Tammi Musumeci – unlike most combat sports athletes, including her media darling brother, ONE flyweight king Mikey Musumeci – quite famously eschews social media, but she’s always game to chat jiu-jitsu.
“I’m in a different place than [my brother] – and most jiu-jitsu athletes,” she tells me. She’s thoughtful in her candor, and gently but habitually laughs off the shock of other grapplers who discover her lack of Instagram presence. “It’s just something I don’t really like – I just see the negatives to it. I know that some people make a lot of money off it, and it’s important, but I kind of just like doing my own thing, and doing it for myself.”
Tammi recently made quite the debut on the ONE Championship stage, taking a tough decision victory over former ADCC champion Bianca Basilio in a submission-only grappling match. Alongside Tammi’s collection of medals – which includes IBJJF world championship gold, several times over, in both gi and no-gi – it’s an accomplishment that places the elder Musumeci sibling among some of the most elite female professionals in the sport.
Nevertheless, jiu-jitsu isn’t Tammi’s primary career. Unlike her brother, she numbers among the rare collection of world class athletes who lead double lives, preferring to squeeze high-level jiu-jitsu competition in between her day job hours as a law clerk for a family court judge.
“I feel like I’m the type who likes to be busy,” she explains to me. “I feel like a good day for me is one where I try to fit a ton in. I feel weird if I don’t have a lot to do. I like to keep the stress to a manageable amount [in both work and jiu-jitsu], but you can’t always control that.”
“I’m always trying to figure out the balance,” she adds. “It’s not really a set thing, and I always feel like I’m failing when I’m doing it – and it’s a little bit trickier now because ONE is outside of the country. Some other opportunities, like IBJJF tournaments, are a bit easier – like even for no-gi Worlds, I literally missed no work. I just drove Friday night, straight to California, and competed the next day because we live in Vegas. So that’s the new obstacle for me.”
Logistical troubles aside, she’s relishing her time with ONE. “I’m enjoying training with Mikey for his fight, but also training on my own because I’m looking to get another fight soon too. Even when he’s not in town, I feel like we keep in touch a lot, and we train with a lot of the same people, so that’s kind of a common ground.”
Tammi is arguably the person who knows Mikey – and his jiu-jitsu game – better than anyone else in the world. “Mikey finds every possible avenue that could work,” Tammi tells me. “He looks at the other person’s strengths too. And he finds ways around them.”
She also believes that her brother has a gift for innovating his game in interesting directions – often well before those same methods become a popular part of the mainstream meta in jiu-jitsu. “His strength is that he’s good pretty much everywhere,” she explains. “Nowadays, I feel like the higher-level jiu-jitsu guys are starting to learn leg locks, but I feel like – if you look at his matches, even in IBJJF, at brown belt, and early at black belt – he always had that ankle lock, you know?”
Even as his sister, she remains a little floored at how easily her little brother makes some of the best athletes in the game look comparatively unthreatening during their matches. She cites his title match against Cleber Sousa as an example.
“I didn’t realize how good Cleber really was until I saw him fight other people,” she confesses. “Most of those guys, I haven’t really seen – if I don’t watch their matches, I don’t get a chance to see how well-rounded and good they really are, because even if Mikey doesn’t tap the guy, he’s always pretty dominant throughout his matches.”
What does she think Darth Rigatoni’s secret sauce is? “He’s always learning, and he doesn’t have an ego,” says Tammi. “I think a lot of the higher-level guys, if they’re good at, let’s say, wrestling – they’re just going to do what they’re good at. They’re not going to work on anything else. Whereas Mikey, he works on everything. So I feel like that’s a benefit.”
She does, however, deny insistent – though good-natured – allegations from Darth Rigatoni that his big sister “bullied” him when they were children.
“I was never mean to him!” she exclaims, in indignant tones that should be familiar to eldest siblings everywhere.
“With our training dynamic – I mean, he’s a little bigger than me, and he’s also obviously better than me – but he’ll do something, and the way my mind goes, I’ll try to get out of it,” she adds, sounding thoughtful. “I’ll give him random reactions to things, and I think that’s kind of what helps him.
