Interview with a World Champion: Tammi Musumeci

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Recently, we were able to interview multiple time IBJJF World and Pan Am champion, Tammi Musumeci. She just won her first world title as a black belt, defeating Mackenzie Dern in the no gi finals.

JJT: You just recently won the Black Belt No-Gi World Championships. Can you tell us what that was like for you?

Musumeci: Competing this weekend was an amazing experience for me overall. I went into the tournament without putting pressure on myself. I just wanted to have a good time and do the best that I could. I enjoyed very much seeing everyone I don’t usually see and getting to watch others compete. I felt proud of my performance and thrilled to get Gold.

JJT: Last year at the Gi World Championships, you lost a tough match against Michelle Nicolini when she dislocated your arm and you fought through anyways. Are you ever worried that people will always know you for that and fail to see your other accomplishments?

Musumeci: The injury that I sustained last year was pretty hard on me because it changed my whole mindset and idea about competing. It gave me fear. Everyone who does jiu-Michelle_Nicolini_x_Tammi_Musumecijitsu knows that there is a risk of injury, but usually doesn’t think too much about it. I have been competing since I was young and never focused on the “what could happen.” Since my injury, I do think about it. As far as what people know me as, I think some people still refer to me as the “girl with the arm” or something along those lines, but  I train super hard and hope to be known for my technique and ability instead.

JJT: You have already defeated what many have considered the best grapplers in your division at a very young age. Do you ever feel like that puts extra pressure on you?

Musumeci: I have always put a lot of pressure on myself in general. I don’t feel that this puts more pressure on me, because the people I compete against are great, so it is expected that I will not win all the time. I just hope to win sometimes and to be able to do my best and feel that I did.

JJT: How do you manage to keep up your intensive training schedule while also going to school and staying healthy?

Musumeci: Jiu-jitsu has been part of my life since I was 6 years old, so keeping up with my schedule is all part of my AQ84Q4life. It’s just a part of my day. Even if I have a lot of schoolwork, I make sure to fit some kind of training into my schedule. I try to make the most of every hour of the day and keep a pretty strict schedule. I do get to train every day. We have a gym set up in the house with mats so my brother and I could train whenever we want to if we can’t get to the gym.

JJT: In your guest article for FloGrappling you mentioned the struggles you’ve faced with depression and how you hope sharing your story will help others. First of all, as a grappler who suffers from depression myself, I wanted to thank you for that. Secondly, I just wanted to ask, what advice would you give to others who struggle with the same or similar issues you have experienced?

Musumeci: The advice that I would give to others is to get help.  I suffered since I was younger and there was no 12208256_1037990149566050_1012688588572399211_nreason for it. People would tell me that I was fine and didn’t need help, or that I have to help myself. Well, years of that caught up with me, and finally I got help and now am glad that I did. It’s hard for people to understand your feelings because they are not going through the situation themselves. Depression is an invisible illness and what makes it worse is that people can’t look at you and see that you are suffering. I only told my close friends and family about the things I was going through, but my friend, Erin Herle, told me I should share it to help others and that’s why I did. I am so happy I did because so many people contacted me privately today sharing that they too suffer and feel less embarrassed now about it because I shared my story.

JJT: Has there ever been a time that you’ve considering giving up Jiu-Jitsu? If so, what prompted you to stick with it?

Musumeci: Yes, there were times I have considered giving up Jiu-jitsu.  However, Jiu-Jitsu is so a part of my life that I never really could give it up. I don’t know life without it and nor do I want to. I don’t like when I put too much pressure on myself because I have so much more on my plate to deal with, but I love the people I train with and people I have come to know in Jiu-Jitsu and feel as though the whole community is one big family. I love being a part of that family. I also love training and love the sport. I find it fun and challenging. It also is healthy and helps me to relax and burn off stress from other areas of life. So if I ever thought about it, it would just be a thought and never a reality.

JJT: Seeing you compete is always exciting. What sort of training camp do you put yourself through to prepare?

Musumeci: I don’t really have training camps. At my gym, we train hard all the time. So basically, I train the same all year round at the same intensity and work out with my strength and conditioning coach on a regular basis.  My brother is just like me so it benefits both of us that we could train, or drill or go over moves whenever we want at home.

JJT: What can we expect to be seeing from you in the near future?

Musumeci: You can expect to see me continuing to train super hard. I would love to do more tournaments but it’s sometimes difficult because of my school schedule and funds [laughs].

JJT: Anyone you’d like to give a shout-out to?

Musumeci: First of all thank you so much to Jiu-jitsu Times for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts. Thank you to my brother for being my best friend and main training partner. Thank you to my teammates at AJ Sousa BJJ for the awesome training, friendship and support. Thank you to the Mendes Bros for their guidance, coaching and support and my teammates at Art of Jiu-jitsu Academy for their friendship and training.  I’d like to thank my strength and conditioning coach, Paulo Braga, who helps me stay 12088194_1029484343749964_7181146851840969708_nconditioned, healthy and to help my body to sustain the hard training. Thank you to Shoyoroll for all of the awesome gear and support. Thank you Bull Terrier Fight Gear for the gear and support. Thank you Armbar Soap Company for the great soap that keeps me from getting those disgusting mat diseases. Lastly, thank you to everyone who has reached out to me when I got hurt, became my friends over the years and remained my friends and supporters throughout the years. I hope to always be a friend back.

We are thankful that Tammi was willing to take some time out of her schedule for an interview with us. We wish her nothing but the absolute best in her future endeavors both on and off the mats.

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