Ep. #81 – Zak Cummings

Zak Cummings is a mixed martial artist who competes in the Middleweight division of the UFC. The former Ultimate Fighter competitor is one of the more experienced Middleweight’s on the roster with 12 UFC fights which include five stoppage victories.


Zak Cummings: So how’s that how’s your day been all right. Good, just been the gym. All morning i had had some fights last night, so i was out coaching, got home kind of late had to get up and get that workout in and just now finally got back how’s. The uh how’s the pandemic been on your training. I mean i hear a lot of people being like i’ve just taken it off. Other people have been working harder, uh doing a lot more cardio. What was the pandemic like for you in your training? A little bit of both it was one of those where at the beginning of it, i was still training very hard, but i thought i was gon na fight in april, so you know as well as well like i still had to keep training no matter. What and kind of keep going so it started off that way and then once the uh, the card got canceled and all that stuff kind of kind of happened. I was you know i feel, like i’ve been to fight camp for a long time. I thought i was gon na fight in january uh, the opponent there one just wouldn’t take the fight, so it got pushed back and then i got a new opponent for april and all this stuff happened so uh once i did have to like officially shut the Gym down and uh and the fight got cancelled that stuff i took uh. I took a few weeks of just relaxing and spending time with family and, like just uh, just slowing life down i mean it was needed, it was it was. It was overdue. It was really overdue, just kind of spend time with uh with a little one. The family, like you know just it was uh. I know a lot of people are going through some really hard times in that in that moment, but, like i feel like for me, uh, i really kind of tried to like find some positive, and that was a huge positive out of it for me. So i did take a little bit of time off, but then you know i got right back in the gym. I feel like my cardio is right there already like it, didn’t take very it didn’t take much time to get back to where i was, and uh and already kind of got a fight on the books and just get right back after it. So i mean it was uh, it was. It was a really nice time to like just slow life down, but i still in the beginning and the end of it was like still training really hard, so i was kind of a little bit of both. On my end, describe what it’s like to have a fight fall through, i mean. Understandably, it fell through with everything going on, but i mean, as a fan, it’s kind of hard to visualize all right like i’ll, just delay. My next fight i’ll fight someone else, but as a fighter who’s training, specifically for a certain flight style. What’S it like to have that follow through it’s part of the sport, you know it’s one of those where it’s part of the sport it happens. I get that but uh. You know now like at this point: it uh yeah. I don’t know it’s a little bit hard to sponsor. There’S there’s different ways to look at it. There’S uh, you know a fight might fall through and then they might get a you know a replacement and then stylistically things change. So there’s definitely that aspect of it there’s also. Just i mean this is still a job for us. You know like so i thought at the end of last. You know at the end of last year i uh, you know, dropped a close decision, so don’t don’t get a don’t get a full paycheck on that one. I want a fast turnaround and come right back. So i thought january would be good, you know and then you know push back to april and you know now we’re we’re in uh look at the end of august. Hopefully you know i mean, like you still never know like. There’S people dropping off these cards like crazy people, feel great they’re, still tested positive and can’t fight. So it’s a it’s a really strange time and i just like it it’s hard to get uh like oh well, we you know, we avoided that and like we stayed like what, like i mean you just you just don’t know until i mean look at trevor giles, Like passed out right before the game, like you just at this point, like i’m, just not gon na, like think my fight’s gon na happen until i’m in there and he’s facing me, and i shut the door like all right. I think we can get uh we’re good to go to go now, so it’s uh yeah, it’s so hard time right now, man, it’s really weird um! You know some guys are able to stay active and just get right back in and stay busy uh. Some of these other weight classes are a little bit harder to do that. So i’m hoping we can get this one out of the way and and uh and stay active, that’s something i was wanting to do when i moved back to 85, but there’s been a lot of stuff going on that. Just uh hasn’t been the case lately. So yeah there’s two things: it’s one have to prepare for prepare for someone new in a different style, and then i mean another is just like if it just keeps getting delayed delayed delayed. I mean that means your your paycheck gets, delayed and delayed and delayed. You know, luckily, i try to i’ve got other stuff. You know owning a gym, another business and stuff like that. You know, supplements thinks, but still it uh. It’S kind of a scary deal whenever your your big lump sum paychecks that you get uh aren’t as consistent right now, so you touched on moving up to 185. How significant has that been for your career, both mentally and physically uh? It’S! It was a long time coming uh, i really never. I never thought i could make 70 and you know tyler minton is a phenomenal nutritionist. He helped me get down there to it. It’S just it. Just was really rough. I was making. I could make the weight, but the ability to recover enough to fight at the pace that i really need to be competing at uh was very, very hard. So, like i, i was getting finishes, but the fights that