48 hours ago, Patrick Cummins was a coffee barista and baker by day and a mixed martial arts enthusiast by night.
The former two-time All-American wrestler from Penn State had long hoped to land in a major MMA promotion like the UFC, but with only four fights on his record and a dwindling list of potential opponents, Cummins’ prospects seemed quite low just a few days ago. Add onto the fact that Cummins is now into his 30’s and the chances of him landing on the radar of the UFC seemed buried somewhere between slim to none.
But in a twist of fate that a novelist couldn’t write any better, Cummins found an opening on Wednesday night when he heard about Rashad Evans dropping out of a fight against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170. Cummins was very familiar with Cormier having wrestled against him for years while in the college and Olympic circuits, and he even had a story that he could tell UFC president Dana White that might get him interested in making the fight happen.
Years earlier, when Cummins was on the national wrestling team and Cormier was headed to the Olympics, the two wrestlers engaged in a practice match. Cummins says he tossed Cormier over his back, slamming him to the mat, scoring a huge five point slam on the former Oklahoma State standout. When Cormier came back to the center of the circle and started to engage with Cummins again the former Penn State walk-on heard sniffling and when he locked eyes with his opponent, he couldn’t help but notice there were tears in his eyes.
This story was the perfect bait to feed to the UFC to get them to bite on Cummins stepping in to face Cormier at UFC 170 so his manager Ryan Parsons made a beeline towards White to see if he would listen to how this all happened. White had to hear it for himself so Parson charged into Cummins’ work where he was serving coffee at a drive-thru and shoved the phone in his face so he could relay the story to the UFC president.
In the midst of this, Cummins’ boss had seen enough of the interruptions and his constant distractions at work and decided the best way to fix this was to send him packing and she fired him on the spot. Cummins told the story to White, and a few moments later he had a new job as a light heavyweight fighter on the UFC roster.
Cummins says he has no hard feelings towards the coffee shop for pulling the trigger and firing him when he was taking personal calls at work and tending to his new commitment as a UFC fighter. He actually plans on going back into the shop at some point and speaking with the manager who let him go on Thursday.
“I’d like to kind of hash things out with them a little bit,” Cummins told FOX Sports on Friday. “I was in a really tough spot. I was kind of at the end of my rope as far as being able to train and provide a living for myself. I hadn’t fought in almost a year and I picked this job up and they were gracious enough to hire me and take me on.
“There’s definitely no hard feelings there because I know it’s a business, and I appreciate the couple of paychecks I got from them. They helped me out of a little credit card debt.”
The entire situation played out like something from the movies because for the past two years Cummins life has centered around a desire to land a fight in the UFC but being unable to find any opponents with credentials deep enough to face so he could end up as a person matchmaker Joe Silva would be interested in signing. At some points it stopped being about finding the right opponent and just finding any opponent because Cummins wanted to make a paycheck.
When the UFC came calling and offered him the fight against Cormier when no other light heavyweight outside of Chael Sonnen seemed willing to step in and take the bout on a week’s notice, it was the ultimate reversal of fortune.
“The biggest release was when everything was said and done and we signed the papers, I looked at my manager Ryan (Parsons) and he’s had an even harder time at this than I have because he’s the guy tracking down people to fight me. We stopped and looked at each other and said ‘thank god we don’t have to go chasing people around to fight anymore’. I was so excited that we’re here now and that’s over. It’s such a relief,” Cummins said.
Landing the fight was one goal, but now Cummins will walk into his bout against Cormier as a massive underdog. Not only did he take a fight short notice with just a couple of days to prepare, but he’s facing an undefeated competitor who could arguably be next in line for a title shot against champion Jon Jones with a win.
One of Cummins’ training partners knows the odds are stacked against the former Penn State wrestler, but if there’s a person on this planet that can take a fight on this kind of notice and then go in and defeat Daniel Cormier, it’s this guy.
“Listen fighting Daniel Cormier on 12 weeks notice is a tall order, he’s one of the best in the world. DC’s a beast, but if there’s anyone that can pull it off on this short notice, it’s Pat Cummins,” said Brendan Schaub, who trains with Cummins daily at the Reign Training Center in California. “He’s always in the gym, he’s always in shape, I was just wrestling with him on Monday.
