Two former NCAA finalists who never met on the mat in college – but are slated to clash in the Octagon at UFC 170 this Saturday – are already doing battle in the media… and it’s not your typical pre-fight trash talk.
Former Oklahoma State wrestler Daniel Cormier responded Monday to stories put out by ex-Penn State heavyweight Pat Cummins last week, claiming that he “broke” the former Cowboy All-American, and “made him cry” during practice sessions for the 2004 Olympics.
Cummins, a last-minute replacement for an injured Rashad Evans for Saturday’s UFC 170 co-main event, was a workout partner as Cormier trained to wrestle as a member of the U.S. freestyle team competing at the Athens Olympics a decade ago.
The former Nittany Lion big man, who has had only four professional mixed martial arts fights since his debut in 2010 -- the most recent in May 2013 – got the match with Cormier, who is 13-0 in MMA, because the ex-Cowboy told Ultimate Fighting Championships that he did not want sit out from UFC 170 after weeks of training.
Cummins’ comments were answered by Cormier. In an article posted Monday at the website FightersOnlyMag.com, Cormier said that he called the former national team coach after Cummins came out with the story, and that the coach had an explanation.
“This was around 2004. I lost my daughter in 2003 [in a car accident], so I was having a whole bunch of personal issues. I called our head coach at the time and told him the story Pat told. And he was like 'That's not what happened. What is he talking about? He's just lying.'”
“I go 'what happened?'"
“He goes, 'well you guys were simulating the Olympic games just as he said.' And he beat me. He did beat me in a match, and I said, 'We're going again.' And the coach told me 'No, the Olympics are over for you. You lost.' And that's what freaked me out and I ran out of the room.
“Yeah, I did cry, I was pissed off. I had to put myself in the mindset that I was wrestling for an Olympic Gold medal and I had given it away. And then my coach wouldn't let me get my hands back on him.”
Fellow Olympian McMann weighs in
In addition, fellow 2004 U.S. Olympian Sara McMann, who faces Ronda Rousey in the main event at UFC 170, weighed in on Cummins’ comments.
McMann told to Trent Reinsmith of MMA website BloodyElbow.com that Cummins was taking far too much credit for the incident, saying, "The coaches are responsible for breaking him, not anybody else."
McMann, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Games, explained that wrestling preparation is a lot different than that of other sports, saying that what wrestlers go through during their preparation for the Olympics could be "labeled as sadistic" by those that are not familiar with how wrestling coaches often try to break athletes in order to make them better.
"During these practices, we are always down on points,” said McMann. “We have people rotating in on us. They are people in our weight class that are eating whatever they want, they're fresh because they get breaks and we don't. They have no pressure on them. It's a little bit ridiculous because these practices are designed to break us. These coaches won't stop until you are flaking out, until you are at your absolute lowest point. That's the way it's been in wrestling forever. To say that he made [Cormier] cry, that's just crazy to me."
Breaking the wrestler code
A number of MMA writers have called out Cummins for what they think was breaking a fundamental pact among wrestlers and fighters: that what happens in the practice room, stays in the practice room, to use a phrase from Elias Cepeda for Yahoo! Sports Cagewriter.
“It's a code that Patrick Cummins broke loudly last week in order to help him get a shot in the UFC,” wrote Cepeda. “Before last week, Cummins was just another former top amateur wrestler who was largely unknown in his young MMA career."
“More importantly, Cummins said that he ‘broke’ Cormier and made the now undefeated MMA fighter cry. Cummins ‘revealed’ all this publicly in order to get himself attention and convince the UFC that they should give him a shot at the big time, specifically against Cormier… In large part because of his statements about making Cormier cry, (UFC President Dana) White found Cummins,” continued Cepeda.
As Cormier said in FightersOnlyMag.com, “Those things stay in the wrestling room. We don't talk about training. That's wrestler code 101. He knows that. He knew the things that I was going through at that time. To put himself in the situation, he went and dug up some things that he should have never have dug up.”
Cormier may have the last word on Cummins’ comments.
"Pat Cummins, you got a raise but you got punished because you're going to have to step into the Octagon with me," Cormier said last Thursday.
"You are completely in over your head, Patrick Cummins."
The matter will be settled Saturday night in Las Vegas, where, in this case, what happens in the Octagon in Vegas, will definitely NOT stay in Vegas.
Mat history of Cormier and Cummins
Both Daniel Cormier and Patrick Cummins had impressive college mat careers, both finding themselves in the finals at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
Cormier, who will turn 35 in March, was a two-time NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) champ at Colby Community College in Kansas, then transferred to Division I powerhouse Oklahoma State. The Louisiana native earned All-American honors by making it to the 184-pound finals of the 2001 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, where he lost to Iowa State's Cael Sanderson, 2004 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle, now head coach at Penn State. In addition to his college credentials, Cormier earned a place on the U.S. freestyle team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Cummins wrestled heavyweight at Penn State, where he was a two-time NCAA All-American. The Pennsylvania native placed fourth in the 285-pound weight class at the 2003 NCAAs; one year later, Cummins found himself in the 2004 NCAA finals, facing off against 2002 champ Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State. The Buckeye defeated Cummins, 6-2, to win his second NCAA title.
Cormier and Cummins did not wrestle each other in college, but did meet on the mat, as Mike Riordan pointed out in a recent column for BloodyElbow.com, at the Dave Schultz Memorial tournament in Feb. 2007. Cormier moved up from his normal weight of 96 kilos up to the 120 kilo weight class, where he defeated two, two-time NCAA heavyweight champs: Tommy Rowlands, and Steve Mocco… along with former NCAA finalist Pat Cummins, shutting out the former Nittany Lion big man 7-0.
The two UFC 170 share one other thing: Both were champs in Real Pro Wrestling, a 2005 venture that was a form of amateur style wrestling in which participants were paid, and something of a predecessor to today’s Agon Wrestling Championships and Tour ACW (Association of Career Wrestlers). Cormier won the 96 kilos/211 pound title, while Cummins was the champ at 120 kilos/264.5 pounds. Viewers who watched RPW nearly a decade ago might recognize Cormier right away; however, Cummins was much heftier and hairier in college and in RPW.
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