During the Grand Slam Judo competition in Budapest, Israel’s Sagi Muki and Iranian Saieid Mollaei faced each other for the first time.
After this battle was avoided several times, the two met in the quarterfinals of the competition in Hungary, and Mollaei, who now represents Azerbaijan, was the one who celebrated a prestigious victory.
At the 2019 World Cup, Mollaei, who was still competing under the Iranian flag, lost in the semifinals and claimed that he and his family were pressured to do so in order to avoid a possible encounter with Muki.
The judoka then left Iran and competed in the Tokyo Olympics under the Olympic flag of athletes without nationality and has since received Mongolian citizenship. He met the young Israeli finalist at the World Championships in Budapest in 2021 and the two have become friends.
After two penalties per side and entry to the gold score, Mollaei managed to get a score with a restraint that was worth an ippon (the highest score achievable in Japanese martial arts) and continued all the way to the final where he lost and was left with the silver medal.
Even though Muki was eliminated from the competition, he and Mollaei showed mutual respect and the two hugged each other after the fight.
The competition opened last night when three Israelis took the podium. Tal Flicker (up to 66 kg.), Geffen Primo (up to 57 kg.) and Timna Nelson Levy (up to 52 kg.) won bronze medals in the tournament.