‘That’s weak-minded’ – Mikey Musumeci rails against steroids and trash-talk in jiu-jitsu

Ahead of his match against Osamah Almarwai, Mikey Musumeci went off about steroids and trash-talk in BJJ.

Current ONE flyweight submission grappling world champion Mikey Musumeci seems to have found his voice.

A self-proclaimed “introvert,” the 26-year-old has grown into the spotlight over the past couple of years as he’s transitioned from an accomplished gi competitor into a Who’s Number One champion and now a ONE world champion. According to ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong, Musumeci’s 2022 submission win over Masakazu Imanari was the most-watched grappling match ever.

This Friday, Musumeci will perform on the biggest stage yet when he defends his belt against 2022 IBJJF no-gi world champion Osamah Almarwai at ONE Fight Night 10 on Prime Video, live from the 1stBank Center in Denver, Colorado.

Well aware of his ever-growing platform and the global reach of his words, Musumeci is now speaking out on issues that he believes are plaguing jiu-jitsu.

First among them, he says, is the rampant use of steroids and PEDs among professional grapplers.

When asked in a recent interview with ONE Championship about trends he sees in the no-gi scene, Musumeci immediately zeroed in on PEDs.

“Honestly, a lot of steroids. No, like, seriously, it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Indeed, steroids have been a hot-button topic in BJJ lately. From the public feud between Gordon Ryan and Nick Rodriguez over the issue to the slew of IBJJF athletes recently hit with USADA sanctions, jiu-jitsu appears to finally be confronting its steroid problem head-on.

For his part, Musumeci says he’s disgusted by high-profile competitors that openly use PEDs, arguing that they normalize drug use for the younger generations.

“All these guys just injecting into their butts. You know how I feel about steroids. That’s why I love ONE Championship; they test athletes. At least I don’t have to deal with these guys injecting steroids all year; they have to at least cycle off a month to fight me. So that’s nice. And, again, the impact on generations if you take steroids. What are you telling the next generation? Oh, you have to take steroids to be a champion. So now you’re telling the next generation to take drugs? Is that a great impact you’re having on others? No, it’s a s*** impact. Like, what are you doing? I’m just really against it.”

If it were up to Musumeci, PEDs would be completely banned at all levels of BJJ competition. At the moment, major grappling organizations like ADCC, Who’s Number One, and the AJP do not test athletes, while the IBJJF tests only a small portion of competitors at certain tournaments.

But what if jiu-jitsu was able to implement effective testing across the board? What would BJJ look like with steroids removed from the equation?

“It would be such a healthier, less toxic environment,” Musumeci said. “It’s just these meatheads that are on so much steroids and so masculine and macho, and it’s just so stupid. I feel like it would just be a safer place for everyone.”

Musumeci’s gripe with steroids goes beyond the harmful message it sends to the youth. He says steroids are inhibiting the technical development of jiu-jitsu.

“It would be a more technical jiu-jitsu,” he added. “So a lot of the best people, their jiu-jitsu works because theoretically, they have the strength to do their positions, but if they didn’t have that steroid strength, what would they be doing? They would need more positions; they would need more variations. So I think jiu-jitsu would be ten times more technical than it is today if there were no steroids.”

After training in BJJ for nearly his entire life, Musumeci has seen firsthand how steroids – and the unnatural athletic advantages they give their users – can stall a grappler’s progression, teaching him or her to rely more on strength than technique.

The American is widely regarded as one of the most technically adept competitors in the world – a reputation he credits in part to his refusal to take PEDs.

“And that’s why I got so technical because I didn’t have steroids to force moves. Like, theoretically, all these moves that these world champions will teach are great. But you need the force and strength to do them. So how does someone that’s not on steroids do these positions if they’re not physically stronger than the people? You need more variations. You have to actually study jiu-jitsu. I feel that is what made me so technical. I didn’t have that strength to rely on. 

“I remember when I was a kid, I’m telling you, I’d be with the world champions, black belts, world champions, the best people, the most technical people. And I would ask them questions, like, ‘I’m in De La Riva, and I grabbed the collar, what do I do if they break my collar grip?’ And their answers would be stuff like this, ‘Dude, when I made this grip, no one could break it’. What the f***?”

