UFC Kansas City: Zak Cummings Returning for Daughter, Saturday “Possibly” His Retirement Fight

Zak Cummings, UFC Kansas City
Zak Cummings, UFC Kansas City ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Eddie Law/Cageside Press

When Zak Cummings steps into the cage at UFC Kansas City, it will be his first action since August of 2020, when he picked up a win against Alessio Di Chirico.

The time away was not by design, to say the least. Cummings (24-7) spent his time off dealing with a herniated disc, an injury he admits he was kind of “babying” a little bit by getting injections to deal with pain, rather than treat fully. Then, a freak occurrence — a sneeze, in fact — blew the disc out further.

“It was very bad, it was one of the worst that the neurosurgeon had seen, that did the surgery later on down the road. It was rough,” Cummings told The Top Turtle Podcast on Cageside Press recently. “I couldn’t move. I could barely get out of bed, I couldn’t sleep. It was honestly the worst pain I’d ever dealt with or anything.”

Cummings’ quality of life dropped to “next to nothing, physically anyway,” he added, though he had his family to support him. “I didn’t know if that was going to be the new normal, just kind of be stuck in bed, barely able to get out, my wife having to help me get dressed. It was a rough few months, and then we were able to get in and finally have surgery.”

It was a long road back, but as Cummings put it, “we were able to get back to the thing we love to do.”

Born in Texas, Cummings moved to Missouri early on, growing up in the state. He fights out of Kansas City, making his bout with Ed Herman a homecoming fight. It wasn’t the chance to fight at home, or just overcoming the injury, that has prompted his return to action, however.

Instead, it was his daughter wanting to see her dad fight.

“I kept saying, okay I’ve got to come back. I want to overcome all this stuff for me. I was really kind of telling myself that. But I don’t know if the motivation was really there, I was still kind of coaching and figuring things out,” Cummings recalled. “I run a promotion as well, Synergy Fighting Championship. She loves going to watch those, and watching the guys from the gym fight and stuff.”

Then one day, Cummings mentioned to his daughter that someone from the gym was fighting soon. Her reply was “that’s cool, but when are you going to fight? I want to see that.”

That’s when Cummings knew he had to get back in the cage. “That’s all I needed to hear.”

A ten year veteran of the UFC, Cummings, 38, is actually the younger fighter against Ed “Short Fuse” Herman. “He’s been in the UFC since before I turned pro. I turned pro in 2007. He’s been in the UFC since 2006. It’s insane.”

Cummings admits that Herman is his kind of guy, and sees them at a similar point in their respective careers.

“It’s fun. I feel like we’re both in the same spot. He’s on the last fight of his contract, I have two left. I think he wants to keep going and get another contract if he can. We’ve seen everything. I like competing against guys I respect and stuff like that,” noted Cummings. “When I got that name, it made sense and it was fun.”

While Herman might want another contract, Cummings himself appears ready to wrap up his professional fighting career — if not Saturday, then soon. Speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press during this week’s UFC Kansas City media day, Cummings noted that “I’m at the end of my career. This is possibly my retirement fight.”

“I’ve got two on my contact, I’ve got no desire really to sign another contract. More than anything, I know for sure that, all of my local support, this will be the last time they ever get to see me compete live. And that’s special, that’s something most people don’t get.”