Welcome to Ashley's World
Her world is not your world.
Safe. In front of a computer screen.
She's out there.
Face-to-face with the freaks and felons. The armed and dangerous. The trained and talented.
24-years old. Professional mixed martial artist. St. Louis cop.
Her world is most certainly not your world.
Though just one fight into her professional mixed martial arts career, Ashley Cummins is one of the most talked about and skilled fighters in all of St. Louis.
"Smashley" put together a stellar undefeated amateur career that landed her atop the world rankings in the 115-pound division. In her pro debut in November she won the XFL 115-pound belt and her performance had MMA legend and commentator Bas Rutten reaching for the 'Tweet' button to let the fight world now about her tenacity.
Cummins has also put the finishing touches on her first year patrolling the streets. After finishing with a criminal justice degree from UMSL and then one year at the police academy, Cummins was hired as an officer for the St. Louis County police department.
"I wake up every day with a smile on my face," Cummins said. " I have two careers that I love.
"I love seeing crazy shit every day at work and dealing with craziness. It's fun. I always tell my dad, normal careers don't see the stuff I see and deal with."
As one could imagine, her father, Michael Cummins, has some restless evenings as he watches both careers take flight.
"I'm not sure this is the sport I would have chosen for my daughter but she was always a good athlete and could play any sport," Michael said. "The police officer job concerns me. I always try to talk to her after her shift is up. If it's 35 or 45 minutes and I haven't heard from her I start to get nervous. I'll get used to it, maybe, in three or four more years."
The anxiety levels ratchet up even more on fight week.
"That week I'm very nervous," Michael said. "That day, I feel like I'm going nuts and then when the fights actually start it's really tough to take. I pace like crazy, I talk to myself and then she does well.
"She is so well prepared I don't worry about her as much. I have seen her do well and dominate fights. Just as long as she does the butt whipping, it's ok. I want her to dominate so she won't get hurt."
Back on the beat, at a shade over 5-feet tall, Cummins doesn't come across as an imposing obstacle for a foolish crook trying to make a break for it.
"I've had a couple of guys run from me. They probably look at me and think, 'What's this girl half my size going to do?'" Cummins said. "One guy I had to put in a rear naked choke because he was resisting arrest. Once I started squeezing, he stopped resisting. I'm glad I didn't have to make him pass out."
Cumins has always had the goal to be a professional fighter and her second goal was to hold a title. With those things accomplished, her goal is to be ranked top ten in the world.
A bigger roadblock than any opponent she has faced is finding opponents for Cummins. She is scheduled to be apart of Fight Me MMA's card on Jan. 13 but an opponent is yet to be determined.
Cummins would love to travel the globe for fights. Go anywhere, anytime to lock up with the best there is. But as of right now, that is hardly an option.
"In my weight class there aren't many fighters," she said. "A huge issue is that a lot of the pro promotions aren't willing to pay for travel. So that narrows it down. For me, in the midwest, there aren't many 115-pounders around. If (promotions) were just willing to pay for a plane ticket I could easily get an opponent. Girls have issue where they talk a lot of smack and then they get offered the fight and then it's all, "'it's not for enough money.' It's hard to get an opponent."
Even with the huge boon in interest in the sport, women's mma is not everyone's cup of tea and Cummins doesn't see that changing any time soon.
"If it ever gets big, it's not going to happen any time soon," she said. "If Dana White was willing to have one female fight per card it would help but he's not. It may have gotten a little bit bigger this year but it's still pretty slow."
Cummins has always been athletically gifted. A standout soccer player at Marquette, she parlayed that into a college scholarship. She soon ditched the pitch and started training at Vaghi and has eventually set up shop at St. Charles MMA, home of the area's top team of fighters.
Her path to stepping into the cage for the first time was paced and deliberate.
"My coach, Rodrigo Vaghi, always said if you want to fight mma you should have several Muay Tai fights and several jiu-jitsu tournaments before I let you have your best mma fight," Cummins said. "I think that is the best way to go. There are so many females who train for four months and then have their first mma fight. I trained for 2 ½ years before my first one with a bunch of Muay Tai and jiu-jitsu tournaments under my belt. I definitely went in with a lot of experience and I think that is why I was so successful as an amateur."
That long arduous climb into the sport made her the fighter that she is today. Her coach, St. Charles MMA's Mike Rogers echoes that sentiment.
"There is no such thing as magic," Rogers said. "You don't just snap your fingers and be ranked No. 1 in the world. She put the work and time in. And now she gets aggravated when she's not fighting. I have to stay on my toes about getting her a fight but there are not a ton of opportunities out there."
The past year was marked with highlights.
This summer, Cummins trained with Team USA in the MMA International Tournament in the Ukraine.
In November, when the opportunity to open her pro fight career against Texan Chelsea Colarelli for the Xtreme Fight League Strap, she jumped all over it. The fight went into the fifth round before Cummins sank in a rear naked choke and started her career with a title.
"She's just a natural," Michael Cummins said. "She likes it and is really good at it."
Ameristar Casino, Kansas City, MO
Fight Hard MMA | Sat, March 9th
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO
Shamrock FC: 316 | Fri, March 15th
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO
Shamrock FC: 317 | Sat, April 6th
Ameristar Casino, Kasnas City, MO