Musumeci’s gripe with steroids in BJJ doesn’t stop there. Beyond the troubling example set for younger generations, and beyond the ways steroid use inhibits the growth of technique, PEDs have an obvious detrimental effect: they are, overall, bad for mental and physical health.

“Besides all the bad things it does to your body and the bipolar. I’ve been around all these steroid people my whole life, and they’re all bipolar as hell. The mood swings just destroy your brain and body. It’s horrible. 

“And it makes these people age so much. I’m 26, and I look like I’m 19. But then some people are my age or like a year older than me, and they look 45. It’s ridiculous. I don’t know, I just feel like it’s so bad. But what Chatri’s doing at ONE Championship, he’s pushing drug tests. He’s changing jiu-jitsu with this, and I feel over time, we can make a difference and change it.”

Musumeci sees himself and fellow ONE Championship athletes Tye and Kade Ruotolo as among the only top grapplers that do not use PEDs.

He says that he and the Ruotolos are showing the world that elite grapplers don’t need to take steroids to find success at the highest levels of the sport.

“This thing got weak-minded people feeling like ‘okay, everyone’s on it. I have to do it also.’ But then there’s the Ruotolos and me. We know that everyone’s on it. And we say, ‘Okay, take your steroids, inject yourself in the butt with a needle, and we’re still going to beat you.’ 

“I am so sick of this mentality, ‘Oh, everyone does it, then I have to do it.’ That’s weak-minded. Don’t do that. You’re going to be a stronger and better person if you don’t. I can compete another 15 years healthy because I don’t take steroids. I’ve been training for 22 years, and I can compete for another 15 years, and my body will be super young because I have never taken anything. So that’s a difference. Meanwhile, these other people with their organs getting messed up, their hearts getting enlarged, like what the f*** are they doing?”

Mikey Musumeci is troubled by trash-talk in jiu-jitsu

In addition to PEDs, Musumeci is concerned about the normalization of heated trash-talk among professional competitors.

The New Jersey native views grappling and BJJ more as a martial art than a sport. And trash-talking, he says, has no place in the martial arts:

“Well, the martial arts values, but that’s again the difference between ONE Championship and other organizations. This is a martial arts company. So, it stands for martial arts and with the values of martial arts. They condemn s***-talking. They don’t like insulting people’s families, all these bad negative things you’ll see in today’s society. They’re really against it. So, I feel like that’s super important that the Ruotolos and I are in this organization, and we could spread our views and stuff.”

Musumeci stops short of naming any names, but he’s particularly disturbed by BJJ athletes who exude hubris, who build their own “God complex” by insulting opponents, all in the misguided belief that it will make them more money.

Ultimately, he says, those individuals are a stain on the community.

“I feel like in jiu-jitsu, everyone’s trying to be like Conor McGregor. Because they sort of think that he got viewership from talking s***, and I just hate it. I understand that they’re just trying to make money these people, but the impact you’re having on another generation, you’re telling them, ‘oh, for you to make money, you got to talk s*** about someone. You got to act cocky. You got to act arrogant. And that’s how you’re going to make money.’ But are those the values you want to stand for with people? I don’t know. 

“Everyone does themselves, right? But it’s just something I’m completely against. Because again, when you die, all the titles you’ve won, the God complex you have in society because you won a medal is gone because you’re not alive anymore. So what stays? The impact you had on others. Like, were you a good influence? A bad influence? So when you die, and your influence was for people to take steroids and to talk s*** when they compete and to act like you have a God complex in life because you won a medal? I think that you did a s***** job in life. I think you f***** up… So that’s my opinion.”

Musumeci says he serves as a counter-example, proving that grapplers don’t have to follow the MMA model of trash-talking to promote their matches and make good money.

“People think you need to talk all this s*** to make money in jiu-jitsu. And I feel like I’m showing that you don’t need to. You could be respectful to everyone. You could be nice to everyone.  I’m one of the top-paid people in jiu-jitsu now. So, I feel like that is super important for people to know. And you don’t have to be this a******, macho guy and you don’t have to take steroids. So everything that you’re learning in jiu-jitsu from these other people you don’t need to do.”

How to watch: Mikey Musumeci vs. Osamah Almarwai takes place on Friday, May 5 at ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes III and will air live on Prime Video (free with Amazon Plus subscription) beginning at 8 PM ET.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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