ONE’s flyweight submission grappling king Mikey Musumeci has officially confirmed that he’ll defend his title against IBJJF no-gi world champ and Atos representative Osamah Almarwai in the promotion’s debut on US soil.
“I’m so excited to be back home fighting in America,” Musumeci shares with the Jiu-Jitsu Times. “Since January 2022, I’ve been out of the US – it’s been about a year since I’ve competed at home – so I’m really excited to go back.”
Like his Atos teammates Kade and Tye Ruotolo, Almarwai is known for an aggressive and highly submission-oriented grappling style, which Mikey personally witnessed back in December. “I was at no-gi Worlds, just coaching friends,” remembers Musumeci. One of those friends, AOJ representative Coco Izutsu, who took bronze in Almwarwai’s division, lost to Almarwai in the semifinals. “I was matside for that,” says Musumeci. “So I got to really watch and study Osamah in that match.”
It helps that Mikey also trains with Izutsu every day, and has been able to learn lessons from his friend’s experiences with the current no-gi champ. “I feel very comfortable going in already knowing Osamah’s game, and kind of what he’s going to feel like,” says Mikey.
“He plays reverse de la Riva very well,” observes Musumeci. “He’s very good at strategy in IBJJF with points, but he also has very good submissions. He submitted Giant Slayer – someone I couldn’t submit! – so he has very good submissions. Estevan is so hard to submit because he has very small limbs, and they’re so hard to finish, but Osamah was able to get him in an arm triangle, I think, and it was very impressive.”
Musumeci was also quick to notice that Almarwai – despite a seasoned ability to play for points under an IBJJF rule set – showcased a real hunger for those submission victories. “Some guys win titles, but have zero submission attempts in their matches,” says Mikey. “Osamah, in every match, is attacking submissions.”
“He’s a finisher, he’s smart with the rules, and he’s very technical – I respect him a lot, and that’s why I really wanted this match,” adds Mikey. “I think it’ll be beautiful for the American fans to watch. It won’t be one person with anti-jiu-jitsu running away [from the BJJ player] – Osamah will come in, and exchange with me using jiu-jitsu. MMA fans and people that really don’t watch jiu-jitsu will still be able to appreciate it, which is always my goal in ONE Championship.”
In his other matches, Mikey hasn’t necessarily worried about losing – but he has worried about not being able to give fans an exciting match. “I have a lot of pressure right now to keep jiu-jitsu on the ONE Championship platform,” he confides. “To do that, we need to keep these matches exciting. If the matches are boring, and MMA fans are like, ‘What is that s**t?’, we’re screwed. So we have to make these fights beautiful.”
It’s been a long time since Darth Rigatoni has faced another jiu-jitsu star who could legitimately go toe-to-toe with him. While Mikey has enjoyed opportunities to test himself against grapplers from other disciplines, after the horrific experience of destroying a sambo champ’s knee, he’s happy to return to the familiar waters of jiu-jitsu.
“I feel like this match is so much more fun for me – that I can just focus on exciting jiu-jitsu,” he elaborates. “I don’t have to worry about that anti-jiu-jitsu style. I can just have fun. My favorite thing in the world is just doing jiu-jitsu. That anti-jiu-jitsu style, where I have to chase people around, that’s not fun at all. But now I can have fun, and figure out new, cool things that I want to hit, and keep improving as a jiu-jitsu athlete.”
Preparing for Almarwai’s fearsome submission-hunting pressure isn’t Darth Rigatoni’s only job at ONE’s US debut either. He’s previously promised to bust some dance moves in his walkout – and he’s not about to let his fans down. To that end, the American jiu-jitsu star’s “walkout dance” training camp will be run by Muay Thai fan favorites – slash pre-fight dance sensations – Stamp Fairtex and Rodtang Jitmuangnon.
“I’m one of those types of people that cram at the end for finals in college,” says Mikey with a self-deprecating laugh. “So that’s more my style – [Stamp] is on this card with me, her and Rodtang, so I expect both of them to help me to their fullest ability to get the dance done for the show.”
He’ll stop at nothing to make ONE’s US debut a success. “You’ll see a Mikey that’s super, super driven and motivated to finish this match,” Musumeci tells me. “It’s an honor to compete with Osamah – I think he’s amazing, and I think his jiu-jitsu’s amazing, and I just think it’s going to be a great match.” He grins. “I promise everyone that I’m going to be ‘Intense Mikey’ – like, ‘Finisher Mikey.’”
Does that mean Darth Rigatoni’s going to kick things up a notch? “I think I’m going to be Darth Bucatini this time!” declares Musumeci. His grin widens with characteristic good humor. “Because that’s a cooler pasta shape than rigatoni.”
Don’t miss ONE Championship’s debut on US soil in Colorado on May 5.