When Ashley Cummins gets home from a long day of mixed martial arts (MMA) training in St. Louis, Missouri, her day is just beginning.
That's because "Smashley" also splits her time working the graveyard shift full-time for the St. Louis area police force. When she's not smashing noses in the gym, she's taking a bite out of crime.
A former stand-out soccer player, Cummins' natural athletic ability and aggression has translated beautifully to mixed martial arts. After an impressive 8-0 amateur career, the St. Charles MMA-trained fighter has now gone 2-0 as a pro, recently defeating Stephanie Frausto this past January, the younger sister of Bellator champion Zoila Gurgel.
Cummins will be competing this Saturday night (April 28, 2012) in the second bout of the inaugural Invicta Fighting Championships event against former Fatal Femmes Fighting standout Sofia Bagherdai.
She spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission this past Sunday night about fighting on an all-female event, crazy stories from the police force and how her male teammates constantly tease her in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much does it mean to you to be fighting on this first Invicta show because it's such a big deal for female fighters?
Ashley Cummins: It's such a huge honor to be asked onto the show. This is such an amazing opportunity and I went into my training camp knowing this and that's what fueled myself these past eight weeks. All of us females, we need to take advantage of this and show the world what we're capable of and what female MMA is all about.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're the second fight of the night. Do you feel any pressure to really put on a highlight reel performance to get people amped up for the rest of the show?
Ashley Cummins: Definitely. I've heard from a lot of people, everyone looking forward to my fight against Sofia [Bagherdai]. Everyone's looking forward to our fight and we're the second fight on the entire card. I think it's a good way to get the fight card started and get everyone pumped up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to get a little bit of background info on you so everyone can learn a little more about you. You're a police officer and a mixed martial artist. That's gotta be a crazy thing to balance.
Ashley Cummins: Yeah, it's hard at times but I'm pretty lucky that I'm actually able to balance my law enforcement career and my fighting career pretty well. It's been fun that my two passions in life, I get to do both.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I thought it was hilarious reading your blog over on MMA Rising, you were talking about how it's good cardio during your job because you have to chase down criminals with that weight belt on.
Ashley Cummins: (Laughs) With those blogs, I wanted people to know more about me but in a humorous way. A lot of that was kind of truth in humor. People run from me on the job and I'm just thinking, "Hey, it's extra training now. I get some extra cardio today."
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You talked about working the graveyard shifts so you have to deal with a lot of disorderly people. Are there any standout stories of having to deal with some crazy drunk person or something where maybe they didn't realize what they were in for with you?
Ashley Cummins: The craziest story I can think of, we got a call for a violent OBS. There was this guy, he was schizo and bipolar and he was off his meds and we got the call saying he took a knife and tried to slit his mom's throat and then he had slit his wrists and ran into the woods carrying this butcher knife. We got there and there was blood all over the kitchen. The mom was okay, the blood was from his wrists he had cut and we went to the backyard and it was thick woods and we couldn't see and it was like two in the morning and he's got a knife on him. We knew if we go in there, he could attack us because we couldn't see him.
So we had to get a helicopter flying over shining a light down. We got a K-9 dog. Once the K-9 dog got there, we went into the woods to find him and we finally found him, he pretty much wouldn't surrender. He wouldn't put his hands up. We didn't know where the knife was. I was gonna tase him but the commanding officer was like, "No, no. Put your taser away and just jump on him!" I'm like, "Damn...okay!" so I just pretty much jumped on him, attacked him and luckily the knife was still in his back pocket so he couldn't pull it out. He ended up being okay after that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Oh my. You seem to have the perfect side job then to help out your law enforcement career.
Ashley Cummins: Yeah, it keeps me in shape and it definitely helps in self defense. If I ever get attacked, I feel like I'd be able to defend myself better than the average female officer so it definitely helps.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to get into your mixed martial arts career too. They call you "Smashley" for a reason. You take people down and you beat on 'em. Can you talk a little bit about your fighting style, what fans can expect when they see you in the cage? I think the Invicta show's gonna be streamed for free so they'll get to see you on Saturday.
