There may be a lot of weapons in Zak Cummings’ game, but seemingly at the top of the mind for teammate Megan Anderson is one he was born with: a hard head.
“That dude, I’m pretty sure, could get hit by a sledgehammer and be okay,” she says.
“Like Megan said,” confirms Factory X coach Marc Montoya, “he’s got a cinder block head.”
Cummings laughs, not sure if there’s a compliment in there or not.
“There’s a lot more to this beard. I get hit, I don’t really feel it. I don’t rely on that. I try not to get hit. But it’s definitely nice to have in your back pocket.”
That’s not all Anderson and Montoya agree on, however. Talking with both of them, a holistic picture emerges of a multi-faceted fighter who, even at age 35, still has tools in his toolbox people haven’t seen.
“He’s got power in both hands,” explains Montoya. “He’s absolutely great on the ground; a black belt on the ground. His wrestling is above average. He’s a kid that as he gets older, he just continues to get better. Sometimes you don’t see that in athletes.”
“A lot of people underestimate him and take him for granted,” says Anderson. “I think that’s where a lot of people have made the mistake before.”
“I definitely agree with that,” says Cummings. “I can strike, I can grapple, I can wrestle. I can pretty much do everything. I think I get stuck in some of the kickboxing battles, but as soon as it hits the ground, I definitely shine there. I submit a lot of people. I think one day they might see my full potential. It could be this fight. It might be the next one. We don’t know. But yeah, I definitely think I’m underestimated.”
The consensus view of both his teammate and his coach mark a consistency in his approach that gives him the best of both worlds, from his home gym in Kansas City, and his specialized training at Factory X in Denver.
“I have a really good team in Kansas City. I have my gym, and then about an hour away is Lee’s Summit, where we have James Krause and all the pros down there. I have a great crew to work out with at both locations. I go to Factory X mainly for myself. I get away. I don’t have to be a coach. I can just give Marc the reins, be an athlete. The altitude is great. They have a phenomenal strength and conditioning program. I have an almost two year-old at home and the family life. So whenever I can just step away and be an athlete it’s really nice. Both gyms have great things with training partners and stuff, but more than anything it’s getting away and not having to play “Daddy” right at the moment, not having to play coach or play business owner. It’s just really nice to clear my head and be an athlete. That’s probably the best thing I can get, and also taking some of Marc’s guidance.”
It's an approach that has paid dividends for Cummings, who was last spotted submitting Trevin Giles at UFC Rochester last May, on his way to winning four of his last five. He looks to make it five out of six this weekend in Abu Dhabi, where he’ll stand across from Omari Akhmedov at UFC 242.
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“All that credit goes to those guys,” says Montoya, alluding to the members of Factory X, like Cummings, who live outside the Denver area, but still choose to travel there to train. “They’re out here sacrificing, spending time away from their families, doing camps away from home. But I love that stuff, because that means that sacrifice is worth it.”
That sacrifice manifests in the present as wins in the Octagon, but invests in Cummings’ future, too. As quick as Coach Montoya is to extoll Cummings’ skills and evolution as a fighter, he’s equally quick to praise his growth as an MMA coach.
“Zak Cummings and James Krause come from the same gym, the Glory gym in Kansas City. Both are really good coaches, and will one day probably go on to be better coaches than me. They have the want and need and will to do that. Those are things that make those guys special. And also, their IQ is super high because of that.”
“That’s actually the first time I’ve ever heard something like that,” says Cummings when the praise is relayed to him. “That’s phenomenal. I love coaching; it’s something that I’m very passionate about. I own and run a gym. I really look up to Marc and his leadership skills; it’s something I try to aspire to be. So that’s definitely the next step. Whenever I’m done fighting, I want to continue my coaching career. It’s something I’m passionate about, something I feel I could be good at, but hearing something like that from Marc, yeah, that’s a big thing.”
A quick peek at any of Cummings’ social media these days will reveal just how smitten he is with his newfound fatherhood, and his continued coaching acumen is something that he can already visualize serving his family well.
“Being a new dad shown me what a tough guy I’m not. I thought I was this hardcore dude, but I’m like ‘I am a baby,’ ya know? I am so emotional, such a baby when it comes to my daughter. Some people go the other way, like ‘Oh, I’ve got something to fight for now!’ I’m like ‘Dude, I’ve got something where I know I don’t ever need to fight another day in my life.’ I’ve got a couple good businesses, I could just sit there and spend Daddy Time with my daughter, and I’m really looking forward to that, whenever it’s time to make that decision. While she’s still young, I’m going to go out there and compete with the best guys in the world. But I know I have an amazing family waiting for me back home, and we’re good.”
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