As someone who has battled depression his entire life, decorated American grappler Mikey Musumeci feels blessed to have a platform large enough to reach those in need.
The ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion has built legions of supporters thanks to his incredible skill set, quirky personality, and insane pizza and pasta diet. But nowadays, “Darth Rigatoni’s” mission is to help others hurdle their own challenges.
The 26-year-old will further his quest when he defends his 26-pound gold strap in a co-main event clash against Osamah Almarwai at the sold-out 1stBank Center in Colorado this Friday, May 5, at ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes III on Prime Video.
Musumeci will have the eyes of the world watching him live in U.S. primetime on that night, but he won’t be competing for personal glory.
“Darth Rigatoni” said:
“I have already won every title I wanted in jiu-jitsu. It’s not about winning titles anymore. What it’s about is inspiring and helping people, having an impact on others so that they can overcome whatever obstacles they have in life.
“So now that I’m in the position I’m in, I have a responsibility not only to perform and compete, but also to share my stories of life and overcoming the things that I have [faced].”
However, as much as Musumeci’s intentions come from a place of altruism, he admits that helping others helps him too.
During bouts of depression, when his mental health suffered most, the American grappling sensation realized material things were worthless. Soon, he found out that assisting others was the only way to provide a beacon of light during his darkest times.
“Something I’ve learned from having depression is when you’re in that state, nothing makes you feel better – food, money, nothing. The only thing that made me feel better was when I helped people, when I made somebody smile, when I made someone’s day better. That gave me a purpose to keep living.
“I’m like, ‘Okay, I feel horrible, but at least the people around me are benefiting from me.’ So I feel like that gives me a purpose to live another day. So my biggest thing with competing now is to try to impact others and inspire others.
“That is why I share [about] depression. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. All I care about is showing someone that if you are struggling, I went through it also. You’re not alone. You could overcome it also.”
Mikey Musumeci’s Advice To His Younger Self
Mikey Musumeci’s outlook has changed with time, and he’d love to give his younger self a head start by imparting some of the wisdom he has acquired.
“Darth Rigatoni” was so desperate to be liked and accepted that he lived his life to please others, but now he knows that wasn’t the best way.
“Mikey back then was obsessed with titles, looking for people’s approval, and not fulfilling himself. So the first thing I would say to him is, ‘Dude, don’t care about this metal.’
“I love winning titles and pushing myself, but I’d say, ‘Focus more on just enjoying the process, and don’t focus as if your life depends on winning this. It’s not about the gold medal. It’s about enjoying things. It’s about helping people. It’s about being with people.’”
Through his troubles and the wisdom he has gained, Musumeci has also learned to see the best in people.
As a younger man with a negative mindset, this wasn’t always easy. However, he now knows that there are always people out there who are worth investing time and effort in.
“I didn’t have very good social skills probably at that time. So I would definitely change his perspective to the Mikey now that’s very warm and open with people.
“When you’re younger, you feel bitter toward people. And you don’t know that there are many good people in this world. So as you get older, you experience and find good people.
“So I would tell Mikey, ‘There are good people in this world. Open your heart to them. Don’t close your heart.’”