were that were really kind of getting pushy water. It was hard for me to push my body uh over and over and over again to do that so uh, now being a middleweight back up to middleweight, i feel like i have kind of full reign uh and it’s taking me a couple fights to like get Over that mental block, i think of like hey, like we’re good, we can like we can let loose. We can go like we’re in great shape or cardio’s there like don’t be uh. You know you don’t have to hold the reins back and afraid that your body is just gon na like shut down or, like you know, give out. So i’m still, i feel like i’m just now kind of mentally, even get back to that point. I’M kind of excited for this uh. You know the next, the next fight and hopefully uh. I get to kind of prove that making that jump is really a good thing, which i mean you know i’ve already had to prove it. You know i had. I had a dig deep and grind on the uh, the trevor smith’s fight. You know i’ve shattered my orbital in like first seven seconds of that fight and just really had to dig deep in and battle it out and stuff, but uh uh they’ve been hard to do at 170 for stuff, like that, like it’s just uh, that was the Main thing you know just the the hard way cut in the recovery, uh and stuff, so i think think about the middleweight kind of just help relieve a little some of that stress and pressure mentally physically and everything. Even your last performance i mean it was, you were facing omari ahmedab, who i mean even against chris wideman. Was it last weekend he looked super super impressive. Is it a little bit bittersweet? Knowing that you were that close to beating him and you could have been getting the chris weidman’s or the other guys in the top 15., is it bit bittersweet? No, you lost that or is it a little bit reassuring you knowing, like you know what he’s facing those guys, i’m gon na fight away. Yeah i mean you know it uh. I always try to stay very positive. I might work on stuff, but i mean yeah. I mean, like you, said it’s, it’s obvious. You know you uh, you know if i won that fight, i’m right right there in the uh top 15, like he got ranked like right after that fight uh. So knowing that would have been me, i would have had these guys uh yeah. I mean it’s definitely in the back of my mind, but you know i whatever i i dropped him. I didn’t finish up. I didn’t i didn’t finish. The fight like i should have you know i didn’t uh didn’t stop takedown. Whatever you know, i mean i felt like i was playing the hard strikes, uh even on the ground. You know he would say i’ll. Take me down, but i never really felt in danger. Uh i was able to kind of like start setting up chores just never was able to finish, but uh yeah i mean there. I i feel really really good about that fight. Mike’S, like give him a couple. Takedowns, which i ultimately i think you know, lost me, the scorecard so uh, knowing that knowing that he’s right, there tells me that i’m doing something right, i’m right there as well. I just have to uh just got ta string. Those wins together. Do my thing and uh, you know, and it will be my name with these guys too, and and i know i can compete with the best guys in the world. It’S just getting the opportunity, so you’ve got a big fight now in two weeks. Uh alessio de shirico, i think, is how you pronounce it um. How do you view him as an opponent? Uh wait hey with him, he uh he hits hard. You know he hits already counters well, he uh he’s a good guy like uh keeping his right he’s a good ranged. Guy he’ll keep his range and he’ll crash him with some big uh power strikes. You know, he’ll wrestle some. He can mix it up. Uh. I cornered against him when julian marquez fought him, so you know i already got to see some up close personal uh. I guess experience with him a little bit more than some other fighters so uh. He definitely does well with certain things um. You know with me. I feel like i have all the finishing factors in the fight. I think i have the power to defensive fight standing he’s hard to finish, like i understand that as well but uh, you know – and i think just i’m really good finding some missions in in scrambles and all that stuff, so uh. I i feel like his his road to victory is like stay out of my range stay out of my power and just like kind of land, something to get away and land something to get away and just kind of like out point me, and i feel, like I have a lot more ways to win uh but yeah i mean you know it’s one of those where i feel like this fights more more the battle against myself. You know if i show up and uh and i fight the way i i can and the way i need to like it’s going to be hard to beat me um, and then i i don’t see there there be any chance of him beating me if that You know if that guy shows up, but if i sit there and just kind of stand in front and hang out – and you know a couple of fights, i’ve done and not throwing much volume and just kind of let someone out volume me and uh and kind Of get away with it, like you know, i’ve had that happen in the past and i just can’t allow it to happen and that’s i feel like that’s his best case to win so, but in reality it’s uh. It’S all in me, yeah describe what that’s like. I mean as a fan watching from home like i’ve been there been times when i’m watching guys, i look up to or guys that i i admire and i’m like man just let loose like. Why aren’t you fighting your style but describe what it’s like being in there and what makes it so hard to just flick that switch yeah? It’S a couple different things. I mean the one so not that i have like a ton of knockouts on my record, but, like i’ve dropped a lot of people like uh. I have a lot of power in my hands. Now. That’S and you’ll see some of this, like with these big knockout. Guys is sometimes it’s a blessing and a curse. You know so uh you’ll you’ll start relying on it a little bit more so you’re like oh, i just need the