Undefeated rising mixed martial arts (MMA) star Zak Cummings (10-0) will replace an injured Evangelista Cyborg in the Strieforce Challengers main event matchup with American military hero Tim Kennedy (10-2) at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s SpiritBank Event Center on Friday, September 25.
“Tim Kennedy sounds like a pretty tough guy and that’s the way I like to fight so it should be a great fight,” said the 25-year-old Cummings, a two-time national junior collegiate qualifier in wrestling for St. Louis Community College – Meramec.
A knee injury forced Cummings to withdraw before the start of the 2006 national tournament and, later, convinced him to return home to Springfield, Missouri where he discovered MMA. He has since regained his health and become well-skilled in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing.
Despite his newfound versatility, Cummings credits his untainted success first and foremost to his consistent composure in the cage.
“Some guys get very emotional and some guys want to go out there and hurt people. I’m one of those guys that looks at MMA as a sport and a chess match, just like I look at wrestling,” he explained. “In all my wrestling experiences, I stayed calm throughout any situation that happened. I didn’t get frustrated and I think that’s carried over into my experience in this sport. I keep my cool really well and it’s paid off.”
The 29-year-old Kennedy’s return to action will be his first since he dominated Nick “The Goat” Thompson, stopping Thompson on the ground with an onslaught of punches in the second round (2:37) of their Strieforce Challengers meeting at ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington.
After spending six years in The United States Army, the last three as a sniper in the Seventh Special Forces Group, Kennedy, a native of San Luis Obispo, California, recently accepted an offer to serve in the Texas National Guard. The career change will allow him the flexibility he needs to pursue his MMA career at a world-class level.
“I don’t think anybody can really plan to see what I’m coming in to do this time,” said Kennedy. “I’m working with the best boxing coaches and training with Mark DeLaGrotte, one of the best MMA striking coaches in the world, so I think that people are going to see a new Tim that they’ve never seen before.”
A graduate of Columbia College in Missouri, Kennedy launched his professional MMA career shortly before enlisting in the military near the end of 2001.
“After 9/11 happened, I wanted to do something for my country,” he explained. “The military is my life. I am going to serve as long as they’ll let me. I’d love to retire in uniform.”
A knee injury Cyborg sustained during a training session last week forced the Brazilian fighter to pull out of the bout with Kennedy.