The -90kg category at the Abu Dhabi World Championships 2024 was typically stacked, with a whole host of athletes capable of taking the world title. As such, despite the pedigree of the eight seeded players, five of them exited the competition before the quarter-final stage.

2022 world champion Davlat Bobonov (UZB) was defeated in round two by Peter Safrany (HUN), while third seed and former world silver medallist Mihail Zgank (TUR) was stopped by Theodoros Tselidis (GRE) at the same stage.

Before the era of Sanshiro Murao (JPN), the -90kg category was one where Japan struggled for an athlete who would produce consistent results on the world stage. With Murao absent from Abu Dhabi ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the mantle was passed to world number 78, Goki Tajima (JPN). The 2017 junior world champion had begun to emerge from the shadow of his teammates Shoichiro Mukai and Kenta Nagasawa in 2023, when he won bronze at the Tbilisi Grand Slam and later produced an exceptional performance in Doha to help Japan retain their mixed teams world championship title. Here in Abu Dhabi, he was finally able to showcase his true potential, exhibiting an eclectic mix of techniques as he made his way to the final.

Starting in round one against Ali Hazem (EGY), a sharp ko-uchi-gari which scored waza-ari was enough to give Tajima the victory. His round two opponent was world bronze medallist Marcus Nyman (SWE). After a close fight, Tajima managed to score waza-ari 30 seconds into golden score, turning his initial seoi-nage attempt into uchi-makikomi to throw the Swedish athlete on his side.

Round of 16 Macedo (BRA) vsTajima (JPN)

Against the number seven seed Rafael Macedo (BRA) in round three, Tajima scored waza-ari with an uki-goshi to uchi-mata combination three minutes in, and in the following exchange applied hara-gatame, an armlock very seldom seen in competition, to submit the Brazilian and move to the quarter-final. There he met Tristani Mosakhlishvili (ESP), who had impressed in the earlier rounds with his powerful koshi-waza or hip techniques. Tajima was unfazed and defeated the Spaniard by ippon.

Tajima’s semi-final opponent would be Erlan Sherov (KGZ). Sherov had no quarter-final opponent after the simultaneous disqualification of Tselidis and Donghan Gwak (KOR), so was arguably fresher than his opponent but Tajima continued his incredible run, scoring ippon once again to move into his first senior world final on his first try.

Since winning the 2017 Budapest World Championships, number four seed Nemanja Majdov (SRB) has only returned to a world championship podium once, winning bronze in 2019. In Abu Dhabi he at last returned to a world final with a workmanlike performance.

Quarter-final Majdov (SRB) vs Silva Morales (CUB)

Majdov required penalties to get past Dushanbe Grand Slam 2024 silver medallist David Klammert (CZE) in round two, and he also took a tactical victory over Mamedaly Achyldyyev (TKM) in round three. In the quarter-final he came up against world silver medallist Ivan Felipe Silva Morales (CUB), who led the head-to-head between the two by 3-1 going into the contest. Majdov managed to make it 3-2, scoring waza-ari twice to power through to the semi-final.

There the Serbian met the relatively unknown Caramnob Sagaipov (LBN). The 27-year-old Lebanese fighter had been on the form of his life in the preliminaries, defeating Qazaqstan Barysy Grand Slam gold medallist Yahor Varapeyeu (AIN), number one seed Krisztian Toth (HUN), 2019 world champion Noel Van T End (NED), and world silver medallist Christian Parlati (ITA). Majdov managed the contest expertly, taking another tactical victory, which put him comfortably into his second world final.

Final, Nemanja Majdov (SRB) vs Goki Tajima (JPN)

The final was a nail-bitingly tense encounter. Tajima initially struggled with Majdov’s powerful grip fighting but he gradually found his way back into the contest, threatening to score several times using his left-sided hip throws and right-sided seoi-nage and ko-uchi-gari combinations. In the third minute of golden score, he finally found a breakthrough, picking up the Serbian and throwing him for a waza-ari using uchi-mata. After an incredible first appearance, Tajima became the first Japanese world champion at -90kg since Hiroshi Izumi in 2005.

Final, Nemanja Majdov (SRB) vs Goki Tajima (JPN)

Parlati defeated Silva Morales in their repechage contest and progressed to face Sherov for the first bronze medal. Both fighters were very apprehensive about launching their big attacks early in the contest but Parlati picked up two penalties to Sherov’s one. The Italian then started to come forward more but in attempting to attack with o-soto-otoshi, he overreached and Sherov countered with sumi-otoshi to score ippon and win an historic bronze medal. His is the first ever world championship medal in the history of Kyrgyzstan.

Bronze medal question, Christian Parlati (ITA) vs SHEROV Erlan (KGZ)
Bronze medal contest, Tristani Mosakhlishvili (ESP) vs Caramnob Sagaipov (LBN)

With no repechage opponent, thanks to the aforementioned double disqualification, Mosakhlishlivi moved directly into the second bronze medal contest to face Sagaipov. In normal time, the two fighters cancelled each other out, with neither being able to fully apply their explosive attacks. In the first exchange of golden score though, Mosakhlishvili found a way through, picking Sagaipov up and throwing him with utsuri-goshi. Despite an acrobatic escape attempt from the Lebanese fighter, the attack scored the Spaniard a waza-ari and earned him his first world championship medal.

Medals, cheques and flowers were presented by Mrs Kolinda Grabarkitarovic, 4th president of Croatia & IOC Member, and H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Sharqi, vice president for Asia of the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, and President of the UAE Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness

Final (-90 kg)

See also