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The Comeback of Patrick Cummins

"I think there’s one thing that people love more than the underdog, and that’s a comeback story. That’s where I have my sights set." - Patrick Cummins
UFC light heavyweight Patrick CumminsAs he prepares for his UFC Fight Night bout against Roger Narvaez this Saturday in Albuquerque, life is back to normal for light heavyweight prospect Patrick Cummins.

Well, at least his version of normal.

“It’s back to normal, but in a weird way because my opponent changed and I feel like I’ve been dealing with that my entire career, so it is back to normal,” he laughs. “You think everything’s mapped out, you’ve got eight, nine weeks to plan for a fight, and something always happens. At least the opponent is somewhat similar to the original. The only difference is, one’s left-handed, one’s right-handed.”

Initially scheduled to face Francimar Barroso, Cummins got a switch-up when the Brazilian got injured, clearing the way for Narvaez, an Octagon newcomer, to get the call. It’s an inconvenience, but one the Californian considers a minor one, especially given what he went through over the space of a week in February.

The story has already gained mythical status in the MMA community. Working in a coffee shop, the then-unbeaten Cummins heard that Rashad Evans was pulled from his UFC 170 co-main event against Daniel Cormier due to injury. After lobbying for the bout against Cormier, who he had competed against on the wrestling mat and also trained with, Cummins got the bout, informed of his big shot by UFC President Dana White while he was working his coffee shop shift. Tossing that job to the side in order to chase his dream, the 33-year-old became the talk of the sports world. Unfortunately, there would be no happy ending to the Cinderella story, as Cummins got stopped by Cormier 79 seconds into the first round.

“It took at least a month to get my head straight,” said the former Penn State wrestling standout. “That’s the first loss I had, and I never thought going into a fight that I could lose. It’s just not a scenario I was prepared for. Luckily I’m surrounded by a lot of really good people, and with their help we were able to take a lot of really good things from it.”

One of those good things is that nothing that happens from here on out, save for a world title fight, will be any more stressful than taking on a world-class fighter in your UFC debut and in a co-main event, no less. It was almost an impossible undertaking for anyone, but as the saying goes, regardless of the final outcome, who dares wins, and Cummins would do it all over again if given the chance, or a hundred of them.

“That’s your foot in the door,” he said. “You’re good now, you don’t have to struggle and scrounge around for fights and basically pay people to fight you. I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m so glad I have the chance to prove myself on a big stage, which has been the plan all along. If you gave me a hundred chances at it, I would do it every single time. No regrets.”

If there is a sense of urgency in that statement, there is even more so in Cummins’ reality. Long considered by those in the know in the fight game to be a legitimate threat at 205 pounds, the Pennsylvania native was subsequently avoided for much of a career that began in 2010. Four fights in three years will get you little to no traction, so when he got the Cormier offer, he was not about to turn it down. And like he said, he didn’t show up for a paycheck; he really thought he was going to win. But when he didn’t, the daggers came out from a segment of the fanbase.

“People have been pretty good about the whole situation. It was a tough task and a tall order, but I think a lot of people believed the same way I did, that no matter what, I can come out on top,” he said. “That was being said by my fans. The other side of the equation is the people saying ‘you’ve got no business being in there.’ Some people will understand, but there will always those people out there that won’t, and the only way to really solve that is to go out and do what I know I can do. This next fight is a great opportunity to do just that and I’m looking forward to it. I need a little redemption for myself and to show what I can do to the other people that think I had no business being in there.”

As for the Cormier fight, it ended early, but Cummins didn’t look like a lamb led to slaughter. There was always that threat that something could happen for him to score the Upset of the Year, but “DC” shut him down before that could happen.

“That experience alone, whether it’s a minute of 15 minutes or 25 minutes, you can’t measure that,” he said. “So that was a huge positive. I think I’ll be much more relaxed this time around, and just to have that experience under my belt is great. We were able to pinpoint a couple things that went wrong and it wasn’t a matter of me not being able to do it physically; it was just that I need to keep my focus and keep my head in the game. You can’t let yourself get distracted because that one second that you open the door, somebody - especially a guy like Daniel - is gonna walk right through it.”

At least now, everybody knows his name, especially after being captivated by his remarkable journey to the UFC. So what happened with the coffee shop?

“I went back and got my last check and talked to them to make sure that everything was okay,” he said. “By then, they knew the story, and it was a little bit of an awkward situation, but we came back and it was like ‘hey, here we are, no hard feelings.’ (Laughs) So it was cool.”

And if Cummins has his way, his next tale will be even better than the first.

“I think there’s one thing that people love more than the underdog, and that’s a comeback story,” he said. “That’s where I have my sights set. I need to put together some good performances and get back to where I need to be. I think that’s a story that a lot of people want to hear.”



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