Ashley Cummins (7-5) will get her second crack at Invicta atomweight gold at Invicta FC 42 on Sept. 17. “Smashley” will take on Alesha Zappitella (7-2) for the vacant 105-lb. belt.
Cummins noted her opponent is a “good” wrestler who’s aggressive. However, she believes she’s the more well-rounded fighter between the two, and Zappitella will have a “hard night” as a result.
“I don’t excel at one thing; I’m not an Olympic wrestler, I’m not a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu or a Muay Thai world champion, but I think I’m really well-rounded in all aspects of mixed martial arts,” Cummins told MMASucka. “And because I’m well-rounded, I think I’m a tough fight for anyone.”
Cummins most recently lost an airtight unanimous decision to former Invicta atomweight queen and current UFC strawweight Jinh Yu Frey. Their clash for Invicta gold came back in February. Though Cummins fell short in the judges’ eyes, Invicta CEO Shannon Knapp offered her another title shot. Cummins was admittedly caught by surprise.
“I’m very thankful that Shannon gave me another opportunity,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting it. After the [Frey] fight, Shannon did come up to me and said, ‘I’m sorry about the judges, I thought you won.’ I knew that she thought I beat Jinh, but at the same time, I wasn’t expecting another opportunity at the belt. I thought they were going to do a tournament for the belt, and I guess because of COVID, they couldn’t. That’s when I got the call to fight for it again, and I’m not going to turn down a title shot. I said ‘yes’ right away.”
Cummins has victories over the likes of Jessica Delboni, Amber Brown and Stephanie Alba. However, her rematch with Frey marked the first time she fought 25 minutes.
“I already knew how tough of a person I am,” Cummins said. “I know mentally how I am. I’m willing to take damage and feel pain, and I don’t care. That’s just kind of been my personality. There were a couple of times in that fight where I was hurting; I just put on my poker face and acted like nothing was wrong, and kept coming forward. I’ve already proven to myself in other fights what I can take. That’s not something I learned from the Jinh fight.”
For “Smashley,” having fought and arguably beat Frey proved to her that she is one of the world’s top atomweights.
“I always knew I could compete with Jinh. It was just more proof I’m right there.”
Cummins, who says the loss wasn’t the first time she dropped a close decision on the scorecards, said she has more to prove against Zappitella so there’s no way the judges can not score the rounds in her favor.
“I’m walking in with a chip on my shoulder,” she said. “I have a lot of anger inside of me towards a lot of things. It just helps fuel me every day to get in there and prove everyone wrong.”
Cummins’ next appearance will mark her first since the coronavirus pandemic forced sweeping closures of gyms across the United States. Many fighters have had to adjust the way they do camps. While Cummins’ case was no different, she said her camp has been better than those in the past.
Previously, her camps would mostly consist of group classes. Due to the nature of COVID-19, Cummins didn’t want to expose herself to the virus, so 95 percent of her trainings have been private, she estimates. It’d be her, a coach or two, and a training partner.
“It opened my eyes,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is how all my camps should have been.’ It’s so focused, because it’s literally one-on-one privates for hours every day twice a day. If you’re in a group class, you’re not getting attention. They’re not focusing on your game plan, on your strength and weaknesses, your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Every training session has been so precise and accurate.”
Her training partners all camp have been the two smaller-sized men at the gym. They’ve watched Zappitella’s fights to the point they can mimic her to a ‘T,’ Cummins said.
“It’s so realistic to probably what I’m going to see. Just how [Zappitella] fights. My coaches are literally sitting there watching me the whole time and no one else. They’ve been critiquing what I’m doing and giving me instructions. It’s honestly been the best camp I’ve had – because of COVID. Because it’s been so isolated, everything’s been focused on me.”
Zappitella will look to keep her own two-fight winning streak going and claim gold. She holds victories over Brown, Lindsey VanZandt and Kelly D’Angelo.
Cummins believes she’ll be the one to secure the atomweight title and hand Zappitella her third professional loss – and do it convincingly.
“I think I’m going to embarrass her, and I’m going to have the belt around my waist at the end of the fight,” Cummins predicted.
Invicta FC 42: Ashley Cummins vs. Alesha Zappitella is slated to go down from the Police Athletic League in Kansas City, Kansas on Thursday, Sept. 17. The card will be broadcast live on UFC Fight Pass.