousa started jiu-jitsu at the age of 10 in Brazil, and won a host of tournaments. 

Finances and visa issues held him back, before he earned backing to contest the 2012 European Championship in Portugal where he won gold in his division. He landed three world titles in the US in 2013, earned a black belt, and became one of the top jiu-jitsu athletes of his generation.