Ashley Cummins: A lot of fighters specialize in something. They specialize in muay thai or they were a college wrestler or they're really good at Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I don't think I specialize in anything. I consider myself a well-rounded fighter. I'm good at everything, I'm not amazing at one thing. That's my goal when I go into training camps. I don't focus on one thing like, "Oh, I'm gonna be a stand-up fighter. I'm gonna be a jiu-jitsu specialist." I try to be well-balanced in every aspect of mixed martial arts. I think I'm a very aggressive fighter. I'm the kind of person where if I go in there, you can break every bone in my face. It's not going to slow me down. I'll keep coming after you. That's kind of my mentality. The fans can expect me to always be aggressive. I'm willing to stand. I'm willing to go to the ground. I'm comfortable anywhere.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you tell me a bit about your upcoming opponent? Sofia Bagherdai, she was the face of the Fatal Femmes Fighting promotion. She's 4-1 and has faced some really tough opposition like Michelle Ould and Carina Damm. This has to be the toughest test of your career, right?
Ashley Cummins: Yeah, I definitely think this is gonna be the toughest opponent I've ever been up against. I'm ready for the challenge. I've never worked this hard for any of my fights in the past. I honestly don't know a lot about Sofia but I do know she's definitely going to be the most skilled opponent I've ever been up against and I'm ready for the challenge and to show everyone what I'm capable of.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What would a victory on this high stage mean to you?
Ashley Cummins: Oh, amazing. That's what I'm after. I'm expecting my hand to be raised at the end of the fight and i'm not gonna stop until that happens. I think winning winning on this card for any of the female fights is going to open up so many opportunities for us. A win is definitely necessary to open up these better opportunities in the future, hopefully get a contract with Invicta because that would be awesome.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What was it that drew you into MMA? Were you doing some other Brazilian jiu-jitsu thing and wanted to transition or was it something else?
Ashley Cummins: Actually, growing up I was more of a soccer player. I grew up playing soccer my whole life. I actually did taekwando growing up but the only thing I liked was the sparring. All I wanted to do was fight. In high school, I wanted to do kickboxing but my parents were like, "No, just stick with soccer and stick with taekwando," so I did. But with soccer, I'd get kicked out of almost every single game because I'd get into a fight. It got to a point where they almost kicked me out of the league because I got into too many fights on the field. I knew I just wanted to fight. Finally, my freshman year of college, I was like, "My parents can't stop me anymore," so I started training at a local MMA gym and I fell in love with it to the point where I gave up my college soccer scholarship after my sophomore year just to fully focus on MMA>
Ben Thapa: With your job, I've spoken to many police officers and they've said it's lots of boredom followed by intense moments and quick decision making. I'm wondering does that ability to wait, wait, wait and then explode in your mind transfer over to MMA?
Ashley Cummins: I definitely agree with you how you're saying being a police officer, you've got to make decisions in a split second because someone could be calm and the next second, someone could be going nuts on you and they're gonna attack you. You've got to decide, "What am I going to do in this situation? Do I go hands on? Do I pull out my taser? Do I trip 'em?" There are so many options and it's the same thing with MMA. Most of us go in with gameplans and knowing what we want to do but we all know it's a fight. You're going to get in situations that you didn't expect to get in and you have to think quickly on what to do next. I definitely feel that being a police officer, there are things that transfer over to MMA and vice versa.
Ben Thapa: How do you train specifically for a woman, having to fight a woman when there's a shortage of training partners and sparring partners, which is a big problem for women these days?
Ashley Cummins: To be honest, I'm the only female mixed martial arts fighter at my gym so I only train with me. There's a couple smaller guys that fight at 125 and 135 at my gym so I usually pair up with them. I've been doing that for five years so I don't mind it. I look at it like, I spar with guys every day so when I get in the cage with a female, I'm like, "This is it?" because I'm used to go up against someone that's quicker, stronger, faster because naturally, that's just what guys are. It almost makes the fights easier for me because I'm used to these guys killing me every day.
Ben Thapa: Back in the beginning of your career, you took two fights in two weeks in 2009. What in the world possessed you to take fights so fast?
