Joe Cummins, with his team and the belt. Picture: Anton Geyser/EFC Worldwide

BORN AND RAISED in Hartstown but now based in Birmingham, the freshly crowned EFC Lightweight MMA Champion Joe Cummins credits his early days as formative in his MMA career.

Cummins defeated Martin Van Staden by decision in Johannesburg to claim the previously vacant belt in only his seventh fight, defeating the experienced Van Staden dressed in Irish colours. Having been raised around the Blanchardstown area, Cummins has a large local following, and told Dublin Gazette of his early days.

“Growing up in Dublin was something that made me the man I am today,” he remembers. “We used to go to a club on Friday night called the Verona where I got my taste for how the years to come were going to be tough which made me realise quick I needed to learn to defend myself. Boxing was the beginning.

“I believe the tough upbringing being only black kid in a secondary school and the boys being proper lads made me the tough man I am today, from playing hurling and Gaelic football to riding horses to school. Dublin is where I was made into a man.”

For a long time, Cummins was primarily an MMA coach, but had a change of heart a few years ago and decided to fight himself.

“Rising to the challenge of fighting for a world title like any MMA fighter has always been a dream,” he said “After 11 years of mainly coaching others I decided to to take my own career a bit more seriously, which has let become the best lightweight MMA fighter out of South Africa.

“The experience in Johannesburg was amazing. It’s the sixth time I’ve fought in South Africa but never at Time Square before. That was amazing, it’s like the Madison Square Garden of Africa. I’m very grateful for the chance to showcase my skills here.

“At the moment, my title defence will be some time further on in the year. I do not know who it will be against as being the champion everybody will want a shot, but I’m ready to defend against anybody in the world.

“I would love to fight in Dublin so all my family could come and watch, but for now that’s a pipe dream as the organisation is South African based, the future is to keep winning and keep improving.”

“The support I’ve had from my Irish family is always been great,” he concludes. “My mum is one of 16, and her brothers and sisters have had kids and there kids so I have huge family all over Dublin, Finglas Blanchardstown, Ballymun, Rush, all over the place. I’ll be returning home with the belt in May.”