It has been close to a year since Zak Cummings has seen the UFC Octagon. After dealing with numerous injuries he is fully healed and ready to take on Dominique Steele.
Zak took some time to talk about his injuries, the Reebok deal, his previous fights and if indeed ring rust is a huge factor for him.
How did the mindset change for you when you were informed your opponent was being switched from Antônio Braga Neto to Dominique Steele?
Well I didn’t have to switch up much from the training side of things. I’m the type that doesn’t really care who the opponent is, but I will know if they are striker, grappler etc. I’m always going in with my own game plan and not worrying about who is on the side of the cage.
In terms of Neto to Steele, well they are the total opposite. The game plan however didn’t change much. I know Steele is a tough opponent who is a grinder and will try to beat me down. Braga was more of the take down and submission kind of a fighter; so it’s a complete 180 in that regard.
You last fought Gunnar Nelson in July of last year and that fight ended in a submission loss. Looking back at that fight is there something that you thought right away I have to change in order to succeed against my next opponent?
Well against Gunnar I felt great and controlled the first round. He did throw one punch that shattered my orbital and it hurt but it wasn’t superficial. As the fight went on I couldn’t see and it got worse and worse. I made the last second decision to shoot for the takedown and he caught me.
Honestly, I don’t think I have to adjust much as the injury was a freak thing. I’m healed up and ready to go.
The term ‘ring rust’ gets pushed around quite often when a fighter is out the cage for an extended period of time. Are you a believer of being out of an actual fight for a long time is a big issue?
I think there is some truth to the term “ring rust”. My training partners that I have, I’m fighting in the gym every single day. Yes there could be jitters or nervousness but I don’t think that will get to me. I think it’s more toward Dom (Dominique Steel) because it’s his first fight in the UFC and in one of the biggest cities in the world.
It’s just another day in the office for me. I’ve had injuries in the past and when I came back it was like I never left. I know it has effected other fighters in the past but I honestly don’t think it’s going to bother me.
You are a former participant of “The Ultimate Fighter”. How did the TV show shape your MMA career and getting that kind of publicity many other fighters don’t get a chance to have?
The great thing for me with the show was getting to see what I can do when training was my full time job. I was a full time student and worked part time and whenever I moved I still was working. TUF was great for me because it was nothing but training and getting better. Even though I work at a gym I still get my workouts in and it’s a big difference when I don’t have to work at another job.
UFC Fight Pass has been a great addition for many MMA fans who want old and new fights. Your fight being on the prelims, does it affect your focus and mentality going into it?
I mean it can but you can’t let that stuff bother you. I was a little confused though on how my last fight was a Co-Main Event but then I was dropped down to the prelims. I just put it in my mind I’m going to enter the arena get the job down and start the show off right.
Before the Fight Pass introduction we struggled with the sponsors because we weren’t on TV. But with Reebok stepping up with the uniform sponsorship, it helps a lot of the fighters. I have to put a great fight plain and simple and that is really all I have to do.
With the new Reebok deal a lot of fighters are struggling with sponsorships. How has the new deal affected your sponsorships and your pay outside the regular pay rate?
It has affected me but not the point of that extreme level like other fights. It does hinder what I can do but I really have a positive outlook on it. I think it’s going to do really well in the future and we have to start somewhere. In terms of payments I know I’m going to get less what I’m making now but maybe I can get some other sponsors like Monster take me on.
I think the sponsorship deal will take time to grow for every single member on the roster. I’m in the growing pains right now but I am willing to help make this sport more of main stream and whatever I can do, I will.
I know there has been a lot of talk about the deal but in the end I think it’s for the better good.
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