Last year, Cummins appeared briefly on The Ultimate Fighter Season 23, where she was eliminated in the entry round. That, of course, was at strawweight. Were the UFC to opt to adopt an atomweight division, would Ashley Smashley be game for giving the show another try?
“I’m not a reality TV person, I never really wanted to even try out for that show the first time I tried out” she said, cool to the idea. “I have no interest in being a reality TV [star], being in front of the camera like that, but if that’s the only way to get into the UFC at 105 then I’d do it, but I would prefer to skip that show altogether. If the UFC ever wanted to pick up a 105 division I’d rather them just sign girls instead of making them go on that show.”
It’s a sentiment that many aspiring UFC fighters have expressed publicly and privately. “Cameras in your face all the time and being away from your family for seven or eight weeks and not being able to call them, I’m not really comfortable with that.”
Cummins has also worked with the UFC’s main competitor, Bellator MMA, taking one fight with the promotion at a catchweight at Bellator 157 in June 2016. What was that experience like?
“Bellator was awesome, they were very good to me, it was very professional” she told us. “Everything went smoothly. It was a really cool opportunity for me, because Bellator was in St. Louis, where I was born and raised. I just had so many family and friends [in attendance].”
“Just to have so many people in the stands cheering for me was an amazing feeling. That was the first time I’d ever fought in my hometown, so it was pretty cool for it to be on a big stage like Bellator.”
It was a big win, with a slick knee-on-neck choke. Was that planned? “A couple days before the fight, I was rolling with [Janet Bishop, Cummins Jiu-jitsu coach] and I got that choke on her, and she goes ‘if you get that in your fight, I will take you to any bar you want to go to.'” The pair shook hands on it, and sure enough, Cummins landed the choke. And confirmed the night out in celebration was a good one. “It was a long night” she said with a laugh.
Unfortunately, Bellator lacks a strawweight division, let alone an atomweight division, so the fight was simply a one-off deal for the local fighter. That bout, however, helped prove to Invicta FC that Cummins could compete at atomweight. Cummins already had an Invicta contract when she took that Bellator fight, but had gone 0-3 in her original run, with two fights at strawweight and a third at a 120lb catchweight. The all-female fight promotion wanted to see if she could make the lower weight class.
“Invicta told me, ‘we want to see you fight at a lower weight so we know you can make the weight, and then we’ll let you come back.'” Cummins explained. “So I think once I proved that okay, I can make 110, and I told the Invicta staff that I cut three pounds of water for my Bellator fight, and I weighed in at 109, so I could definitely make 106 no problem. So after that, I proved to them that I could do this at 105, and they let me come back.”
Now that she’s back, she’s not looking elsewhere. “Right now the goal is to get that Invicta belt around my waist. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Which brings us to Cummins’ next opponent, Jinh Yu Frey. “It’s a good match-up” Cummins said of the pairing. “I think Frey and I are two of the top atomweights in the world. I’m excited for it, I have a lot of respect for her as a fighter, she’s very well-rounded, she’s very tough. This is what I’ve been working for for ten years. I want to fight the best in the world, and that’s Frey.”
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity to be in the cage with one of the best in the world” she continued. “I’m a huge underdog, and I’m pretty excited to shock the world. Everyone wants to see her get that rematch for that belt, and everyone’s looking past me. None of the pressure’s on me, it’s all on her. No one expects me to win, everyone wants to see her fight for that belt, so I’m just ready to go in there and have fun.”
“I’m the huge underdog, she’s got all the pressure on her” she reiterated.
At the end of it all? “My hand is going to be raised at the end of the fight.”
Ashley Cummins faces Jinh Yu Frey at Invicta FC 24 Saturday, July 15, live on UFC Fight Pass.