Every sport is always looking for the next "one."
In basketball, the minute LeBron James stepped onto the court with an NBA jersey hanging from his shoulders he was immediately dubbed as the next Michael Jordan. Sports like football are constantly searching for the next Tom Brady, or hockey keeping an eye out for the next Sidney Crosby.
Mixed martial arts is really no different because fighters can routinely be grouped into one area or another when they show promise in early development and are dubbed as "the next" great. Sometimes those assumptions are extremely premature, such as recent The Ultimate Fighter runner-up Uriah Hall, who was mistakenly called "the next Anderson Silva." These labels can also serve as a measuring stick for greatness as a fighter develops and grows into a UFC prospect.
With only six fights to his credit, Jon Jones made his UFC debut with very little fanfare, and when he faced IFL veteran Andre Gusmao, it was Jones who was the complete unknown underdog.
Just over five years later, Jones sits on top of the world as the UFC light heavyweight champion and is regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
That's where former two-time All-American wrestler Patrick "Durkin" Cummins enters the picture.
Cummins comes from a similar wrestling background as Jones, and possesses freakishly athletic gifts like the reigning UFC light heavyweight champ. He currently sits at 4-0 in his career with four impressive victories, which also mirrors Jones' record to that point.
The only problem right now is Cummins wants to a pick up a couple of more wins and hopefully enter the UFC with relatively the same experience as Jones did at the time, but he can't seem to find anyone to fight.
You read that correctly.
Cummins and his management team have been going through an awfully hard time finding him fights because, between his wrestling pedigree and a growing reputation in the industry as one of the top prospects at 205 pounds, the line of people signing up to face him is nonexistent.
"As far as I'm concerned any opponent is the right opponent, but I don't think everyone has that same regard for me," Cummins joked. "In the last two months, I think we've had at least 40 fights go South on us. It's just ridiculous. I need to get fights, it's tough.
"It's a little tougher at 205 because it's such a small weight division. I think the UFC only has 30 or 35 active 205-pounders and a division like lightweight has like 80. There's just not a lot of guys to fight. The good ones just aren't willing to take it. It's a rocky road right now."
Cummins has come a long way from where he started when he was brought in specifically as a training partner for fighters like "King" Mo Lawal and Jason "Mayhem" Miller because of his size, power and wrestling base.
Even when he took his first fight in Strikeforce, Cummins can look back now and admit he had no idea what he was doing.
"I would say my first fight I didn't know anything," Cummins said. "I had the very basics, I could throw the 1-2 combo and I was basically just looking to wrestle. Now, I feel like with the quality training partners and coaches we have my game's stepped up quite a bit. Now I'm a fighter and this is what I want to do."
Since that first moment in the cage, Cummins has become a mainstay at the Reign Training Center and King's MMA in Orange County, Calif. There he trains alongside notable UFC names like Mark Munoz, Chael Sonnen and Brendan Schaub on any given day.
If the UFC matchmakers could go to the gym and see Cummins' performance, they might sign him on potential alone, but he understands that's not how this sport works.
"I don't want to say training and competing are the same because it's a different feeling, but I feel like I train with guys in the UFC and I feel like I’m right there," Cummins said. "I have a lot of experience, and maybe it's not in the cage, but I have so much experience competing and I would say I'm ready to go right now. I've been ready my last couple of fights. They want to see more than just that."
Cummins knows what it means to face the best of the best in competition, and that's all he wants is a chance to prove he belongs among the clouds. In college, Cummins was a walkon at Penn State and went on to compete against some of the best wrestlers of that era, including two-time NCAA champion Tommy Rowlands from Ohio State and fellow MMA prospect Steve Mocco out of Iowa.
Now he's hoping to catch the attention of the UFC to face the best they have at 205 pounds.
"I feel like this is my prime and I have a window that I can compete in, and I'm anxious to get there," Cummins said. "I don't want to bash any of the guys I've fought, but those guys are the quality opponents that the UFC is looking for. It's tough. I think they have to recognize me at some point.
"I know what's out there in the 205-pound division. On a daily basis we look at the roster, and I like my chances a lot. I want to be able to go fight Jon Jones before his title run runs out. I want to get it done now. A few fights in the UFC and get my experience up and I'll be ready to step in there with top-10 guys."
It's unfair to put the kind of pressure on a 4-0 fighter like Cummins with the label of being the next Jon Jones, but he's not running away from those kinds of expectations if it lands him the shot of proving himself in the UFC.
He just wants the chance to fight the best in the world at light heavyweight, and Cummins is quite positive the results will back up the hype.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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