Reigning ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion Mikey “Darth Rigatoni” Musumeci aims to be an ambassador for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in any way he can.
He’ll soon have another opportunity to showcase the power of his art when he faces former lightweight MMA king Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in an intriguing openweight submission grappling showdown on October 6 in U.S. primetime at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Now in his final preparations for that matchup at ONE Fight Night 15: Tawanchai vs. Superbon on Prime Video, Musumeci spoke to onefc.com about how jiu-jitsu has helped him connect with countless others.
The five-time IBJJF Black Belt World Champion grew up moving around a fair amount and has continued that trend as an adult, living and training in a variety of places around the globe, including his current home of Singapore.
Throughout his travels, the 27-year-old phenom has used BJJ to find common ground with people of any and all backgrounds.
“Jiu-jitsu is like a universal language. And I think that that’s what’s so special about it now that I’ve traveled all around the world, like the Middle East, Asia everywhere, like South America, America, it doesn’t matter where they go, the people could be speaking different languages. The people could be different religions, different cultures. You go in and you do jiu-jitsu the same with everyone. So it connects everyone in the world together.”
As a shy and introverted child who sometimes felt like a perpetual outsider, Musumeci’s love of jiu-jitsu helped him form bonds with kids he might not have ever spoken to otherwise.
“Me as a kid moving around a lot, it definitely made me more comfortable. Because maybe it was a new place, maybe it was a new state, maybe it was a new group of people I never knew, but the second you started training with them, you instantly feel at home. Everyone’s connected with jiu-jitsu.”
Ultimately, “Darth Rigatoni” views jiu-jitsu as a tool that’s much more powerful than just self-defense or good exercise.
According to him, jiu-jitsu, submission grappling, and all martial arts can foster togetherness and break down barriers:
“I think that the whole world would be good with jiu-jitsu. I think that the whole world, like the more it spreads, the better it will be because the more similar people realize they are.”
Musumeci Gives Advice To Those Struggling In New Situations
Given his frequent experience as the new kid – whether at a different school or jiu-jitsu academy – Mikey Musumeci knows firsthand what it’s like to feel like the odd man out.
Now with years of perspective behind him, he’s able to look back on those difficult times and see how they molded him into the happy and fulfilled person he is today:
“So I used to be so afraid of being uncomfortable. I used to be horrified of it. But then when you get older, you realize that the second you stop making yourself uncomfortable is the second you stop living, so I don’t run away from it anymore.”
These days, the BJJ phenom is happy to offer advice to anybody who might be struggling to make friends in a new situation.
The key, he says, is recognizing that true growth comes from times of discomfort. Rather than shying away from those difficult situations, Musumeci thinks people should embrace where they are and trust that – over time – what was once difficult will become their new normal.
“Change is always going to be new and change is always uncomfortable. But change makes us grow. Being uncomfortable makes us grow. So I would say to embrace the uncomfortability.
“When you have a chance to be uncomfortable. Take it because it’s just gonna make you grow in the long run, and you’re gonna learn more.
“So you might be uncomfortable for a while, but it’s great for you. And always try to have more new experiences. You will adapt every. You always adapt over time.”