When Ashley Cummins (6-4 MMA, 3-4 IFC) steps into the ring at Invicta FC 32 on November 16, it will be a new version of her.
Move to San Diego
Back in early August, Cummins moved from St. Louis to San Diego, where she accepted a new police job. As a result, she had to find a new camp for her MMA career. Cummins, 31, who had spent her whole life in St. Louis and spent 11 years training martial arts there, feels she had the best training camp of her life at her new gym, San Diego Combat Academy.
“This has been the best camp I’ve ever had because of all my teammates here,” Cummins told MMASucka. “I moved here August 1 and I’ve grown so much in the past couple of months. I’m excited to think about how good I’ll be in a year or two after training at this gym. I love it here. This is already like a family to me. I definitely think this was a very smart move on my part for my MMA career to move out to San Diego and choose this gym. I don’t even think [my teammates] realize how much their support means to me. After training [on Thursday night], one of the girls announced in front of everyone they’ll hold a watch party for my fight. I had to hold back the tears.”
“Smashley” has gone 3-1 since dropping from strawweight, a move she made when she realized atomweight was her natural weight class. She’s since picked up wins against Amber Brown and Stephanie Alba and has emerged as a consensus top-10 atomweight in the world.
“I give a lot of credit to my gyms in St. Louis because without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now,” she said. “That’s thanks to Wolves Den and Gracie Humaita St. Louis. But I was missing a big piece of the puzzle in St. Louis: I didn’t have any high level women’s MMA training partners. I had skilled Muay Thai fighters and Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. But MMA partners are what I needed to continue to get better and grow. I have that at my gym in San Diego.”
Cummins vs. Delboni
Cummins will be fighting undefeated Brazilian Jéssica Delboni (7-0) in her next bout. It will mark Delboni’s first international fight outside of the Brazilian regional scene. While she has racked up a nice record against decent competition, Cummins feels Delboni hasn’t fought someone of her caliber yet.
“I’ve fought Joanne Calderwood, Alexa Grasso, Emily Kagan, Jinh Yu Frey. So, I’ve been in some wars, in some battles,” she said. “I’ve had some ups and downs in this sport and I’ve fought my way back. It makes you mentally tougher when you know what it feels like to struggle, and I’ve struggled over the years. I know [Delboni’s] fought talented girls over in Brazil but I don’t think they’re the same talent as the girls I’ve fought over here in America.”
In addition to some of the women Cummins has previously fought, she’s had the experience of training with high-level teammates in San Diego.
A few of her main training partners include Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, No. 6-ranked UFC flyweight Liz Carmouche and Invicta FC flyweight contender Pearl Gonzalez.
“It’s been amazing,” Cummins said of her time training with them. “They’ve taken me under their wing and I look up to them so much. I feel so honored to be training with them. All three are so skilled and so knowledgeable. I’ll go home and take notes on what they’ve shown me. Every day, I learn something new from each of them.”
Cummins is hoping the improvements she’s made at her new gym lead to her taking the next step of her career.
One option is the UFC, if the promotion were to open up an atomweight division next year when the ESPN deal comes into play. It’s long been Cummins’ dream to fight for the UFC. However, if the UFC doesn’t open up the 105 lb. division, she intends to continue on in her career and shift her focus to getting an Invicta title shot.
“Moving to San Diego and starting under this new gym sparked a new fire under me to keep going and improving,” she said. “Even if the UFC doesn’t happen, I want to continue training under this gym and see what happens. I’m going to keep grinding until I get that title shot.”
Cummins said Delboni will be facing her at the worst possible time–for the Brazilian. The St. Louis native is more motivated than ever for a myriad of reasons. A win against Delboni would help Cummins’ case to get picked up by the UFC if they were to open atomweight, or would go a long way in persuading Invicta FC President Shannon Knapp that she deserves a title shot.
“I want to represent my new gym and my new police department,” Cummins said. “I’ve never trained this hard for a fight before. Even the days I work, I’m still [at the gym] for three to four hours. I’m really hungry for this win and to show people what I’m capable of in the atomweight division.”
She predicts she’ll finish Delboni in the second or third round.
Invicta FC 32 goes down on Friday, November 16 from Firelake Arena at Shawnee, OK. The event will stream live on UFC Fight Pass.