“I think what helps him too, training with me, is that he learns to train without using strength. Because I’m smaller than him, and he’s literally pushing me with pure technique. Which I think a lot of people don’t realize you can benefit from, training with smaller people, or even women, for that matter.
“And that’s what’s interesting about Mikey as well – he’ll always train with women. Which is a different skill. It’s training with someone who’s smaller than you – and he does this with bigger people too – but he’s always using pure technique.”
“He’s very strong,” Tammi adds. “I know that’s something he doesn’t really hype up, but he is very strong for his size, and in general. But when you train with him, you can’t even tell. You feel overpowered by him, but in a technical way.” She offers a sheepish grin at this point. “Which is even worse!”
While the elder Musumeci is less familiar with her brother’s next opponent, Osamah Almarwai, Tammi does know a few key facts: “I’ve never seen Osamah fight, but I know he subbed Giant Slayer […] and I know that he has longer arms, and that he’s more submission-oriented. I think it’s going to be an exciting match-up if he plays his game against Mikey – like if he goes for those submissions.”
“If [Osamah] is more submission-oriented in that match, it’ll be a lot of fun to watch,” she adds. “Because that will also give Mikey an opportunity to also go for his own submissions.”
Tammi does fondly recall rolling with Almarwai’s teammates and training partners, the Ruotolo twins – though back when they were about half the size they are now. “I trained with them once before when they were green belts,” Tammi tells me, smiling. “They were about my size back then. It was at AOJ, and it was the fundamentals class in the morning. And they kind of shark tanked me!”
She laughs. “I think it was three minutes in with each of them, back to back to back. It was a lot of fun, and really funny. They were probably about thirteen. One of them even went for a heel hook to mess with me! I think that’s the one time I trained with them, but I see them in tournaments, so I kind of know them – I remember seeing them in 2019, when they came up to me, but they’d gotten so much bigger, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what happened to you guys?’”
With Osamah Almawrwai himself confirming that his game plan for Mikey has been heavily influenced by cornerman Kade Ruotolo, we’re also likely to see some of the Atos team’s trademark top-heavy aggression play out against Mikey’s highly intricate – but no less dangerous – guard work.
It’s a recipe for a fiery matchup during what will be ONE Championship’s debut show on American soil. So, how does Tammi Musumeci predict her little brother will fare at ONE Fight Night 10?
“Mikey trains for every possible scenario,” she tells me. “He looks at every single angle where anyone could leverage any advantage. And he finds a way with his own game to either work with it, or avoid it. Even when someone defends something, he’ll make them do it over and over again until he finds a way around it.”
And ultimately, formidable though Osamah Almarwai may be, she believes that strategy will enable Mikey to win the day.
What about her own future in ONE Championship? “I’d like to get the 25 and the 15 belts – I think that would be cool,” says Tammi. “Especially with the ruleset – I feel like I do better with submission-only. I was a little nervous about making 115 at first, especially with the hydration test, but now that I understand it a little better, I feel confident about it. 115 would take a few weeks to make, and I walk around at 25, but I definitely want to do both the 15 and the 25.
“I feel like I’m more built for 125 – I won no-gi Worlds at 125, and I fought pretty decent-sized girls. Bianca [Basilio] was 125 too, and on the bigger side for 125. I feel strong at 125, but with my body frame, I feel like I can make 115 as well, so I’d like to get into both weight classes.”
Down at 115, she’d also likely see the opportunity to face ONE Championship fan favorite Danielle Kelly – whom Tammi’s scrapped with before. “I fought her twice – once in 2015 at the ADCC Trials, and once in 2021 at Who’s Number One.” For Tammi, the chance to make a trilogy – with the rubber match taking place on the ONE Championship stage – would be a great opportunity, as well as a major fan draw.
First, though, she looks forward to seeing her little brother defend his belt – and the family name.
Catch ONE Fight Night 10 this Friday, May 5, streaming from Amazon Prime Video.