What happens in the practice room stays in the practice room. It's a code that has been largely adhered to by fighters everywhere since, well, ever since.
It's a code that Patrick Cummins broke loudly last week in order to help him get a shot in the UFC. Before last week, Cummins was just another former top amateur wrestler who was largely unknown in his young MMA career.
Then, the former Penn-State wrestling All-American started talking about closed-door training sessions he'd had with Daniel Cormier a decade ago as "DC" prepared for the 2004 Olympic games in Athens. Cummins said that he took Cormier down, that he stymied the two-time Olympic wrestler's offense.
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.
As you probably already know, Cormier had been set to make his light heavyweight debut against Rashad Evans at this Saturday's UFC 170 event in Las Vegas until "Suga" injured his knee. Cormier was left without an opponent and begged UFC President Dana White to find someone, anyone, to replace Evans so that all of Cormier's hard work during training camp would not have been in vain.
In large part because of his statements about making Cormier cry, White found Cummins.
Cummins' 4-0 MMA record is meager in comparison to that of Cormier - who was essentially the number two heavyweight in the world before deciding to drop to 205 pounds and avoid a showdown with friend and champion Cain Velasquez. All of Cummins' wins have come via first round stoppage but his opponents' combined record is 10-20, overall.
Now, Cummins will fight on short notice against Cormier in the co-main event of UFC 170 on Saturday night.
Predictably, Cormier feels that his former Team USA teammate is in over his head. After all, Cormier has already dominated two different former UFC heavyweight champions en route to establishing a 13-0 MMA record.
"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 during a Fox Sports Live interview.
"You are completely in over your head, Patrick Cummins."
This isn't going to be just another fight between former training partners and friends, the way Daniel Cormier's originally scheduled bout against Rashad Evans was to be. The way Cummins talked his way into this fight has infuriated Cormier.
As long as there have been teams, training partners and practice rooms, it's been understood that the ups and downs of training should be kept private. Experienced fighters and fight writers alike have all seen champions get beaten up by unknown teammates in practice only to go out and dominate under the big lights.
To attempt to elevate yourself by discussing private training with a teammate, especially one that has accomplished much more than you have at every stage, is cheap. As Cormier has been quick to point out, practice is different than competition.
More importantly, either revealing or making up stories to trash former teammates and help your own career, is a simple violation of the codes that foster the trust necessary on teams for fighters to get better.
Cummins has said he's fine with bad blood between he and Cormier. After all, they are set to fight one another.
An MMA fight is no real place for warm and feelings between competitors. It is important to remember, however, that there are a lot of Patrick Cummins' out there.
That is, he isn't the only one with a couple unverifiable stories about how he, like, totally beat that world champion guy one day in practice, years ago. Most fighters, however, have enough honor and respect to not try and monetize those stories.
Cummins may have at least temporarily elevated himself by pulling back the veil on old practice sessions, but he's also embarrassed himself by doing so. Those with major accomplishments can let those speak for themselves.
Cummins' talk is also particularly noxious when you consider the circumstances of his practice matches with Cormier. We're not talking about the fact that Cormier was quite literally the man for the U.S. in his weight class and so had to take on Cummins and many others gunning for him day in and day out in preparation for the Olympics.
Sure, that's valuable to understand as it then frames Cummins' supposed domination of Cormier in practice as an analogous situation, perhaps, to some college kid getting a steal off of Michael Jordan in a summer game but then getting lit up for forty points in his rookie season in the NBA by MJ. Cormier did, after all, beat Cummins handily in actual wrestling competition.
"That's the key," Cormier said.
"I was training for the Olympics…Pat's never been 'The Guy.' I was 'The Guy.' Training was focused on me. It wasn't just Pat Cummings that was wrestling me. It was Pat Cummings and everyone else coming in, wrestling me. And also, I was going through a lot of personal issues at the time."
The circumstances we're talking about go beyond the pressure of preparing for an Olympic games as Cormier was and Cummins was not in 2004, however. As Cummins must know full and well, in 2004 Cormier was not only working towards Olympic gold, he was doing so after having recently losing his daughter.
Cormier's life has had more than it's share of tragedy. As a child his father was shot and killed.
Then, while preparing for Athens, Cormier's daughter was killed in a car accident. Did Cormier lose his cool one day in practice while preparing for the Olympics and feeling that pressure added onto unknowable grief from burying a child?
Perhaps he did. It certainly would be understandable.
What Cormier does not appear able to forgive is Cummins cynically leveraging that difficult moment in his life for his own gain. What Patrick "Durkin" Cummins did in order to get his UFC shot was much worse than trade on practice stories - he also traded on the tragedy experienced by a man he was supposed to have been there to help as a teammate in 2004.
Cummins may have opened up old wounds for Cormier a little more than a week before having to fight him. The American Kickboxing Academy coach and fighter is now doubly motivated to earn his first win at light heavyweight.
"You need to be careful with things you're saying," Cormier said to Cummins.
"Things that happened in that wrestling room stay in that wrestling room. So, not only have you crossed the line, you've completely put yourself in my cross hairs. You're not Pat Cummins, the nice kid anymore. You're a guy that I've got to go in that Octagon [and] you're going to suffer for your words.
"You're at a disadvantage against me already and to come and do this now - make it personal...You should never do that."
Cummins has, of course. Cummins will never be able to take those words back, now.
His words may have helped him get an expedited trip to the UFC but who knows if teammates will really ever be able to trust him after he so casually and gleefully broke the code of the training room.
Some things in life are more important than career, money, winning and losing. So, win or lose on Saturday night, hopefully it was all worth it for Cummins.
What may have happened between he and Cormier a decade ago in private may not have stayed in the practice room, thanks to Cummins. Whatever happens between these sudden enemies in Las Vegas Saturday night at UFC 170, however, will certainly not stay in Las Vegas.
It will be on display for all the world to see.
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- Patrick Cummins
- Daniel Cormier