The one thing about first impressions is that they’re the ones that last — for the most part, anyway. And nobody knows that better than Patrick Cummins, who in the minds of many is still the coffee barista-turned-MMA fighter who stood in against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170 on very short notice.
A year-and-a-half later, now that Cummins is getting set to face longtime veteran and one-time UFC title challenger Glover Teixeira, it might be time to give the former collegiate wrestler a new coat of perception. After all, he has won four of his last five in the UFC, and is coming off a second round TKO of former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante.
Should he beat Teixeira — who is currently ranked fourth on the UFC’s light heavyweight rankings chart — Cummins will suddenly emerge as a contender in a division that could desperately use fresh blood.
On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Cummins said that the "Feijao" fight when he started to realize his potential in the Octagon.
"Yeah, that’s definitely the most emotional win I’ve had, because it kind of unlocked something in me," he told Ariel Helwani. "I’m really starting to feel much more comfortable. It’s hard to explain. I looked back on it and I thought, this makes a lot of sense. It’s my tenth fight, and it seems like to me that’s the number. I needed that much experience to now I can really feel comfortable and really increase my potential out there."
The 34-year old Cummins (8-2), who trains in Southern California, has been silently making his way up the ranks at 205. After losing to Cormier in Feb. 2014, he reeled off three wins in a row Roger Narvaez, Kyle Kingsbury and Antonio Carlos Junior, before getting caught in his fight with Ovince St. Preux this April. He lost that one via first-round KO.
Yet even after blasting through Feijao in follow-up to that loss, there’s still some residual stigma about the way he came into the UFC. There’s still that barista image in play. The jokes are still there. Although at this point, they are fading.
Cummins said that there’s still a lingering part of him that needs to prove he’s a UFC fighter, but for the most part he’s began focusing on himself and closing off outside noise.
"You know, initially I kind of felt like that was the case," he said. "One or two fights after my debut I really felt like, man, I need to prove this to everybody. Because, I knew myself, that I could go in there and compete and do well. But I think now more so is I really focus on myself. I always talk about my potential, and I haven’t reached it yet. But every fight I get a little closer to that 100 percent potential that I can put out there. Every time I’m in there, it’s like 10 percent tilt, a five percent tilt.
Cummins’ fight with Teixeira takes place at UFC Fight Night 77 on Nov. 7 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Two of his previous three fights have taken place in Brazil, and he’s won both. Heading into perhaps the biggest fight of his career, Cummins said that he just wants to keep getting better, regardless of everything else.
"Improvement is improvement," he said. "I really focus on the good. I really feel like at this point in my career, I’m ready to take that big jump, and make that 20 to 30 percent jump and really get going out there and make people know that’s what I’m doing.
"I mean, that’s not the end game. I don’t care if people think that, oh wow, this guy can really fight. I don’t care. It’s about me. It’s about the competition. That’s why I got in MMA, because I competed a long time in wrestling, and I just felt like wrestling had run its course. But I haven’t competed enough. I still have that drive, and that’s why I’m here. To show myself I can do it.