(Courtesy of Cummings’ Myspage page.)
by FIGHT! contributor Jon Lane
For one of the rare times in his young life, Zak Cummings had time to reflect. He was somewhere in Missouri where cell phone signals are non-existent, driving to and from a friend’s wedding. It all seemed surreal; the ink on a three-fight contract with Strikeforce was barely dry when Cummings was chosen as an injury replacement for Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in the main event bout against Tim Kennedy at Strikeforce Challengers on Sept. 25.
Cummings is usually too busy to think. The fighter is also a student, a senior at Missouri State University majoring in exercise and movement science with an eye on graduate school and a career in physical therapy. The student is also a soldier, finishing his degree after a six-year bit in the Army, the last three as a sniper in the Seventh Special Forces Group. He is currently enlisted in the Texas National Guard.
The recent Strikeforce signee racked up 10 wins against no losses in less than two years before finding himself on a nationally televised card. His most notable victory came against Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Terry Martin. “That was a wakeup call that I could hang with anyone,” Cummings said. “I know I’m the underdog [against Kennedy], but I’ve always been the underdog in every one of my fights. I don’t know why everyone keeps doubting someone who hasn’t lost before.”
Cummings is used to being dissed. Prior to signing with Strikeforce he traveled to Seattle to try out for the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter and was sent home almost immediately. The producers elected to go all heavyweights and, if you ask Cummings, chose style over substance.
“I guess they decided they wanted Kimbo Slice to be the name of the UFC and not someone who actually takes the sport seriously,” Cummings said. “I tried out and watched guys who were looking like idiots, who didn’t do anything impressive, and they ended up going to the next step. After seeing it first hand, I kind of lost a lot of respect for the show. I just realized it is a reality television show and everybody’s got to have that type of personality, so it wasn’t my thing, I guess.
“Who knows what would have happened if I did make the show? I signed a multi-fight contract with Strikeforce, which is exploding with their promotion. My first fight I automatically jumped into the main event, so honestly I’m kind of happy I didn’t make it.”
So is Cummings’ mother, Pam, despite her initial protests that the sport was brutal and bloody. Pam has attended each of Zak’s athletic events since childhood – wristbands and pom-poms and all, and once she watched her son train, she was sold.
“She looks at it like a human chess match,” Cummings said. “She’s very good at explaining the sport. She’ll be in the stands and tell people watch their eyes, watch how they’re thinking about every move they’re going to do.
“My mother is amazing. If I was going into ballet she’d be the same way.”
Cummings will dance with Kennedy at Strikeforce Challengers on Showtime, 8 p.m., Sept. 25.