Another edition of the biggest gi tournament on the planet has passed, and Mikey Musumeci has yet again blown through IBJJF Worlds records while achieving competition firsts.
This year Mikey became the first American to win three gold medals at the Mundials. He became the first American to win two weight classes. He became the first American to defeat the great Bruno Malfacine. And then he set the record for fastest submission in a finals match with his blisteringly fast foot lock win.
Oh, and Mikey’s sister Tammi won her division too, making the pair the first brother/sister team to win matching golds in the same year.
As has become a sort of annual tradition, Mikey sat down with Jiu-Jitsu Times to talk about his journey thus far and what this monumental 2019 has meant to him so far.
I was curious how it felt to set such incredible records on the biggest stage in our sport.
“It is truly an amazing feeling,” Musumeci says. “It almost feels fake to me, but I expect this result. I work so hard everyday, and I am always improving and evolving.”
And about that record-setting submission, the one with the whole BJJ world watching:
“I didn’t even know I was going to do that position in the finals! I let my body take over in the match, and when I came back to consciousness, the match was over! I found out when I was being tested in USADA. That is so cool, honestly, to have that record,” admits Mikey.
And while his win was special and groundbreaking, his sister’s collecting of her gold medal shortly before his big win was a truly special moment for the Musumeci family.
“My sister is the most technical girl I have ever trained with/learned from,”
Mikey says. “She also is the hardest worker and inspired me so much. So when I would see her fall short in competitions it would really hurt me, because she deserved more than everyone to be #1 in the world.
She is a full-time student in law school, and I barely get to train with her now. Before this Worlds, every time I would see her I would try to motivate her to compete and train.
This Worlds I did something different with her. I made her promise if she doesn’t want to win for herself, to win for me. Since we spent all these years working so hard together, as her brother, I deserve for her to win. So, she fought in the 118 division, the division she should have fought in the last 5 years since she is naturally 120.”
Mikey explains that a medical condition makes his sister’s weight cuts harder than his.
“She has hypothyroidism, so it is difficult for her to lose weight. The last 5 years she would fight in the 129, and the 141 divisions with girls significantly bigger than her in size! So I think her doing her correct weight class also was a huge factor in winning the worlds this year! I am so proud of her and to be her brother.”
Cutting down to rooster weight and beating former coach Bruno Malfacine was a bittersweet moment for Mikey. I asked his feelings about the rooster weight king and their meeting on the competition mat.
“[Bruno] was an idol of mine for so many years and still is. It was very hard to compete with him since I looked up to him so much. The feeling is more sad then happy. But he is a legend and it was an honor for me to share the mat with him. The past three years I stayed out of the rooster weight worlds division out of respect to Bruno Malfacine, who I took private lessons from and had the opportunity to visit his academy a lot when I was a kid. So I paid him respect and competed in Light Feather the last two of my world titles 2017 and 2018, where I don’t have to cut any weight,”
says Musumeci. But things were different this year.
“When Bruno retired, he told me he would not compete this year. I really wanted to compete and win in the rooster weight division, because I have a dream to win 3 different divisions. But at the last second, Bruno signed up to compete. That is why we ended up competing with each other this year.
I dieted following the program from Coach Cal at the Training Lab, who works with the best athletes in the world! The program was perfect and I was able to be 0.4 under for the division. The problem was my gi didn’t pass the gi check–they said it was too thin. So I had to find another gi to wear.
Competitor Javier Gomez let me borrow his gi to weigh in, but I was still 0.4 over! I had about 5 minutes until I needed to weigh in so we panicked. My friend suggested let’s try to shave your head and see if I lose anything! I said yes,” says Mikey. “And I lost exactly 0.4 after shaving my head and weighed in exactly 127.0…
“…almost had a heart attack due to stress,”HE LAUGHS.
Along with his coach, Caio Terra, and the CTA/Brasa team at large, Mikey has taken a hard stance against steroids usage which has become a contentious topic on social media, particularly through a new account “@BJJ_Steroids.” I was interested in Mikey’s take on the subject, if in fact HE was the secret account owner of BJJ Steroids.
“I think in life people look for shortcuts to succeed, and many people use these drugs as their short cuts,” explains Musumeci. “My parents are both extremely hard-working people, and raised me with the mindset to never take short cuts in life and always take the hard road. I believe because I was raised with this mentality, it lit a fire in me to beat all my fellow competitors who take PEDS even more.
I hope that from my jiu jitsu I can inspire others not to cheat and take these illegal drugs that have so many negative effects on a person’s health and wellbeing in the long run. That is why they are illegal in the first place. And I have nothing to do with that page,” he clarifies. “But they are extremely hilarious, the content they put out is fun to watch!”
Considering his absolutely amazing ascent to stardom in our sport, I was interested in learning a bit about Mikey’s training regimen and what makes him so special and different.
“I train for Worlds everyday. I don’t see it as training for any particular competition. So my training is done all year. For this year’s Worlds, I trained at my Professor Caio Terra’s academy in San Jose for about 3 weeks. It was a lot easier that I didn’t have to manage my own training and had him to control how he wanted me to train, and to have him for technical improvements as well leading up to the competition. My advice to other competitors would be to find the right environment and the right support system. This is a very unstable and hard lifestyle, the path to becoming a world champion. Balance and stability are key.”
Of course not everything for Mikey Musumeci comes easy.
“One of the biggest struggles in a training camp, especially for me this year, is knowing when to rest. I always push too much and end up getting sick from overtraining. That is why doing my camp with my professor Caio really helped me, because he would monitor me and tell me when to rest or go more.”
One thing I’ve learned from interviewing Mikey the past three years is that he is very superstitious, which we did get into this time:
“My dad has to come to worlds for me to win! I have to be interviewed by you after winning worlds like the last three years so I keep winning! My friend John Freeman has to be the first person to send me ‘oss’ for the New Year. And many more. These are just a few of them.”
Last but certainly not least, I wanted to learn about Mikey’s future goals both on and off the competition mat.
“Well, this year I just graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business, and I was planning on studying the LSATS to go to law school. I already have studied so much for this exam, but haven’t had a chance to take it yet; so possibly law school in the future. I really do not know which law school I would want to go for at this time or which type of law I would like to study. Let’s play it by year and see if I am still interested in pursuing law by the time after the LSATS. But I really do enjoy teaching jiu jitsu and helping people, so that is a possibility as well. I know that Caio and my family will help guide me in the best direction, so whatever direction that is we will see! And of course it’s another dream of mine to win the ADCC!”
We closed with the usual shout outs and thank yous:
“All my coaches, family, friends, and teammates that support me so much everyday and my sponsor Venum! This was a joint collaboration between us all, and I wouldn’t be here without them!! <3”