one you know like. I just need the one like change the uh, the way the fight’s going you know like it might not be a clean knockout, but, like you, you land hard one like you’re gon na force, a bad shot that goes in there or you drop them, and and Whatever right so sometimes you’re, just like waiting and waiting and waiting like, instead of forcing like throwing combinations and setting it up, uh, sometimes you’re, just kind of waiting for the one big shot to come, and you know whenever you never land it clean or whatever they Block it like you know, and then they throw a couple more jabs and stuff that, like doesn’t really ever bother you in like a fight, but in the sport it’s scoring and and everything when it does get to the judges. If you end up, don’t find a way to fetch the fight, you know all of a sudden you’re losing you’re like oh. I guess i probably should have done something different. So, like there’s that you know and like i said some stuff with 170, it was a little more worried about like just letting go and like wearing yourself out and stuff uh, not knowing. If i, how recovered my body was and everything, and then i mean yeah, there’s some days that you just [ __ ], the head, you show up and like you’re like hey, go and you’re just not wanting to go. I don’t know yeah, it’s just different. You know everything’s different, but uh yeah i mean i i feel like with you’ll, see it a lot more with power guys because you know or they’ll they’ll land a big shot and they know it hurts so like they go to the well. So much with that same shot instead, instead of just kind of flowing and go right back to the blend of everything and stuff like we should. So it’s a that’s where you’ll really notice, it is when you see more power, guys like you all romero, like you get some of these, you know what what was the the i mean, the oh man, the fight that just disgusted everybody, uh, inganu and uh – derek Lewis, right you’re, like oh, someone’s, going to sleep but finally they’re like oh hey, this guy’s got some big power too. There’S like staring at you. I was like. I need the one, but i don’t know if i want to eat yours to get to it. You know so like and uh yeah, there’s there’s so many different reasons why you kind of get some of those stalemate, uh situations and stuff, but a lot of times it’s with power and and respect of power uh. Another thing that’s been very, very interesting. Is this empty arena feel i mean obviously you’ve competed on the the ultimate fighter so you’ve you kind of have a taste for it, but it’s been a while, since you uh, since you fought in an empty arena, describe what that’s like and do you think it’s Going to benefit your performance being able to hear the corner, do you think it’s going to hinder you not being able to feed off the crowd? Uh wait we’ll find out. You know uh yeah, i mean, like i said i did find the ultimate fighter. There was uh, it was a different feel i mean like the the first fight is one. I really think that would have mattered, but i had like a seven second knockout, so it really wasn’t anything the it wasn’t that weird fighting without a crowd. The second time i thought it was more awkward of like i was practicing in that room every day and in that cage, so it felt like practice. You know it was like. It was just a training session. It wasn’t so that was really awkward like, but the first day it was like, hey like this. Is the cages arena but like whenever you’re in there, for you know whatever five weeks, training in it and then you fight – and that was that was really weird with the ultimate fight that was much different than not having many uh mini fans uh. I’M really good. At uh, listening to my corner, like i don’t care how how loud it gets, i felt like the hell blindness the only place where i couldn’t hear my corner uh. So that’s it. I just have a tune here. I think from years of wrestling stuff. I just i’m really that’s one thing: i’m really really good at is being able to hear my corner and just kind of like trust them and uh inflow off of it. So, being i guess, being able to hear them better, uh or easier without like them have to yell will be nice um yeah, i mean i’m the type of person. I think i do like to feed off the crowd, but i mean i really don’t know if it’s gon na, like really change the way i fight yeah, you haven’t been training at the apex, but you’ve been training down the street at the pi. Describe what the guy is like i mean i, you hear so much about it. It’S like man, it sounds like a state-of-the-art facility as someone who’s trained in it. What’S it like uh, it’s not, i mean so like as a training facility. It’S phenomenal, like they’ve got uh, i mean they got some. Some great trainers for strength. Conditioning they’ve got all the high-tech stuff of like doing all your vo2 max all these different uh strength, training tests and stuff that they can do your stuff. You know they machines where they can see whatever your body weighs with you know, just the the muscle and the bone and organs all it’s like just amazing physical therapy crew, like all that stuff like they have the state-of-the-art uh stuff there, but i mean you still Like they don’t have uh, they don’t have their specific coaches. You know, like you, still have to bring in your mma, coach or jiu-jitsu coach so like they have a really nice, you know spot. So if uh, which was nice like last week, we had a lot of teammates that were fighting, so i could go out there and me my coach would still get some work done while we’re out there you know, anthony smith, is out there training with me too. So, oh, it’s nice to have a really good facility that we can go and get taken care of, but like all the recovery and all that stuff is just uh. It’S phenomenal like but yeah. It’S night like, if you lived out there it’s great to like, have that stuff for the food prep for you made for