‘We’ve Always Been Partners’ – How A Sibling Bond Guided Tammi Musumeci To Grappling Greatness
Given her understated demeanor and humility, it might be surprising to learn that Tammi Musumeci is probably the best American-born female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor of all time.
At ONE Fight Night 8 on Prime Video, the 28-year-old phenom will make her much-anticipated ONE Championship debut in a strawweight submission grappling match against Brazil’s Bianca Basilio.
When she walks to the Circle for the first time at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, March 24, Musumeci will be taking another massive step forward in her illustrious competitive career.
She’ll also be officially joining her brother – reigning ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion Mikey Musumeci – in the world’s largest martial arts organization, as the brother-sister pair look to maintain their status as the most accomplished siblings in all of grappling.
Jiu-Jitsu As One Of Life’s Constants
Inspired by her father’s own practice in BJJ, Musumeci began training at the tender age of 6 and hasn’t looked back since.
The grappling art provided a source of stability for her throughout childhood, remaining constant in her life even when her family moved across the country.
Looking back on her upbringing, Musumeci said:
“I had a pretty good childhood. I grew up in the suburbs in New Jersey. When I was 13, my family moved to Florida. I feel like a big thing about my childhood was jiu-jitsu. It’s always hard to move when you’re younger, and I feel like jiu-jitsu was the thing that stayed the same.”
Soon, she found herself competing whenever and wherever she could.
At a time when BJJ was still gaining traction in the U.S. and female participation was low, Musumeci competed mostly against boys – something she credits as instrumental in her development.
“I started [competing] when I was 7 or 8. Just local tournaments. I didn’t have as much success competing early on. I feel like I got better over time. I competed against, I’d say, 99 percent guys up until I was a 16-year-old.”
The Most Valuable Partnership
Over the course of her 20-plus years of training and competing in jiu-jitsu, Musumeci has never strayed far from her World Champion brother’s side.
Indeed, the pair of prodigies are the two best American BJJ practitioners in history, earning an incredible 10 BJJ World Championships between them on their way to becoming global superstars in ONE Championship.
During their teenage years, BJJ-obsessed Mikey and Tammi spent countless hours together refining the skills that would turn them into elite competitors at an early age.
Detailing how her younger brother has been key to her prodigious success, Musumeci explained:
“We’ve always been partners. We’re still training partners. We’d train at different gyms, but we’ve always trained with each other on the side as well by ourselves, which I felt helped me a ton because he’d work with me even when he was a blue belt or a kid.
“He’d always show me what he was working on, so we’ve always worked together, and I feel like that’s what made us pretty successful, because we were consistently training partners.”
That extra work alongside her brother Mikey paid massive dividends. At 19 years old, just a few months into her black belt career, Musumeci secured her first IBJJF No-Gi World Championship.
She went on to win three more No-Gi World Titles and one in the gi, securing her spot among the planet’s best overall grapplers. And while “Darth Rigatoni” might not consider himself a coach, his World Champion sister certainly does.
“I always tell him, ‘You created a black belt World Champion!’ You have all these coaches out there, and nobody really sees him as a coach, but he helped me and got me to where I am today.”
Lawyer By Day, Grappler By Night
Musumeci strives for greatness in all areas of her life.
While she was racking up gold medals against elite black belts on the world-class competition scene, she was also attending college, then law school, and is now practicing law.
According to her, this jam-packed schedule – that would exhaust any other person – is only natural.
“My whole life I’ve just been in school and training, so it’s kind of been second nature. It was always trying to figure out the balance. It can get overwhelming sometimes. When I come home, I have to train and do cardio and do different things, and I have maybe 30 minutes just to chill.
“It’s just finding balance, but it’s also learning to enjoy it, as well. If I didn’t enjoy this it would just be like working all day.”
Incredibly, the BJJ black belt has never once considered taking a break from her intense work as a lawyer.
Instead, she aims to be a high achiever in the legal world just as much as she is in the jiu-jitsu world.
“I could never train full-time, even if I had the option. I would just never do it. I also have goals outside of jiu-jitsu in my professional life that I want to reach. I just don’t ever put that as an option for myself to do.”
A True Submission Hunter
On March 24, Musumeci will bring her aggressive, submission-oriented style of grappling to ONE’s global stage.
The vast majority of the BJJ sensation’s unmatched accomplishments thus far have come under points-based rulesets that emphasize tactics and strategy.
But according to her, ONE’s submission-only format better suits her game, which is focused entirely on finding the match-ending submission.
“I’m better with submission-only rules because I feel like I’m always going for the sub. I do like it because I feel like there’s more room to work, and I can be a little bit more aggressive and not worry about advantages and different things like that.”
When Musumeci takes on ADCC World Champion Basilio, she won’t be thinking about the international acclaim she could receive or how she could put herself in a position to challenge for a ONE World Title.
Instead, she’ll have the one goal in mind that has been guiding her decade-long career as a world-class black belt – landing a spectacular submission.
“I’m just going out there and try to hit cool subs. I like to live my life a certain way. I don’t have Instagram or social media. I’m not doing it for titles or anything, I’m just trying to hit cool stuff.”