Before Darren Till was paired up against Kelvin Gastelum for his middleweight debut, Zak Cummings wanted to be the one to welcome the Liverpool native to his new division.
Cummings, who meets Omari Akhmedov at UFC 242 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, said he believes Till should be fighting an opponent ranked lower than Gastelum in his 185-pound debut, which takes place Nov. 2 at UFC 244 in New York City.
“It would’ve been an interesting matchup,” Cummings told Bloody Elbow. “I’ve always wanted that matchup. I wanted it at welterweight as well. I think it’s a hell of a fight for the fans. He was a big welterweight, I was a big welterweight. He’s got a lot of power, I have a lot of power. He’s got a lot of hype behind his name. I think it would’ve been a fun fight to watch.”
For Cummings, Till fits the bill as one of those opponents whom he’d want to fight regardless of his ranking—a list that includes fighters like Robbie Lawler and Mike Perry. It just so happens that Till had a number next to his name in the 170-pound standings, too.
But with Till set to meet Gastelum in November, Cummings is focused on his own fight at UFC 242 and plans to “keep looking around” afterward should he win on Saturday. Cummings made it clear, however, that he wants and deserves a top 15 opponent if he beats Akhmedov.
There is a chance the Till fight may make sense down the road, Cummings added, but he admitted it probably won’t be directly after Till’s fight with Gastelum.
“If [Till] somehow gets past Kelvin, which I don’t really see happening, he’s going to be super high ranked, and I’m not going to be able to reach that level quite yet,” Cummings said. “I’m gonna have to have a fight or two to get to there. If he loses, maybe. But, I don’t really know if I like fighting people off losses. It’s whatever. We’ll see how it goes.”
Cummings said he was surprised – but not surprised at the same time – by the Till vs. Gastelum fight. When Till first announced he was moving up to the middleweight division, Cummings expected him to fight “someone like me who they would try to build his name off of.”
Although it’s a fun matchup on paper, some fans shook their heads at the Till vs. Gastelum booking. To some, it seems like a bigger step up than necessary for Till, who is on a two-fight skid. UFC president Dana White explained last week that Till was the one who wanted the Gastelum fight to happen, so the promotion obliged.
“Kelvin is pretty high up there, and was targeting to fight Jacare, so I wasn’t even really thinking about it,” Cummings said. “It did surprise me. But, he’s got that star power. He’s had some main events, and he’s fought some high-level guys at 170. I think he has the name and star power to sell the fight and make it sound good. Technically, I don’t know if he can really give Kelvin a good push or not, but we’ll find out.”
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