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Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Mikey Musumeci on Gabriel Sousa’s rematch and his legacy in the sport

By Vaseline May31,2024

Mikey Musumeci is one of the best BJJ competitors of his generation and he is about to have one of the biggest matches of his career: a rematch against Gabriel Sousa at ONE 167 on June 7, 2024. Sousa is the last man to beat Musumeci beats all the time. way back in 2021 and he is one of only two people to submit it during his black belt career. That match took place almost three years ago at the Who’s Number One Championships, but they haven’t crossed paths since because they generally live in different weight classes. We sat down with Musumeci to talk about the rematch and he explained that there were a few different motivations behind it:

“I have been asking for this match for over a year now. I really wanted to get this match back, you know? Some people have complained that my opponents in ONE Championship were a lot of MMA people, but the truth is that all the top people in my division refused to compete with me multiple times. So the only people who accepted it were MMA people, and then everyone gets mad at me for fighting MMA people. Guys, I try to fight everyone and have matches with everyone, but no one accepts it, so how is that my fault? So then I said: f*ck it, I’m just going upstairs.”

However, he’s not just moving up in weight to have a match with anyone, Gabriel Sousa’s rematch is what Mikey Musumeci has been looking for and he worked hard to get ONE championship to agree to it:

“I’ve been bugging ONE for this match for a year, like ‘can I fight Gabriel Sousa?’ and they say ‘yes he can, if he can make your weight class’ and Gabriel can’t make my weight class, so I said to ONE ‘Okay, he can’t make the weight class, so can I please go up? ‘ and at first they wouldn’t let me, but now they say, ‘OK, you can go up’.”

Musumeci expects things to be very different this time around, even though he will still gain weight to face Sousa, and there are a few factors behind that:

“The last time I fought Gabriel it was like my first year without a gi, so I just switched to no gi. Gabriel is a super high level competitor, right? He placed second at ADCC in this weight class. So I feel like I’ve made huge leaps in terms of skills since my last performance with him, and I’m ten times stronger. So technically I’m much better, and of course Gabriel is much better now too, as we’ve both had a lot of years, so he’s technically more developed and I’ve technically developed more, so I’m so excited now to see where I progress.”

While it’s still a tough challenge no matter how much better prepared he is, Musumeci is focusing on what the rematch against Sousa means for him:

“For me, I’ve already won every title I wanted in Jiu-Jitsu in these matches, honestly, but for me it’s about running with the top guys and seeing what I need to get better at and continue to progress. My goal is to have the best Jiu-Jitsu I can have, so Gabriel is a great test for me. Obviously my progress from the last time I fought him until now is what I want to see, my whole goal is progress.

Moving up in weight is also something that Musumeci cares about, and it has been part of his career for quite some time. Despite being a cockweight or light featherweight competitor, Musumeci has fought in absolute splits at major IBJJF events, defeating competitors much bigger than him. He was very open about the fact that he wants this to be part of the legacy he leaves behind in the sport:

“One thing I want to know about me is that I don’t want to be remembered as a champion who won my weight class. I want to be remembered as someone who, no matter what obstacle they had in front of them, challenged themselves. They put themselves in uncomfortable places to overcome because I feel like in life and in Jiu-Jitsu it’s very similar. We will all face obstacles in our lives, we will all encounter difficult things and we have to overcome them. We can’t run away from them. This obstacle I had was in tougher divisions than my division.

This rematch against Gabriel Sousa is just the latest obstacle Mikey Musumeci plans to overcome, and he also explained that there are no more obstacles in his regular weight class:

“It’s easy for me to just stay in my weight class, keep winning every match, and I know I have a skill level that is higher than any opponent in my weight class. But now I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to compete against the best guys in the world in the heavier weight classes and I want to push myself to the limits of what I can do. At the end of the day, we only have one life and I want to look back on my life and say, ‘Okay, I challenged myself when I didn’t have to.’ That’s what gives me the highlights right now, I don’t really get any more highlights when I win.”

He explained a little more about those highlights, and what really gives him the motivation to keep competing:

“I feel like the highs come from uncertainty and obstacles that we face, and challenging ourselves and facing them again, you know? We fall or we conquer, right? If we fall, we learn for it and then we go again. That’s what I want to be known for, for me that’s more meaningful and constantly looking for growth. Constantly looking for improvement is what I want to be known for.”

That brought Mikey Musumeci right back to the rematch with Gabriel Sousa, and it was clear that the prospect of facing the last man to beat him was really lighting a fire under him lately:

“Jiu-Jitsu is not like boxing, it’s not like MMA where you have this record. It’s more like you just work out at the gym, you mess up and you lose at something, and then you just go again and try again. There’s no brain damage, there’s nothing, you’re just constantly looking for improvement. So Gabriel is now that training partner for me, to see if I have improved. I’ve been working really hard, I’ve been working really hard for the past eight months. Like every second, I’m the most disciplined I’ve ever been. I eat correctly, I do conditioning, so that’s why I feel ten times stronger than physically and I think it will be a big factor in this competition that my strength is much higher than before.

Musumeci thinks his new dedication to life as a professional athlete will make a difference against Sousa, and he’s felt this way before:

“I’m more like when I did the (IBJJF European Championship) at openweight, when I beat that 400-pound guy. I was physically a lot stronger and bigger then, because I was doing more light-featherweight. So I made myself a little heavier, more like Mikey when he’s light featherweight instead of Mikey when he’s cockweight.

That edition of the IBJJF European Championship he’s talking about took place all the way back in 2020, so it’s been a while since he’s been in this form. Musumeci explained why it took so long and quickly acknowledged who brought him to this point again:

“I haven’t been this disciplined in years. The reason is that when you reach a certain point where your skill level is much higher than the other opponents, especially in your division, it makes you a little less obsessed with having to do everything right. Like eating right or conditioning. In fact, I didn’t even care how I felt because I knew my skill level was so high that I could beat all these opponents with my Jiu-Jitsu alone. That’s why I’m grateful to Gabriel, because he really, in my mind, made me an athlete again. Basically, eat well, sleep well and do everything like an athlete would. Since I didn’t have to be an athlete before, I was more of a hobbyist Jiu-Jitsu nerd who just had fun and ate whatever I wanted. This should be a different Mikey than I’ve seen in years and I feel different. I did the homework, I did everything in school, and now I’m so excited about this test.”

The energy Mikey Musumeci radiated was clear: he looks invigorated and ready to take on the world ahead of his rematch with Gabriel Sousa. As we wrapped things up, he wanted to say one last thing about his perspective on the loss for Sousa and how it relates to life in general:

“I’m just blessed and so grateful for all the opportunities in my life, and even the obstacle of failure. I am grateful for that because God gave me that failure to overcome. That is what life is about: overcoming all the failures we encounter in life.”

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