All his life, ONE Flyweight Submission Grappling World Champion Mikey Musumeci has had to deal with bullies, so he’s a huge proponent of standing up to abuse of any kind.

This was on display last Saturday, June 8th, when the ONE Lightweight Submission Grappling World Champion moved up to bantamweight to take on Gabriel Sousa at ONE 167.

Musumeci’s rivalry with Sousa dates back to 2021, when the Brazilian star tapped him in competition. As a result, he needed very little motivation to win the rematch.

However, as “Darth Rigatoni” explained after he submitted his old foe and claimed victory, Sousa started a relentless pattern of intimidating behavior following their first meeting, which left Musumeci chomping at the bit to teach him a lesson. 

“So for three or four years, this guy harassed me for every match that I did, discrediting me: ‘Yo, he’s not fighting me, he’s scared of me, he’s running away from me.’ Just over and over and over and over,” he said. 

“The day before, he did this to me, trying to make me flinch. He was walking chest out [toward] me. And he brought out a part of me from when I was a kid. I’m not really a tough guy, and my whole life competing with these alpha-macho people, they’d always act like [they] like action.

“It brought out Little Mikey from when I was a kid and my anger toward that personality and that person. But, again, I just got very emotional. I’m sorry, guys. But, I just leave it all out there, you know?”

The happy-go-lucky Musumeci was nowhere to be seen in the lead-up to ONE 167. He was fired up and aggressive in interviews, and it was clear he had tapped into his darker side.

But with redemption gained against Sousa, many are wondering if the old “Darth Rigatoni” will return for his next ONE Championship engagement.

The New Jersey native will be in action at ONE 168: Denver this September when he moves up three weight brackets to challenge Kade Ruotolo’s ONE lightweight Submission Grappling World Title.

It is unclear what his mental approach to that matchup will be, but he’s already deep in preparation for getting his body ready for his shot at a second strap.

“I’ll definitely probably stay lighter, and maybe if I can I’ll try to put on another five pounds of muscle. I feel like that would be a reasonable number – 10 max,” Musumeci said.

“But I can’t see myself being 10 without eating more protein. I was trying for this match to eat more protein so that helped me get a little heavier. So maybe another five pounds, if that.”