E-Interview with UFC Fighter Luke Cummo

Dollar Hot Dogs and I conducted an e-interview with UFC veteran Luke Cummo. He was thoughtful, candid, and informative. We truly appreciate Luke taking the time to do this for us and his fans. Enjoy the read, and we encourage you to check out Luke and his company, MMA Mafia online. Check out the rest of the interview here.

You can find half of the interview, as well as a link to the second half, after the jump.

(Picture owned by the UFC.)

What initially inspired you to get into the fight game?

I'll give you the long story short. I tried Karate when I was 8 and my Mom took me out after one lesson because I chopped my little brother. When I was a little older and more mature she made me watch Enter the Dragon and then I started training Kung Fu.
After high school I took a year or two off of training and when I came back I started doing Jeet Kun Do with Ray Longo. He's also a promoter so he got me into amateur kickboxing. Matt Serra also did his stand-up training with Ray so we worked out together a few times and then I started training jiu-jitsu at his academy. After I got my blue belt Ray said they needed a replacement fighter for his new MMA promotion with Lou Neglia: the Ring of Combat. That's where I had my first MMA bouts before getting on TUF 2.

What's it like to be part of the world's premier fighting organization?

It’s the best. I know that I'm very fortunate to be where I am. The UFC really has done great things for me and the fans are fantastic. I was feeling a little down about the judges' decision of my last fight, but as I left the octagon and was walking through the crowd back to the locker room the people in the crowd were really reaching out to me and telling me what a great job I did and stuff. It was a great feeling.
Then I got a call from my Mom a couple of days later when I was visiting family in California. She said there was an envelope from Zuffa and I had a feeling that it was a check, so I told her over the phone to open it. She did and it was a check that said "disc bonus". Now I have no idea what that is, but I think its just their way of saying "thanks for putting on a good fight". So maybe that's what it is or maybe not, but they have treated me very fairly and its my pleasure to fight in the UFC. I used to be nervous about it; now I'm excited.

When you started your fighting career, was getting to the UFC a major aspiration?

No, in fact I turned down a fight with Jay Heiron about a year before I got on TUF 2 because I felt that I wasn't ready for the big show. It’s funny how things work out.

How do you feel about the recent complaints with the UFC and their compensation of fighters (i.e. the Randy Couture situation)?

Well, MMA is growing as a sport and as a business. The UFC has a product and that is their fights. To put out a good product they have to make an investment and that means pay the fighters. And of course they want to turn a profit.
Now I never really studied too much in finance so I would imagine the problem is that the UFC wants to make an investment in Randy and he thinks that number should be higher. I think Randy is at the point in his career where he can afford to be kind of a haggler. He doesn't need to fight anymore. He's already done such tremendous things and he's kind of a living legend. So if he wants to hold out for a huge payday, good for him. And the UFC obviously has a business plan that works so they do what they want anyway.
Sometimes a baseball team will take a big chance on a hot prospect and the guy will turn out to be worth less than what they paid for him. I can't think of an example right now because I don't follow sports. And I'm not saying that Randy isn't worth every penny, just that its probably a big risk for the UFC and they've probably got accountants who have it all mapped out.

A number of websites publish the fighters' salaries after events along with the winners of the UFC bonuses, and they do it with a disclaimer that the figures don't include costs of medical examinations, travel and the like – what kind of expenses do you deal with as a fighter that most people wouldn't know about?

Oh man, this last fight especially I had to lay out a pretty penny. I usually go out a week in advance to acclimate to the area, and even longer if its at a different altitude than what I'm used to. The UFC only gives me a hotel room from four days out from the fight, so there's that. Then I always rent a car so I can get to and from the organic grocer and so I'm not cooped up in the hotel the whole time. I also like to check out any of the local attractions. For example, before UFC 87 I went to the Mall of America no less than 3 times - a couple with my family for shopping, the park, and the aquarium, and once to see a movie.
OK then I flew out a couple of my cornermen because the UFC pays for one and my wife took that ticket. And then there are various licensing fees and medical bills but those weren't too bad because I think Minnesota took my paperwork from Nevada or something. Once in a while I'll have to do some kind of expensive medical test.

To date, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement in fighting?

I think it pretty amazing just being able to step in there with these animals! And the best is yet to come.

You seem pretty slim as a welterweight, but have you ever thought about dropping to 155?