“The guy’s just a beast. Pat’s the guy in the gym people avoid because he’s always just a tough son of a bâ€”tch. It’s that kind of round where you just know it’s going to be a scrap, he never backs down. I can’t think of a more perfect way for Pat to get in the UFC. Anyone else getting in the UFC this way I’d say no way, but with Pat I could see him do it.”
Cummins is a natural athlete who originally walked on the wrestling team at Penn State and went onto become a two-time All-American. Cummins was one match away from being an NCAA champion if not for Ohio State wrestler Tommy Rowlands beating him in the finals of their match in his senior year of college. While Cummins does have his claim of making Cormier cry in the practice room, the former Olympian has proof of his actual dominance on the mats where he crushed the former Penn State wrestler at the Dave Schultz Memorial tournament in 2004 winning in a shut out 4-0, 3-0 in two periods.
Still, Cummins knows what he can do to Cormier under the right circumstances, and that may be a key to his attacks leading into Saturday night.
Cummins is ready to battle Cormier on a cerebral level after dropping his story about training with the former two-time Olympian in the wrestling room a few years ago as a way to open his door to the UFC. Cormier was visibly angered by Cummins’ story when he appeared on FOX Sports 1 on Thursday night as the two opponents came face to face for the first time since the fight was announced.
Cummins just grins and reminds everyone that Cormier can get as angry as he wants, he can huff and puff until his lungs burn red with exhaustion, but the one thing he’s not doing is denying that the story wasn’t true.
“He didn’t deny it,” Cummins said about Cormier. “I think his way of saying ‘come on man what happens in training, stays in training’ is trying to make me look like I’m taking low blows on him. It’s all fair game. I think even if we weren’t in this situation, if DC and I were hanging out anywhere, or training together next week, I’d say ‘hey Daniel remember that training camp where you got frustrated and got some tears in your eyes?’ and that’s how guys mess with each other. This is a business. If you can’t take it, what are you doing?”
Cummins stands by his story as absolute truth, but he also wields that tale like a sword, chopping away at Cormier’s psyche one blow at a time. Cummins wants to make one thing perfectly clear with everyone saying that he’s a ‘Rocky’ story come to life. Rocky still lost in his battle with Apollo Creed, but Cummins isn’t just showing up at UFC 170 to put on a fight.
He’s coming in there to beat Cormier and the way he sees it, the first battle is already won.
“You’ve got to take every advantage that you’re given. I know the way to get to Daniel and it’s through getting in his head. That’s a big part of it,” Cummins said. “We’ve got to go in there and be relentless in every way. That’s definitely going to help me, that’s definitely going to even things out.”
The day the call came in to give Cummins the fight was just 96 hours before he would have to leave for Las Vegas, cut weight and face a litany of interviews about facing Cormier next Saturday night. He’s already learning in quick order that the questions will probably all sound similar about his opportunity to land this fight and whether or not he really made the former Olympian cry.
But Cummins will answer those questions over and over again and he’ll do so with a smile on his face because this is what he’s been waiting to do for so long. There’s no complaining at this point after waking up Thursday morning to bake croissants and sling coffee from a drive-thru window to being signed in a co-main event for a UFC fight all in the matter of a few hours.
“I believe that Pat will give DC a run for his money,” Mark Munoz, one of Cummins’ coaches, told FOX Sports on Thursday just after the fight was signed. “Pat matches up with DC quite well and I’m pretty disappointed a little bit about them fighting each other because I hate watching two guys I know and are friends with fight. But I’m excited for Pat and he’s been here at Reign for three years and I’m excited for this opportunity for him.”
Cummins is soaking in every second of the experience and he’ll relive it over and over again in the next week before finally facing Cormier in Las Vegas. A dream is a dream because it’s not reality, but in Cummins’ case, his wildest fantasy is finally coming true.
“It’s totally crazy but I’m loving it. I didn’t know how I’d react to some of this, but I’m really enjoying it,” Cummins said. “Totally unbelievable. It’s definitely something that we wanted and something we wished for. Sometimes those wishes come true.”
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