Mikey Musumeci talks rivalry with João Miyao, European Championship and seeking a world title

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Mikey Musumeci. Leo Bandeira.

Young Mikey Musumeci is on a roll. With just one loss in 2016, he landed in Portugal confident in being able to snag one of the few titles that still elude him. The European BJJ Championship, scheduled to start Jan. 18 in Odivelas, is among the three most important IBJJF competitions, and Musumeci knows it very well.

“This is my first time leaving the USA,” he tells Graciemag via email. “I am very happy and excited for this opportunity to compete in Portugal! This division is stacked, and it is going to be awesome! The mindset is every competition I do leading up to the Worlds is to prepare for the Worlds, so the tougher the competition the better! I just want to keep learning and improving. Very happy and excited!”

Enrolled as a light featherweight, Musumeci may butt heads against an old rival — João Miyao. There have been four duels so far, all won by Musumeci.

João Miyao vs. Mikey Musumeci

João Miyao vs. Mikey Musumeci. IBJJF

“The rivalry between João and me is so awesome,” Musumeci writes. “We both keep pushing each other to learn and improve, and making each other better competitors, which is what competition is about! We fight so much, I see it as we are teammates in the gym training. I have the utmost respect for João!”

Like Miyao, Musumeci has in the berimbolo his strongest weapon, leading to fascinating matches:

“I think the biggest thing is to understand the berimbolo game and what positions effect it the most. I do all the same positions and know the same positions, so we both know what is annoying to each other, and that’s what makes every match so interesting!”

Black belt world championship

The year has barely begun, but Mikey’s recent performances have made him a clear candidate to become only the third-ever non-Brazilian to win a black belt world title. Since 1996, the two who have succeeded are BJ Penn and Rafael Lovato Jr.

“First of all, my jiu-jitsu and all the people I have learned from are from Brazil, so I really don’t like to make America and Brazil separate,” he writes. “I wouldn’t be training jiu-jitsu if it wasn’t for Brazil, so I’m super thankful for Brazil and the people from Brazil! I believe my jiu-jitsu is where it needs to be to win the black belt worlds; every day I am improving with positions in training; now I’m just trying to improve with the experience competing.”

Move to Caio Terra

Caio Terra with Mikey and Tammi Musumeci. Léo Bandeira

A black-belt under Jonas “Tagarela” Gurgel and Gilbert “Durinho” Burns, Mikey used to train at Atos until last year, when he decided to move to the team of two-time world champion Caio Terra.

“I have learned many positions training with Caio,” Musumeci writes, “but the biggest things I have learned are more with mindset and how to become a better competitor and person. At this level the jiu-jitsu is very even with each other, which makes strategy so important! Very thankful to have Caio as a coach and to train with, and we can both figure out and learn new positions when we train, so it’s amazing!”

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