The Musumeci siblings stand united on most fronts – except when it comes to the matter of one Jarred Brooks. Come Friday, August 4, Mikey “Darth Rigatoni” Musumeci will defend his ONE Championship world title in submission grappling against Jarred “Monkey God” Brooks, a highly-decorated Division I wrestler turned MMA sensation.
Unfortunately for Mikey, his beloved elder sister – and fellow ONE Championship grappling star – Tammi has her own history with Jared.
“My sister and him used to train a lot together,” reveals Mikey. “They used to train together at American Top Team, and they were really good training partners there – so my sister’s a big fan of him, and she even said that she’s rooting for him over me in this fight! So, Jarred has my sister on his side.”
He shakes his head, an expression of comedic betrayal on his face. “I don’t get it. My own sister, rooting against me. It’s kind of messed up. I’m surprised my sister didn’t go to train with him for this.” He pauses, then adds, “Actually, I’m in Singapore right now, so little do I know, she might be with Jarred training. They might be having a camp together.”
Despite Tammi’s wishes, Mikey enters this matchup as the heavy favorite, largely due to superior jiu-jitsu credentials. Ever the clever strategist, however, the defending champ remains cognizant of the unique challenges Monkey God offers. “I think there are some variables Jared presents that will make it rather challenging for me to finish him – one being that he has small limbs: very short legs and very short arms. In no-gi, people with this body type are very hard to leg lock.”
According to Darth Rigatoni, it’s the same set of physical attributes that make small powerhouse black belts like Estevan “Giant Slayer” Martinez so tricky to submit. Mikey’s previously faced Martinez in competition, and found him similarly difficult to finish.
“I also think [Jarred] is a very tough guy – he won’t gas out, and I definitely think he has a lot of tools and elements to give me a challenging match,” adds Mikey.
While the reigning champ has a lot of respect for his latest challenger, he’s mostly wary of Monkey God’s defensive prowess, and doesn’t believe the former wrestler will present many dangers on the submission side of the game. “I don’t think he has any tools to finish me,” explains Darth Rigatoni. “I think he has tools just to make it hard for me to finish him.”
Brooks recently went viral with a tongue-in-cheek Instagram video lightly poking fun at Mikey’s quirks – including Darth Rigatoni’s pasta obsession. “In order to beat Mikey Musumeci, you have to become Mikey Musumeci,” declares Brooks on camera, before filming a series of antics that mimic and exaggerate Musumeci’s training routine. He concludes by slurping up some pasta, while eagerly inquiring whether the dish is “Darth Rigatoni approved.”
When I ask Mikey to weigh in on whether Brooks’ culinary skills are, indeed, Darth Rigatoni approved, the reigning champ pulls a face. “I thought [the video] was funny; I just thought his pasta was whack at the end,” the flyweight king tells me, in what’s possibly the closest I’ve ever heard Mikey come to trash talk. “That’s the only thing that was triggering to me: the pasta. I think he needs to up his level with the pasta.”
Ever magnanimous, Darth Rigatoni is willing to admit, however, that the pasta “might have been good” despite how it initially looked to him. “[Jarred] tells me that he’s from an Italian family, so they definitely have good food. I just feel like they needed better quality pasta. Honestly, I got this box of pasta from Italy, so I might give it to him at weigh-ins as a gift, just so he has better pasta to cook with at home.”
Putting aside dubious kitchen wars and battles over sibling loyalty, Musumeci’s looking forward to the showdown this weekend. Plus, he’s angling for a surprise finish on the MMA star. “I’ve trained so hard, looking for a certain finish that I really want to get on him,” says Mikey. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get it, but I’m excited.”
Any hints as to what this mystery submission is? Mikey smiles and shakes his head. “I can’t disclose my weapon,” he teases. Fans, it seems, will have to tune into the show to find out exactly what piece of his arsenal Darth Rigatoni’s been sharpening.
And who knows? After that, maybe these two will rematch in an Italian food cook-off. If we’re lucky, perhaps we’ll even get to see Tammi Musumeci as a judge.
Tune into Musumeci vs Brooks at ONE Fight Night 13 on Friday, August 4, at 8 PM EST, streaming from Amazon Prime Video.