Following a three-year layoff, former King of the Cage flyweight champion Abel Cullum returned to MMA this past September and won his first fight since 2010.
For Cullum, the road back wasn’t always an easy one, but it was a journey he felt was best started sooner than later.
“I’m 27 years old, and I’m getting old in my opinion for the sport,” Cullum told MMAweekly.com. “I talk to a lot of guys in their 30’s or 40’s who talk about what if the sport had been around at my age for them, and I don’t want to be an ‘if’ guy, I want to be a ‘when’ guy.
“I want to be able to say ‘when I was fighter.’ I don’t want the sport to pass me by, so I guess my age is why I decided now was the time.”
Cullum was also waiting for the right opportunity, which came courtesy of RFA, who signed him to face Ulysses Gomez at its Sept. 12 event.
“I’d been training in my off time and it definitely upped my intensity just having a fight scheduled because it’d been so long,” said Cullum. “I was even more excited fighting for RFA on TV again.
“The camp went great, and then fight night came about and everything felt so right. Everything was flowing really well and I felt like I hadn’t skipped a bet. After three and a half years off it felt like it was a non-factor and I felt at home again.”
Cullum managed to submit Gomez with a guillotine choke just less than 90 seconds into the bout. The win earned Cullum (19-6) a call to replace an injured Jeff Curran against up-and-comer Carl Deaton III at RFA 19 on Oct. 10 in Prior Lake, Minn.
“Any time a fighter realizes that he needs to change to adapt to the sport – and not only realizes it, but does it by moving to a different camp – makes him very dangerous,” said Cullum of Deaton.
“All I hear is my corner and the referee once the gate closes, so I think my cage time and experience will be a benefit for me. I’m hoping his experience allows him to deal with the pressure of returning to his home state on the biggest stage of his career against one of the best fighters he’s fought, in my opinion.”
As he makes his return to fighting as a different man both inside and outside the cage, Cullum is hoping his second chance in MMA will yield the kind of challenges that will make his return worthwhile.
“At the end of the day I want to fight the best at their best,” said Cullum. “I want to know that I’m good enough to beat them on their best day.
“I hope Carl’s training camp is going great and he’s really focused and is ready for this fight. I hope it’s a good fight because I want to show the world my skills and show them that I can compete at the top level of this sport.”