you all. That stuff is great the recovery, the strength conditioning but, like you still got to have your uh, your team and your your coach. That you trust and everything – and you know they’ve – got some of us out in vegas. You know i really uh love the uh, the crew i have out in denver and kansas city, so um, it’s nice when some of those guys can travel with you if, like you’re, just there already and stuff but uh, it’s it’s a phenomenal facility, but i mean You know i trade most of that stuff in for a good culture of a team and a great coach yeah. I’Ve heard both i’ve heard. A lot of people say like i want big names. I want to go to a big gym. Other people are like i like loyalty, i, like being with my close group. It feels more like a family, so it is nice to hear that i’ll. Ask you a couple more questions and then i’ll uh and then i’ll. Let you go. I kind of built this platform i have in mma based on making matchups. That being said, is there anybody in particular whether it be someone you dislike someone you want to avenge a loss to or just someone that you’ve looked up to for a while that you’d like to test your skills against or fight. So i have a few um. There’S like i, don’t really have anybody just like i just it is the business for me. I don’t get emotional and you know any of this stuff uh, i’m not a huge rematch person uh. I i do have a little kind of nasty taste in my mouth with my last fight and it not nothing to do with like omari or anything. It was the the environment. The situation was just unbearable and it was ridiculous and it wasn’t professional at all. Uh. Now, obviously, i think they fixed a ton of stuff with fight island in abu dhabi, but, like i was one of the first fights like i fought during the day. It was 116 degrees out my air conditioner, my locker room was broke. I couldn’t warm up. I was profusely sweating, like i’m sitting there i had i laid down with ice on my head, like that was it was just miserable you’re like uh. It brought back like the whole uh 170 thing where, like i was scared to do anything because, like i thought i was going to like overheat and just gas out, you know i i i dropped him and, like literally i was slipping, it was. It was just terrible so uh there were some other things i needed to address in the fight that helped me win. He had to deal with some of this stuff as well, so like it’s not full excuses of that, but, like uh, i just i wouldn’t of mine to have that fight back on a a normal venue, a normal event and stuff uh would be kind of nice. Uh, the bigger one i guess would be like it’d, be great to like be able to fight like a silva, something like that. You know so he’s. I grew up watching he’s a he’s. A legend of the sport he’s phenomenal um, you know, and if i am like, knocking on the top 15 deal – and you know, if he’s still in the game and stuff like it’d, be kind of fun. Uh it’d be fun to be able to step in just to say you fought him and stuff, and i mean i mean not that i can’t compete with him because i think i can. But it’s you know, it’d be a cool name and i think a hell of a fight that’d be just fun uh, which he kind of jumped. The uh jumped the rankings on me just because he had an amazing win uh when he came up to 85, but uh. I always thought the darren till fight would be really fun. I thought that, for both of us at welterweight would be good, just big big, south paws a hit hard uh. I thought that’d be a fun fight, welterweight and then now we’re both at middleweight. So uh, you know he’s a little higher in the rankings now because of the killer. You know him being kelvin but uh. You know it’s just one of those where i think that’d be a fun match up as well. Yeah darren till it’s a lot of fun and same with i mean, like you, said, anderson. That would be an unbelievable fight experience guys in the octagon as well. Yeah i’ll, ask you one last question prediction for uh, izzy versus uh versus costa is in costa man. Uh i’ve been on the fence on that one, i’m. I was never really on the cost of hype train. I was impressed with the his last win with yoel uh, just the scrambling he was doing with uol and some of the movement he uh. He did kind of win me over a little bit on that one. I don’t. I don’t know if it’s gon na be enough to be to be dizzy. Um i mean he’s, got some crazy power, but i’m gon na go with i’m gon na stay with the champ, i’m gon na say: alexander wins it uh, but i could be completely wrong and big fights tonight dc. Me too me too. I literally like one day. I’M like no, it’s gon na be stupid. I’M like nah dc. You know it’s a swan song, it’s gon na be done blah blah blah like i just keep with all the factors i think dc did a good job of keeping his weight in check. Uh stuff, like he, you know he wanted to make sure he had his. He had the nutritionist there the whole time for performance and not like not necessarily just like trying to cut weight and stuff like that. So i think him doing it the right way. That way, i think the small cage can help uh. You know him him willing to or say he’s going to rush some more, i think, he’s going to learn. He did really well uh in the in the last fight. Even you know he just started wearing down with the body shots, so uh i’m going to i’m going to say dc, but i’ve been i’ve. I’Ve been flip-flopping like crazy, but today’s the day and i’m gon na i’m gon na say dc all right. Man. Thank you very much for uh for taking the time to talk to me. I appreciate it um and best of luck in two weeks, cool appreciate it thanks all right, stay, safe,

Sergio Pineiro

Sergio Pineiro is the Founder of FighterPath.com and host of the Quarantinecast podcast. Based in Canada he is both a sports journalist and MMA enthusiast. He practices the sport but has a passion for the individual stories of training, fighting and living the fighting lifestyle.

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