“It’s been so long, I forgot.”
It’s not every day that someone gets asked about how their career is going, and the above quote is the answer. It’s especially not common when it’s a 33-year-old fighter, who is currently 21-5 as a pro and 6-2 in the biggest promotion in the world. However, in a recent interview with Combat Press, that’s exactly what Zak Cummings had to say.
Cummings has suffered no serious injuries in the last year. He has not been blackballed by the UFC or suspended by the USADA. It’s just that, sometimes, life gets in the way. That’s why Cummings has been on the sidelines for more than a year now.
Following his most recent loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio in August 2016, Cummings logged back-to-back submissions of Alexander Yakovlev and Nathan Coy. When he fought Coy in April 2017, he was also six months away from becoming a father. On October 17, Cummings and his wife welcomed their baby girl into the world.
There wasn’t a lot of time to focus on training camps. When things started to normalize, Cummings did get back in camp. He was set to face Thiago Alves on January 14, but it was announced on January 13 that he had to pull out due to a freak accident.
“I slipped back when I was sitting in the tub and hit a handrail,” Cummings said. “I split the back of my head wide open. I tried to continue the fight, but I had to get a bunch of stitches in the back of my head and had to let that cut heal. I was ready to fight after a week.”
The days kept dropping off the calendar. Cummings was approaching the one-year mark without a fight. It’s not an ideal position for a guy that was used to fighting, on average, almost three times per year.
On Saturday night, he will finally get back in the Octagon. Cummings faces Michel Prazeres to headline the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night 129 in Santiago, Chile.
“I’ve been begging to get in there, and this is the soonest they were able to make it happen,” said Cummings. “I feel good. I feel like that opportunity was cheated from me a little bit, and now I’m ready to take it out on somebody.”
That somebody is one of the most successful lightweight fighters on the current UFC roster. Well, he is successful at just about everything except making weight. Prazeres, who is on a six-fight winning streak, missed the mark on the scales in three of his last four fights. The promotion decided it was time for him to move up and compete at welterweight.
“As a fighter, he’s tough as hell,” Cummings said. “He’s proved that he finds a way to win. He can strike with guys, and he throws every bit of power he has into his striking. He’s got solid wrestling for a Brazilian. A lot of the Brazilians are really good on the ground, but sometimes they lack in the wrestling game. He’s got good takedowns, good wrestling, and he’s obviously a very strong power jiu-jitsu style guy. But, he’s been a heavier, stronger [lightweight], having trouble making weight, and now they’re forcing him up to welterweight. Now, not only is he fighting welterweight, but he’s fighting one of the biggest welterweights in the division.
“I think I match up very well stylistically. He throws everything he has, but I’m going to be the longer, rangier fighter — a lot more technical; much more power — and I feel like my wrestling is going to be able to nullify his. I don’t see his power jiu-jitsu style being able to do to me what he’s been able to do to these [lightweights]. He’s tough [and] he’s dangerous, but I feel that the only way he’s able to beat me is if he does take me down to the ground and hold[s] me down to grind out a decision.”
Cummings is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, just like his opponent. However, he is coming in with a six-inch height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage. Even if Prazeres attempts to close the distance, he will likely get tagged up. If it does get to the ground, it will likely be a war of attrition. Regardless of how long the Kansas City-based fighter has been out, this is a great match-up for him.
It’s time for Cummings to get back to his winning ways. He has 15 finishes in his 26-fight career. He has never been knocked out, and his two submission losses were to BJJ black belts Tim Kennedy and Gunnar Nelson — and only one of those losses happened in the UFC. A win over Prazeres is necessary to keep climbing the ladder.
“Honestly, I just want to be as active as possible,” said Cummings. “I had my baby born, so I couldn’t take a fight at the end of last year, and then I had this stupid little cut. I’ve just had these things come up that have kept me sidelined, and it’s hard to get the UFC to back you and want to put you in those rankings and stuff if you’re not very active and in the public eye. I can compete with any of those guys, so I just want to get back to being active.
“I’d like to turn around and fight August 4 in [Los Angeles]. If they can make it happen, I’d love to turn around and fight again by the end of the year. I’d love to get three fights by the end of the year. If everything goes through and my health stays good and they can keep signing me up with fights, that’s what I would like to do. Getting ranked opponents is great [and] getting ranked is great, but, honestly, at this point, I just want to prove that I can still do this.”
Cummings has a lot on his plate. Along with his business partners, he owns and runs Glory MMA and Fitness in Kansas City. Of course, he’s a brand-new father as well. If he has time, he also likes to go shooting. However, his primary focus is to get back in the Octagon on Saturday night at the Movistar Arena and renew his run for UFC gold.
“I feel really good where I’m at in my standing with the UFC,” Cummings said. “I’ve proven that I can strike with a lot of the best guys. If they try to take me to the ground, I’m just as deadly there too. I’ve got a lot of tools to finish fights, and that’s a lot of things that most guys don’t have. I feel really happy with where my game’s at, and I’m getting better every day. I’m excited now, a year later, to show how much of a well-rounded fighter I’ve become.”