At only 17 years of age, Ramzi Yahia is a paragon of the modern scholar-athlete. Last month, Ramzi won gold at the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi with over 7,000 participants from more than 100 countries, becoming the youngest person to win in the adult division. Back at AUB, he is equally committed to his studies. Ramzi earned a 91 grade-point average in his first semester and is hoping to enter engineering in the fall.
“Studying and training are the two most important things in my life,” explained Ramzi.
Truly committed to his sport, Ramzi trains six days a week at AUB’s Charles Hostler Student Center and at a local gym, yet he also manages to maintain high grades. This balancing act requires time management skills and some sacrifices, but Ramzi believes strongly in the importance of a good education. He said he was considering universities in the US, but decided on AUB because of its excellent reputation.
“To be honest, it’s nicely ranked and compared to other places, it’s more affordable,” said Ramzi. “But most importantly, the academic system in AUB is very strong. If I graduate an engineer from AUB, I’m going to be a well-rounded engineer, which is something you don’t get anywhere else.”
Ramzi has been studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) since he was in ninth grade at the International School of Choueifat in Dubai. BJJ is a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling techniques, or fighting on the ground. Originally from Japan, jiu-jitsu was brought to Brazil in the early 20th century and has been gaining in popularity worldwide.
Having entered the Abu Dhabi competition in the adult category (18 years and over) and in one of the heaviest divisions (94kg), Ramzi received some quizzical looks from fellow athletes. Competing against older, bigger, and more experienced fighters, he beat them all to bring the gold medal back to AUB and Lebanon. This achievement follows a silver medal he won earlier this year at the World Tour Grand Slam Jiu-Jitsu Championship, also in Abu Dhabi.
Since moving to Lebanon, Ramzi has found a great deal of support, including from the Lebanese Federation of Jiu-Jitsu and its president, Dr. Youssef el-Khalil, who is also a lecturer in economics at AUB. The Federation helped pay the expenses of Ramzi and his teammates to travel to Abu Dhabi for the international competitions. Together, the Lebanese contingent earned five medals at the two championships, putting Lebanon on the map in terms of BJJ world rankings.
Ramzi trains at AUB with Coach Hasan Jizzini doing Mixed Martial Arts, which combines the techniques of jiu-jitsu and other martial arts such as karate, judo, and kickboxing. Looking ahead, Ramzi will be competing at a Mixed Martial Arts championship in November with the help of Coach Jizzini.
At AUB’s Athlete’s Night 2017, Ramzi was honored with the New Record Award for being the youngest athlete to win first place in the adult division of a world championship. Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Talal Nizameddin, and President Fadlo Khuri gave Ramzi this special award in the presence of his coaches and fellow athletes. The administration of University Sports noted that these awards are usually given to athletes who have been at AUB for many years, but they had no trouble in recognizing Ramzi for his amazing accomplishments. Since this is only his freshman year, more great things are expected to come from Ramzi Yahia.