Patrick Cummins was just an everyday guy working in a coffee shop until a phone call from UFC President Dana White changed everything.
Former UFC light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans had just injured his knee, forcing him out of his co-main event bout against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170. Unfortunately for the UFC, fighters weren’t exactly lining up for a short-notice bout with Cormier, a former Olympian and undefeated contender.
During a media luncheon attended by Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter, White recounted the Cinderella story of Cummins’ transition from an employee at a coffee shop to the co-main event of a UFC pay-per-view.
“I was keeping my options open. I was thinking light heavyweight tournament,” White said.
“I don't want to fight in Baltimore,” said Cormier, who was offered a fight with Evans at UFC 172 instead. “I need to fight.”
“There's nothing I can do, man,” White responded. “Plus, nobody is going to fight you on a week's notice.”
White was ready to throw in the towel on searching for a replacement opponent when he heard the name Patrick Cummins. The 4-0 professional fighter had taken to Twitter to request a shot at Cormier:
Obviously, Cummins wasn’t expecting to hear anything back from White. Why would the largest MMA promotion in the world promote some unknown fighter against one of its premier stars on a major pay-per-view?
Little did Cummins know that a Twitter petition had somehow made its way back to White, who immediately began digging up background information. He was surprised to learn that Cummins was an All-American collegiate wrestler who served as one of Cormier’s training partners for the 2004 Olympics.
The cherry on top was when White heard from Cummins’ manager, Ryan Parsons, about Cummins’ claims of having made Cormier cry during training. White made several attempts to call Cummins, but his phone was turned off while he was at work.
It was up to Parsons to throw on the red cape, drive down to the coffee shop and get Cummins on the phone. Initially, Parsons was turned away by the manager of the shop, who explained his employees weren’t allowed to take personal calls on company time. After being asked to leave the store, Parsons got back in his car and went to the drive-thru window, where he was finally able to put Cummins on the phone with White.
"Well, I hope I get this fight. Because they just fired me,” said Cummins, after getting caught talking on the phone.
“You tell your manager to go f--k himself,” White told Cummins. “Head to the gym right now. We'll call you in a little while.”
The change in fortune was like night and day for Cummins, who quickly went from unknown to having his face plastered on billboards and doing interviews on Fox Sports:
But just as the clock struck midnight, Cummins’ Cinderella story came to a crashing halt at UFC 170.
Cormier did as expected, dominating the UFC newcomer with a TKO in just 79 seconds of the first round.
“It had to happen this way, it could not have went the distance,” Cormier told UFC commentator Joe Rogan in his post-fight interview. “I’m mad that he even hit me twice because of all the talking he did.”
The truth about what happened in the Olympic Training Center years ago may never be known, but one thing was certainly clear: Cummins wasn’t ready for the big time. It was simply a case of a fighter being in over his head. White sympathized with Cummins for taking the fight on such short notice by awarding him another shot in the UFC.
However, there won’t be any red-carpet treatment this time for Cummins, who is slated to welcome UFC newcomer Roger Narvaez in the Fight Pass portion of the prelims at UFC Fight Night 42. It’s a major drop-off from co-headlining a pay-per-view card, but perhaps it’s where Cummins was supposed to start all along.
“I am very confident that I can go in there with the pressure off and do exactly what I can do,” Cummins said, when speaking with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I think if I do half of what I think I can do, I’ll be fine.”
The meteoric rise and sobering fall of Cummins has been one of the biggest stories so far this year. From coffee barista to co-main event to UFC Fight Pass, what lies in the 35-year-old journeyman’s future after Saturday night?