Cummins' gamble to hold out pays off

A timely Tweet to Dana White helped land Patrick Cummins in the UFC and in the fight of his career. Dave Mandel

There is absolutely no denying Patrick Cummins has a heck of a story.

The UFC relies on compelling story lines almost as heavily as it does on talent -- and Cummins' path to the Octagon at UFC 170 on Saturday reads like a Hollywood script.

Last week, a last-minute knee injury to ranked light heavyweight Rashad Evans removed him from a bout against Daniel Cormier, which was scheduled to co-headline UFC 170 in Las Vegas.

Cummins, 33, learned of Evans' injury on Wednesday. A former NCAA wrestler at Penn State University, Cummins knows Cormier personally. The two trained alongside one another years ago at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. In 2007, Cormier outpointed Cummins on the wrestling mat in the quarterfinals of an invitational.

Scheduled to work his typical graveyard shift at a coffee shop in Dana Point, Calif., that night, Cummins (4-0) wrote on Twitter that he'd give Cormier a fight if the UFC let him. He included Cormier's Twitter handle in the post, along with that of UFC president Dana White.

Near the end of his shift Thursday morning, Cummins' phone started to ring. Seeing it was his manager, Ryan Parsons, he silenced it. Whatever it was, it could wait. The possibility it had anything to do with the UFC didn't cross his mind.

Parsons changed tactics and called the cafe's landline. When that didn't work, he showed up in person. Cummins, who by now knew the fight was a possibility, asked to leave early. His boss told him to clock out, permanently. He'd just been fired.

"So, I clock out and he shoves the phone in my face and it's Dana White," Cummins said. "In about 15 minutes, we came to an agreement. We had a fight on our hands."

Even if Cummins does absolutely nothing with this opportunity -- if he's beaten to a pulp by Cormier (which, some say is the only possible outcome), he will always have that story. But if you think that's what matters to him, you obviously don't know Cummins.

"I'm ready for anything that comes at me," Cummins said. "I wouldn't have accepted a fight like this -- or picked a fight like this -- if I didn't have complete confidence in what I was doing."

It might not seem like it now, but Cummins' professional career, which began in 2010, has actually featured more bad luck than good.

After making a successful pro debut in December 2010, he was forced to deal with legal matters the following year. The issue stemmed from burglary charges he drew in 2008 after vandalizing a fraternity house with a wrestling teammate.

Eventually, Cummins was sentenced to jail time and landed in a work release program. He was allowed to work construction during the day, but spent his nights in county lockup.

He refocused on his career in 2012 only to be met with another unexpected problem -- nobody wanted to fight him.

Cummins fought just once in 2012 and twice in 2013 due to lack of competition. At one point, he claims approximately 40 consecutive fighters declined to face him.

The fights he did manage to book were poor in quality. Cummins' four opponents have a combined record of 10-20-1. None of them have won a fight in the past three years.

"No disrespect to any of those guys, but a lot of them were put in a situation where it wasn't a fight they wanted to be in," Cummins said. "You just got the sense they didn't really want to be doing it.

"So, then I got the feeling like I was a bully. I'm trying to pick a fight with a guy that just wants no part of it. I want to fight guys who are good and believe in themselves."

Cummins might have gotten that opportunity sooner if he had been willing to abandon the regional circuit and sign a long-term deal with another promotion.

Several promoters showed interest in signing him, but Cummins had a catch: The longest commitment he was willing to give anyone but the UFC was one year -- and that, apparently, drove everyone away.

"We turned down quite a few offers," Cummins said. "Most of the big promotions out there wanted to work with us. We said, 'Listen, you can sew us up for two fights or so.' The contract would come over, we'd read it and -- wait a second -- it's for four years.

"It wasn't worth my time. I haven't made all these sacrifices just to stop short of my goal and settle."

Big picture, Cummins' karma appears to have leveled out. The good fortune he's been waiting on to offset the bad has finally come around.

In reality, his multifight deal with the UFC has nothing to do with luck at all. He set a goal, gambled in turning down offers from other promotions and stayed in constant fight shape should an opportunity ever come up. Last week, it did.

Cormier (13-0), a former heavyweight with wins over Josh Barnett and Frank Mir, is listed as a 12-to-1 betting favorite on Saturday. That makes his fight against Cummins the biggest mismatch in the UFC this year, according to some oddsmakers.

In the past five days, Cummins has been asked to share his coffee-shop story again and again to promote UFC 170, which is headlined by a female bantamweight title fight between Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann.

It's been a fun tale to rehash, but the fact is, Cummins didn't take that part-time job because it would make for a good story someday. He took it only to make ends meet while he pursued a career in the UFC. And that story, he's hoping, has just begun.

"I've been in the gym since finding out [about the bout]," Cummins said. "We're getting our workouts in. Obviously, the media is important and we want to get the story out, but at the end of the day it's a fight, and you better believe I'll be 100 percent ready."