As he prepares for his shot at the inaugural ONE flyweight submission grappling world championship, grappling phenom Mikey "Darth Rigatoni" Musumeci is proving that one man's cheat meal is another man's diet.
The five-time IBJJF world champion will be introduced to the U.S. primetime audience when he takes on rival Cleber Sousa at ONE on Prime Video 2 on Friday, September 30.
And while most athletes might be cutting carbs or sticking to boiled chicken and broccoli, Musumeci takes a different approach, eating exclusively pasta and pizza in one gigantic meal each day.
Amazingly, he does this while maintaining a shredded physique and a demanding training schedule. But how on earth does the 26-year-old manage to pull that off?
"The first thing I do when I wake up, I train, and then I drink electrolytes and caffeine," he explained. "So like half a gallon of water or just electrolytes and caffeine, which is very filling because it's a lot of liquid, right? And then I'll just drink another caffeine a little later. I'll train again. And then it's already nighttime, and you're ready to eat.
"So then the day goes really fast, and you're not hungry all day, and then you eat a huge meal at night. And then you wake up in the morning already full. So it's actually not hard to do if you do it like that, I think."
To the surprise of many, the Italian-American has performed at an elite level on this unique diet.
This past April at ONE 156, "Darth Rigatoni" impressed in his ONE Championship debut – a dominant submission win over Japanese MMA and grappling legend Masakazu Imanari.
The key, says Musumeci, is that he enjoys eating what he does and that a happy athlete is a good athlete.
"I just want to enjoy each meal I have on this earth," he explained. "You know, like, I just enjoy life. I really enjoy what I eat, and it's not affecting my weight. And I've had blood tests, and all my blood numbers are amazing. I don't have high cholesterol or anything. So it works."
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt does remember a time when he tried out more traditional diets, before ultimately reverting back to his current one.
And these days, there's no such thing as a special meal for Musumeci because the carb-heavy combination has simply become his standard routine.
"It used to be for me – I would diet for like two weeks, eating nothing, and then I'd have a cheat day of getting to eat pizza or pasta," he said. "But then every day became a cheat day for me."
Musumeci breaks down 'Darth Rigatoni' moniker
Obviously, Musumeci's love for Italian cuisine runs deep. So deep, in fact, that he owns one of the best nicknames across any sport: "Darth Rigatoni."
The moniker works on a couple of levels. "Rigatoni" references the grappler's love of pasta, while "Darth" is a nod to Musumeci's competition mindset.
Typically smiling and endlessly friendly, he switches to the dark side when he competes, becoming serious and intensely focused on the task at hand.
"So that nickname happened because I was doing a bunch of no-gi super-fights," he said. "One of the fans randomly said it, and it was just the coolest name ever, and then it just stuck. And then everyone just started calling me that. I'm like, 'OK, I'm Darth Rigatoni now.'
"And it does represent me … because I'm like this nice smiley guy. But then when I go out to compete, I become like a different person. So that's like the dark part of me comes out, you know? And then five seconds later, I'm smiling Mikey again, talking about pasta and pizza. So it really does symbolize me well, right?'
This story first published at ONEFC.com.