How ‘Introvert’ Mikey Musumeci Taught Himself Portuguese To Better Connect With The BJJ World

Mikey Musumeci makes his way to the Circle at ONE Fight Night 6

For ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion Mikey Musumeci, learning languages comes just as easily as developing his elite jiu-jitsu skills.

On May 5 at ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes III on Prime Video in Colorado, the BJJ black belt will defend his World Title belt against Yemeni star Osamah Almarwai in what looks like his stiffest test to date.

When the American makes his walk to the Circle at 1stBank Center for ONE’s historic debut in the United States, he’ll be bringing 22 years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.

Much of that has taken place under Brazilian instructors and alongside Brazilian competitors, motivating the man known as “Darth Rigatoni” to learn their native tongue – Portuguese.

He told ONEFC.com:

“Being with Brazilians my whole life, I definitely wanted to learn so I could connect with them. Not being able to communicate or talk to them kind of sucks when you’re around them so much.”

It’s clear that Musumeci’s mind is something special.

Rather than enroll himself in classes or download the latest learning app, he taught himself Portuguese by simply using Google Translate.

Relying on the same discipline and aptitude for learning that allowed him to become a five-time BJJ World Champion by the age of 25, the New Jersey native says he picked up the language in just a few years:

“I was on Instagram, and I kept getting messages from Brazilian fans and stuff. So I’ll just keep responding, and I’ll go to Google Translate and keep reading the things. And over time, I just memorized all the different things. 

“And I learned it, I would say, I learned Portuguese in about three years’ time doing that method. And then now I love it because I can connect with Brazilian people. I could connect, like, a whole time period. You feel like you can talk to them. It’s so cool. You’re able to communicate and make jokes with them. It’s really fun.”

ONE’s flyweight submission grappling king doesn’t plan on stopping at Portuguese.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Musumeci is a world traveler with an insatiable appetite for learning and hopes to never stop adding more dialects to his repertoire.

He said:

“I plan to learn many more languages as I get older. But right now, my Dropbox storage is full of everything I’m working on. So one at a time, a little more time, I’ll start learning more things and languages. I want to keep this format of how I learn with different cultures. And I just want to keep growing and see how many things I can learn in my whole life span because my favorite thing about life is learning.”

Mikey Musumeci Learns About Other Cultures To Overcome Social Anxiety

More than just a tool for communication, Mikey Musumeci sees language as a way to break down barriers and allow himself to interact with a wide variety of people.

The 26-year-old has struggled with social anxiety for most of his life. Learning about different cultures and foreign languages, he says, helps him engage with those he might otherwise never speak to:

“I love connecting with people. I feel like because I’m an introvert, I’ve always felt uncomfortable. I remember when I was younger, I was very uncomfortable connecting with people. So what helped me start learning to connect with people was learning about other people and their cultures and finding similarities between my culture in theirs. And it became very fascinating to me. 

“I started liking to learn and study different cultures. And once I started learning and studying different cultures, I started connecting more with people because I started understanding people better. So I feel like that really helped me learn to connect with people when I learned about other cultures.”

After growing up in the United States, Musumeci has traveled the world competing at the highest levels of jiu-jitsu and now resides in the cultural melting pot that is Singapore.

His current home has provided the opportunity to meet people from different countries practically every day.

Similarly, competing in ONE alongside World Champions of all different backgrounds – all while spreading the gospel of martial arts – has only brought him closer to fans and athletes around the globe.

“Darth Rigatoni” added:

“Yeah, to be social, but also to connect and to bring people together because everyone is so similar, even with their different cultures and backgrounds. And if we could all just embrace and appreciate that we could all be together. 

“That’s what ONE Championship stands for, and that’s what Singapore stands for. Singapore connects all the different cultures together. And it does a very good job at it. I feel like that’s what we’re doing with ONE Championship. We’re spreading martial arts to the whole world, so it’s cool to be a part of that. And no matter where you’re from, what religion or background you have, we all have this similarity of loving martial arts, and we’re all able to appreciate it and enjoy it together.”

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