The Energizer bunny is known for going and going…and going. Nothing stops the bunny, because of the power within. UFC fighter Zak Cummings is a lot like that bunny. His opponents try to put him down, try to keep him out of their faces, but most of them fail entirely and only one, veteran Tim Kennedy, has been able to put a stop to the fight.

Fans know that when Cummings steps in the ring he will keep going until he stops his opponent. While he sports an impressive record of 17 wins and only three losses, the more impressive stat is that out of 20 fights only six have gone to decision. With nine of his wins coming from submissions and four of his victories coming from knockout or TKO, Cummings has a reputation for exciting finishes. He fights to win and to stop his opponent.

Cummings (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Cummings (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“Wrestling made me tough,” Cummings told The MMA Corner. “I started wrestling in the sixth grade. From the beginning, your coaches try to break you, to see who is going to quit and who is going to keep going through the tough times. Some people will quit and some won’t. I can’t really explain it. I think you either have it or you don’t. If I think I can push through, I will push through, and I have the mentality that I can do anything and push through anything.”

“Sometimes it’s a problem, but most times it’s a blessing,” Cummings added with a laugh. “If you can mentally break someone, you can defeat them. If you are throwing everything you have at someone—beating him and he just keeps coming forward and won’t quit—eventually you wonder, ‘What do I have to do to beat this guy?’ and that’s when the doubt creeps in.”

Coming into his last fight, a May 2014 bout against Yan Cabral, Cummings was riding a three-fight winning streak. He was riding the high of a first-round submission victory in his UFC debut against Ben Alloway. If anyone was going to feel doubt, Cummings wanted that person to be Cabral.

“In my last fight, I was a serious underdog against Cabral. I got out of his submissions, especially the triangle, and then I took him down,” Cummings recalled. “I showed him I wasn’t scared of his ground game. Now I don’t think I mentally broke him, but I definitely put some doubt in his mind.”

Cummings had not been to a decision since 2011 and had never done it at welterweight. He had fought at light heavyweight in the past. When he moved to welterweight, he had some doubters wondering if he would be able to sustain the frenetic pace for 15 minutes.

“I hate letting fights go to judges,” Cummings admitted. “I’ve watched other fights and wondered what in the world the judges were watching. I thought I lost the first round, but I never felt in danger. In the second and third, I was more active and dominant. He did get on top, but I quickly reversed him. Still, it’s always nerve-racking.

“It is hard not having the finish—and I always want to give the fans an exciting fight—but I couldn’t make it happen. I give him respect. I respect his ground game. Even when I had him on his back, I didn’t want to put myself in danger of giving him the finish. I was just trying to hit him hard and not let him sink anything.”

All three judges scored the bout in favor of Cummings, giving him the unanimous decision victory. Cummings’ strategy had paid off. That feeling of having his hand raised in victory is a rewarding one. It’s part of the appeal of MMA.

“I love this sport. I have always loved competition, playing all the regular sports when I was younger—baseball, football, basketball—then when I began wrestling I narrowed it down [to] football and wrestling in high school. I was never in a street fight, never was aggressive. I am more likely to give you a hug,” Cummings said with a smile. “I am not someone who was picked on and turned to MMA to get stronger. But I hate losing and I will do everything I need to do to keep that from happening. MMA is a human chess match. It’s not about the violence for me, it’s the competition.

“I was used to going to practice in college, and so the routine just came naturally when I found Springfield Fight Club. I trained for about six months when they asked me to take my first amateur fight. I thought, ‘Sure, I can cross this off my bucket list.’ I submitted the guy in 40 seconds and got that high, so I took a few more. I was going to school for physical therapy, but when I went pro I decided to take a break and see where it went.”

Cummings locks on a D'arce choke (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Cummings locks on a D’arce choke (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

A 10-fight winning streak was where it went from that 2007 pro debut. Along the way, Cummings defeated UFC veteran Terry Martin and IFL vet Victor Moreno. With 10 fights under his belt, he entered Strikeforce, where he suffered the loss to Kennedy. He suffered a second loss when he locked horns with Elvis Mutapcic, but then bounced back with five wins in six outings. His only loss in that span came to Ryan Jimmo, another fighter who would move on to join the UFC roster. With a 15-3 record, Cummings entered the UFC in 2013 and picked up two more wins.

Cummings’ next fight is July 19 in Dublin, Ireland. He’ll be part of the lineup for UFC Fight Night 46, where he will go up against the 12-0-1 Gunnar Nelson. Cummings handed Cabral his first loss and was slated to face the undefeated Alberto Mina. Instead, he now squares off against Nelson, a top prospect.

“Everyone is undefeated at some point,” philosophized Cummings. “When I was 10-0, I thought I was unbeatable. I took a fight on short notice against Tim Kennedy and got an ass-whooping. If you’re going to lose, you may as well lose to one of the best. Seriously, he is one of the greatest dudes and I don’t mind having him as one of my losses. You never forget your first loss, so it’s kind of nice to do that to a guy.

“I’ll fight anyone. I’ve never said no. I’ve learned from my losses, and I’ve lost to some tough guys—Kennedy, Elvis Mutapcic. Heck, I fought Ryan Jimmo at 205 and went five full rounds with the guy. I still feel I was the better fighter, but too small.”

Now, as a welterweight, Cummings won’t face as many hurdles with overcoming the size of his opponents. Yet, Cummings still has his work cut out for him. Nelson has run through his three UFC opponents, including Jorge Santiago, with two first-round submission finishes and a unanimous decision victory.

“I think I match-up really well against Nelson,” Cummings said. “He is similar to Cabral. He is a world-class grappler, and I train with a multi-time BJJ champion. He has an unorthodox karate style and most of his fighters are thrown off by that. Jimmo has a similar style and a few guys in my gym have a traditional karate background, so I see it regularly.

“He is going to have a hard time against me. When he feels my power, he is going to want to take it to the ground, but I’ll be ready. I am a wrestler and it’s very hard to take me down, and if he is successful, he will have used up a lot of energy to do it. I will use my takedown defense and my clinch game to put him on the defensive.”

Through the tough times and the good, Cummings knows how to do one thing. He knows how to keep going. Cummings has heart, the one thing that can’t be taught. With his strength and belief in his abilities, there will be no room for doubt.

First and foremost, Zak would like to thank his coaches and teammates at Glory MMA, his strength and conditioning coach, Brian Wilkerson, from River Market CrossFit, his BJJ coach, Leo Pecanha, and a huge shout-out to his chiropractor, Renny Russell, who has become a huge part of his routine, helping to “hold him together.” Zak is especially grateful to his wife, family, friends and fans for their support and love. He encourages everyone to support his sponsors: Dethrone, Gateway Auto Plaza and ITD. Follow Cummings on Twitter: @zakcummings

About The Author

Staff Writer

Amber currently resides in Tampa, Fla., a hotbed of MMA. She was introduced to the sport Memorial Day weekend in 2006 and quickly became addicted. Amber loves the fact that the biggest and strongest don’t always win, the respect the competitors show and that women are finally getting their shot. She also writes a blog for Fight It Out gear. When not watching MMA, Amber can be found at the beach playing volleyball, in the gym learning from Tampa’s only female BJJ Black Belt, cheering on her eight-year-old daughter in tae kwon do, or at her day job. She has a girlfriend, daughter, too many dogs and a cat who lives in the attic. Communication highly encouraged at amber at fightitout dot com.