Patrick Cummins: How an Unknown Made UFC 170 More Interesting

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2014

Courtesy: MMA Fighting

In terms of unfortunate realities, UFC 170 was in a pretty miserable place as recently as two weeks ago: The co-main event was between two top contenders, and pretty much no one cared.

Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier were set to square off, each perhaps a win away from a title shot. Evans has been resurgent after a loss in February last year, and Cormier is a long-undersized heavyweight finally willing to fight in his true weight class.

And no one cared.

It could be the UFC's insistence on pairing Evans with Fox co-workers (next up: Evans versus Karyn Bryant on a card headlined by Joe Buck battling Troy Aikman) or that Cormier needs more of a jerk like Roy Nelson or Frank Mir to make people interested.

It could be that, on a card with Ronda Rousey, neither man is going to be the star because of the promotion's recent Ronda regimen.

Perhaps the fight just had an air of one happening because two halfway relevant dudes needed to fight in order to justify a pay-per-view in the middle of February, and those two were healthy and available.

Regardless of the reasoning, it wasn't catching people's attention.

A lot can change in a few days.

Evans went down last week with a knee injury, on the shelf until later this year after surgery. Cormier, threatened with removal from the card, pleaded with the entire universe to step up and fight him. Pat Cummins, serving coffee in California, said, "Sure, why not?" and signed with the UFC.

Wait, what?

Yeah, totally.

Local cauliflower-eared barista Pat Cummins said he'd fight Cormier, and the UFC was into it. Cummins, a 4-0 prospect with a history with Cormier, said he wanted the fight, and after a little digging by the promotion, the UFC thought it could work.

So far, it has.

Cummins has a natural salesmanship about him, a knack for saying the exact right thing when the cameras are on to make people want to watch him fight. He also has that chance-of-a-lifetime charm that fans are always curious of, and he's handled the early days of his UFC run with surprising aplomb for an unknown.

When given the chance at Cormier, he immediately let the world know that he'd made the Olympian cry in training. The move drew attention from fans and heat regarding the "code" in wrestling, but Cummins dealt with that as well.

"That's the business," he told MMA Fighting's Dave Doyle at this week's open workouts. "We need to come out here and we're getting in a fight."

He continued: "The wrestling community hasn't had a big outcry on the wrestling code thing, I think [that] was him backpedaling a little bit."

There's little question that an Evans-Cormier fight would be more competitive, but if we're being honest right now, that's not what the UFC needs. It needs a guy who can say some crazy stuff, who has enough history to sell the human element and maybe move a few units come Saturday night.

Evans and Cormier, for all their competitive appeal, weren't doing that.

UFC 170 is not deep. By most reasonable standards, due to injuries and an unsustainable run of 10 events in 13 weeks, it's not even good. Rousey or no Rousey, it needed to be sold, and the women's champion was having a hard time on her own with an opponent so disinterested in making a sale.

Cummins has done that, at least to the extent one could call reasonable. He's had a short time to work, sold himself well and made it evident that he and Cormier aren't going to be pals when the cage door closes on Saturday night.

The fight itself is almost irrelevant for the UFC, because it got more than it ever bargained for by signing Cummins. He's no Rashad Evans, but in a totally different way, he might prove more valuable this weekend.


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