“I Do My Own Thing”: How Staying True to Herself Keeps Tammi Musumeci in Love With Jiu-Jitsu

Photo Credit: Kitt Canaria

When I hop on Zoom to interview Tammi Musumeci about her upcoming bout against Amanda “Tubby” Alequin, Tammi calls in during a break from work – and by work, we’re talking about a full-fledged office job as a law clerk. The multiple-time IBJJF world champion has accolades to match – and in some cases, exceed – that of any full-time professional athlete, but for Tammi, her day job always comes first.

“If I’m doing jiu-jitsu, it’s definitely going to be balanced with whatever I’m doing at work,” she tells me. “I know some people are able to do that – where they’re able to focus more on jiu-jitsu – but I’m not, and I kind of like it that way too. Sometimes, it gets more annoying and harder to balance, but I do enjoy it to some extent because then I have less pressure, and it helps me compartmentalize. It helps me put [jiu-jitsu] in an area where I want it – and I’m able to do it when it’s in that area.”

She’s big on maximizing the time she does have on the mats – and even if those hours are technically shorter than those of her full-time counterparts, she ensures that no time is wasted. Much like fellow jiu-jitsu black belt Claire North – who also competes in grappling at elite levels while managing a full-time career outside of jiu-jitsu – Tammi Musumeci is a big believer in deliberate efficiency in training.

“I felt like the same principle even helped me in school,” says Tammi. “Let’s say I have an hour. I’m gonna get the most out of the hour that I can. For example, if you go to the gym to work out, let’s say that you have three hours to work out, you might not really focus on what you’re there for. But I’m really focusing on what I’m actually there for – so that I can get more out of an hour than I might out of two or three hours.”

She likens her attitude toward training to her attitude toward studying at school. For Tammi, it’s all about quality. Spending three hours studying isn’t worth much to her if she isn’t focused on the subject – and she’d rather spend a single hour dialed in on whatever she’s working on, than waste three lackadaisical hours.

In short, juggling multiple obligations – and multiple passions – has taught Tammi to place a higher value on her time. She’s learned to get more done with fewer hours – and to do it well.

It’s not the first time we’ve chatted about Tammi’s work-slash-life-slash-jiu-jitsu balancing act. Maintaining a double life is just one of many ways that the jiu-jitsu ace stays true to who she is – and stays in love with her sport. Her particular approach to her jiu-jitsu career – eschewing social media, and going to law school instead of hitting the mats full-time – has paid dividends through several major IBJJF titles, as well as a victorious ONE Championship debut against former ADCC champion Bia Basilio.

It’s momentum that she hopes to carry into her second ONE Championship showdown, this time against fearsome rival Tubby Alequin, whom Tammi has previously faced in competition twice before.

“I used to train with [Tubby] a lot,” says Tammi. “She was bigger back then, and she was still fast, but now she’s even faster. So I think during our first match, it was a lot of getting over that initial realization of ‘whoa, she’s really fast!’ – and she’s still as strong as she was when she was bigger. So it takes getting used to.

“I think the biggest difference between her and the other girls in the same weight class is that she used to compete against bigger girls. Whereas the other girls in this weight class, they might be strong, but they’re not used to dealing with that extra size difference.”

In Tammi’s opinion, those experiences have made Tubby uniquely scrappy, even among other elite players of her weight division – which should make for a good showdown on the ONE stage.

Tammi’s brother, fellow ONE Championship star Mikey Musumeci, has gone on the record praising ONE for providing his sister with a platform where she can enjoy jiu-jitsu in a way that feels authentic to her. “ONE Championship being how they are, where the men and women are equal, it gave my sister a passion for jiu-jitsu – not just as a hobby, but where she really loves it again,” he once told me.

What does Tammi make of Mikey’s take?

“I definitely agree with it – it’s a really amazing opportunity to be a part of this organization,” says Tammi. “You can sign up for stuff like Pans and Worlds, but if you want to get a superfight, you have to be a top name person, and of course you have to be good, but it’s also very oriented around your social media and stuff – because it’s a business. And you don’t want to bring someone on where no one knows who they are.”

That’s never been Tammi’s vibe. “Even when I had social media, I’ve never really been the type to really be that way – I kind of just like to do my own thing. So I’m very grateful to be a part of ONE, and that they’re willing to give me a platform, despite that.”

She grins. “It feels great.” She’s found a competitive platform that’s happy to let Tammi be Tammi – and she looks forward to continuing to let her story unfold on the ONE Championship stage.

Don’t miss Tammi Musumeci’s showdown against Tubby Alequin on Friday, July 14 on ONE Fight Night 12, streaming at 8 PM EST from Amazon Prime Video.


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