Ashley Cummins: My first two amateur fights? To be honest, I trained in mixed martial arts for two and a half years before I took my first MMA fight. Within those first two and a half years, I had like eight muay thai fights and I competed in probably 10 different jiu-jitsu tournaments so I went into my first MMA fight with a lot of experience. I won my first every MMA fight by armbar in the first round and after my fight, my coach was like, "You got offered another fight in two weeks. Do you want to do it?" and I was like, "Sure." I didn't have any injuries, I was in great shape and I took the second fight two weeks later and I won that as well.
Gerry Rodriguez: How do the other cops in the police department feel about you fighting?
Ashley Cummins: They think it's cool. I'm the kind of person where I don't go around talking, "I'm a fighter," and brag about it. I don't like talking about it really so I only really talk about it if someone brings it up with me. The guys will come up to me and be like, "Oh, how's your training going? When's your next fight? Where can I watch it?" The other officers are definitely supportive. My one sergeant definitely teases me. He'll come in and start play boxing with me and he'll be like, "You gotta watch my right hook!" and I'll come into the station all the time with black eyes so they all think I'm crazy. They're definitely all supportive. They give me the days off I need so I can get to my fight so I'm very lucky.
Gerry Rodriguez: What women in MMA do you look up to?
Ashley Cummins: My personal favorite female fighter is Shayna Baszler. I think she's just amazing. Her jiu-jitsu and wrestling is just out of this world. I think she can beat up all the guys. She's definitely my favorite. I look up to her a lot and I've met her a few times. She's always been super nice and she's showed me a couple things.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Reading your blog, you've talked about how some of the guys kind of pick on you. Now what are some of the kinds of things they do with you? I've got to hear something.
Ashley Cummins: Oh my god, everything. Four years ago on Halloween, I lost a bet and I had to wear this really slutty costume which isn't my style at all and one of them took a picture and they took that picture and blew it up into this life-size poster and it's like hanging in our gym. That's just an example. That's so embarrassing.
I also have a fan page on Facebook. I didn't make it at all, my teammates did. It actually started out as they made that originally as a way to make fun of me. Like if you go on my fan page and look at it at the beginning, all you see is Chuck Norris jokes comparing me to Chuck Norris. They're posting pictures where they edited me and put my head on someone else's body. Eventually they realized as I kept winning and winning, they realized the fan page was turning into a real fan page so they couldn't make fun of me anymore on it so they kind of stopped. They're always doing something to me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've talked about how you're really into the animal rescue operations. Can you tell me about that?
Ashley Cummins: Yeah, rescuing animals has always been a huge passion of mine. I've done it my whole life. I would say I've rescued a few couple thousand animals in the 24 years I've been alive. My newest project, I rescued nine feral cats that were living in a dumpster and the people who owned that area said they were going to poison them because they were a nuisance so I trapped them all. People just put feral cats down because they're not adoptable or they spay or neuter them and just let them back off into the wild which I don't agree with. I teamed up with the Shannon foundation in Missouri and we're in the process of building an indoor/outdoor cat shelter specifically for feral cats so they can live out their lives and won't have to be put down. They can live happy lives.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question is, when you close your eyes and you're picturing victory against Sofia Bagherdai this upcoming weekend, what do you see?
Ashley Cummins: I definitely see this fight being a war. I know that she's a tough opponent. She's very skilled. I know that I'm tough and I'm in the best shape of my life. I don't see it going to decision but I see it being a second third round stoppage. I definitely see my hand raised at the end.
Ashley would like to thank all her coaches at St. Charles MMA, Vaghi Martial Arts, all her teammates, her manager Brett from Addison Sports Management. She'd also like to thank her sponsors Tussle Fight Gear, Fight Chix and SplitLip. You can follow her on Twitter @SmashleyMMA.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will this female 5-0 be victorious this weekend? Are you planning on tuning in to the debut of Invicta Fighting Championships?
To listen to the complete audio of our interview with Ashley Cummins, click here (interview begins at 7:00 minute mark)