TUF veteran Zak Cummings – who fights Nathan Coy this weekend – told Bloody Elbow why ‘TUF: Redemption’ wasn’t right for him.
UFC welterweight Zak Cummings (20-5) takes on Nathan Coy (15-6) this weekend at UFC on FOX 24: Johnson vs. Reis. Cummings, who was born in Springfield, Missouri, is delighted to be fighting in front of his hometown fans on Saturday (even if he’s ‘kinda bummed’ over the bout order).
However, Cummings wouldn’t be fighting at all if he’d followed through with plans to join the cast for the 25th season of The Ultimate Fighter. The latest installment of the long running reality series features UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and former champ T.J. Dillashaw as coaches. The show, which is currently in production, features a cast entirely composed of former TUF contestants.
In late December, 2016 a rumored cast list was released by Justin Golightly of champions.co. That list had 23 names, including former winners Joe Stevenson and Ramsey Nijem, memorable troublemakers Junie Browning and Julian Lane, and current UFC fighters James Krause and Zak Cummings.
In February a confirmed cast list for the show, which was dubbed ‘Redemption’, was released. The list didn’t differ much from Golightly’s. Though, there was no Zak Cummings.
When asked about rumors that he was scheduled to re-enter the Ultimate Fighter house, Cummings said: “Those rumors were actually very accurate.” However, Cummings revealed that he pulled himself from the competition before the show started shooting.
Cummings, a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen (season 17), was first approached about joining the cast for TUF 25 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Cummings was there to fight Alexander Yakovlev at UFC Fight Night: Mousasi vs. Hall 2. He won the fight via an arm-bar in the second round. With him for the fight was his best friend and business partner James Krause, who is a veteran of The Ultimate Fighter: Live (season 15).
“The producers hit me and Krause up and they kinda explained what the next season of TUF was. They said it wasn’t your typical season,” Cummings told Bloody Elbow. “Basically they’re paying more money for each fight in the house and then the winner made, I think it was $250,000. And for me, I was like, well this is a great opportunity. They said they wanted more signed people, so it was an ‘All-Star’ season.’”
Cummings told the producers “sign me up” after he heard their pitch. “I thought, this is great and this would be a fun opportunity; another way to build my name and just kinda get out there and get some more fights – maybe make a nice pay day, too.” Though, Cummings soon learned that the actual show was quite different from what he says he was pitched.
“I went out for medicals and the cast ended up being all these guys who had made the show, and done well, but who hadn’t really made it in the UFC and they were trying to get back,” said Cummings. “It kinda went from an All-Stars’ season to a redemption season. And I was the only signed 170lber sitting there.”
Once Cummings discovered the make-up of the cast, other issues about the show began to weigh on him.
“The the more realistically I started looking at it, the less appealing it became. I started looking at making weight multiple times. I had just made weight and was walking around pretty light, but I started to think it would be harder to do and I didn’t think the juice would be worth the squeeze, literally.”
Cummings said being a bigger welterweight would have made those weight cuts even harder.
“Making weight that amount of times, in that short of a time, could do permanent damage to my body, so that was ultimately the reason I did not do it. I talked to my nutritionist, my teammates, my family, my coach, and I think we all kind of decided as a group that it wasn’t the smartest move and it wasn’t the best thing for me. So I ended up pulling my name out.”
Another reason Cummings was relieved to be out of the show was that James Krause had made the final cast. Krause and Cummings co-own Glory MMA & Fitness – home to Invicta featherweight champion Megan Anderson – outside of Kansas City.
“Me and him both on the show would be a weird deal,” said Cummings. “The only two who were signed to the UFC, and best friends, business partners, everything, it might be kind of awkward. So I pulled my name out and put my full support behind James. And then I heard about the Kansas City card. Since I didn’t do the show, I was eligible to fight on the card, so it was all for the best.”
In his hometown Cummings faces Nathan Coy (who featured on The Ultimate Fighter: ATT vs Blackzilians). Cummings believes he is a much more refined fighter than Coy and he hopes to show the MMA world that fighter’s from his neck of the woods are more versatile and technical than you’d think.
“I feel like Midwest fighters have a reputation; they’re tough, they can take a beating and keep going, and pull out victories, but they’re not real flashy martial artists,” said Cummings. “My team, we’re trying to change all of that. So I want to prove that I’m evolving with the sport and I’m a full blown martial artist. I don’t need to get hit and keep moving forward, and have to wrestle the guy, and grind on them. I know that’s who I’m fighting on Saturday, so I want to show – especially in front of my home crowd – that I can go out there and be very athletic, show lots of movement, and do nothing but try to do damage.
“I’m going out for the knockout,” continued Cummings. “I know Coy’s hardheaded, I know he’s very tough, but I know I can get it.” You can see if Cummings has what it takes to overwhelm Nathan Coy this Saturday, by watching UFC on FOX 24 live on FOX.