Yeah some people have been telling me to make the drop since the finale of TUF 2. The most I ever had to cut for a welterweight bout was like 5 lbs. The thing is that it seems easy for guys who come from a wrestling background to suck out the water and I've always felt that it might hamper my performance if I sucked too much water the day before a heavy athletic competition like that. But I was 164 lbs. the morning of the weigh-ins of UFC 87. I put on my steel cup and put stuff in my shoes to try to get a couple of extra pounds. I felt as strong as ever and I ate just like I normally do so I'm pretty sure my next fight will be at 155.

What did you think of GSP's recent 5-round victory over Jon Fitch?

I didn't get to watch it yet but it seems like one of those fights I will be watching with a pen and notepad.

GSP seems to be close to the top of most analysts' pound-for-pound lists – because of this, what do you see as the future of the welterweight division?

It’s so hard to tell because the elite welterweights have the speed of lightweights and the power of middleweights and anything can happen in that octagon. I think GSP has a great style and he's a talented athlete.

Do you think GSP's fight with Penn is a good idea for the organization, or do you feel it will just serve to hold up the titles in both divisions?

Two amazing fighters fighting against each other? That sounds good to me!

In your opinion, who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world?

Probably some young kid who's already been training for 10 years and is about to wreck shit. I tell ya, the next wave of Mixed Martial Artists is going to do some amazing things. Keep in mind that the sport is still relatively young.

Do you feel like competition from other promotions such as Affliction and Dream makes the UFC a better organization or is it harder on fighters trying to deal with multiple possibilities?

It’s like the UFC is the best fighter in the gym. Now all the other fighters in the gym get better by training with him and he has to stay sharp because everyone's gunning for him. Everyone benefits.

On that note, what do you think of the recent establishment of the WAMMA belts? Do you think that the UFC's refusal to participate will fail to give these belts validation?

I am uninformed on this subject so I won't comment.

Who are some fighters, past or present, that you admire?

I like fighters who are true masters of their art. Genki Sudo is king of the entrance, Ramon Dekkers has the best fighting attitude, Fedor could relax in a car crash... those are just a couple off the top of my head but I could probably find a quality in any fighter that makes them great.

What is your normal pre-fight routine?
The usual: stretching, shadowboxing, pummeling, padwork, jiu jitsu moves.

Is there are any particular music you listen to while you're training or preparing for a fight?

I personally think there are only two types of music in the world: good and bad. When I train I listen to anything that won't put me to sleep, including rock, rap, metal, dance, techno, and classics like James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. Lately I've been putting on the dance stations on our satellite radio.

Do you think that the recent Elite XC fights on CBS have done more to hurt or help the sport?

The growing popularity of MMA is a two edged sword. Of course the benefits outweigh the drawbacks; if they didn't, nobody would want to read this and I'd be delivering pizza or something. The thing is that people who have no experience in martial arts are now interested in MMA because its a sport. So you have these armchair quarterbacks who all of a sudden are experts and everyone has radio show or a Youtube page or something and the internet forums are brutal. That would be my only complaint: you gotta be at least a blue belt or something before you start telling me how to fight.

Who do you see as your next fight in the UFC?

I have no idea and I'm not even thinking about anyone else right now. My main focus is getting into the best fighting condition ever and taking care of my family.

You caused quite a stir on the reality show with your unconventional eating habits and general demeanor – did you enjoy your time on the show? Coming out of the show, what do you see as the biggest benefit you received from it?

There were ups and downs during the six weeks of "isolation". We couldn't communicate with any of our family members and it felt like it would never end. But I did get some of the best training of my life and I grew tremendously as a fighter and as a person. I learned a lot from some great coaches.

Would you do something like TUF again?

I've thought about that - if they did something like the Real World All Stars. I don't know, the payday would have to be pretty big to drag me away from my first kid.

What have you thought of subsequent seasons of the show?

I really only kept up with Season 4 and 6 that my coach Matt Serra was on. I'm a fight fan, not a drama fan. I wish these types of shows would focus more on the training and stuff, but I understand how they appeal to a large audience.

We were really pulling for you against Joe Daddy, and it was a very close fight. Do you think the judges reached the right decision?

First off, thank you for your support. I really feel blessed to have the best fans in the game. Yeah it was a close fight, and if we ever get to go at it again I think I'll get him. I can understand why the judges could have given him the decision. Like it or not, takedowns play a big part of the points system because they count towards effective aggression and octagon control. He had me in a couple of tight spots in the beginning and it took me little bit to get going.

Do you still keep in touch with any of the guys from TUF?

Once in a while I guess. Y'know I don't even talk to most of the people that I did a couple of years ago, like friends outside of martial arts and stuff. These days I have a pretty small circle: my family, my training family, my clients, and the folks on my website (forum.lukecummo.com).

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