Tuesday November 17, 2015– The last time I was on the subject of the cutman, I interviewed some of the sports finest men and women. What they taught me is something that I would have never imagined, just how important a cutman is to MMA and the impact they have on not just the fighters but the entire event. After doing a bit more research and a few more interviews, I learned more and more than I ever would have imagined.
Everyone knows that the biggest cutman controversy in the business was with Jacob Stitch Duran, Stitch is the most famous cutman in the business. While working with the UFC for many years, an outburst of opinion found Duran released by the UFC and out of a job. Outside of controversy with being a cutman, I also talked to a cutman who looks at his job from a completely different angle. Mark Laws is a cutman who does it all, from hand wraps, blood work, and all the way down to sending out medical reports. From controversy to a better life, and doing everything possible to do your job to the fullest and helping others around get better.
Jacob Stitch Duran has been around MMA for over 40 years from being a kickboxer and a kick boxing trainer making it all the way to the top of the game. Making his way to the top took more time than you would think, countless minutes, hours, days, and months inside the gym nonstop. Picking brains, wrapping hands, fixing cuts and taking care of bruises anything that needs to be done. When the chance came for Duran to take his talents to the next level, he didn’t hesitate becoming the cutman for the UFC as they made him their head cutman. As everyone knows that you have to love the arts of being a cutman and even more than that you have to love the sport of MMA. When talking to Stitch he reminded me this is not a job that you can just jump in and do, your reputation is everything. Building up your skill is key, but when you put those skills to the test and others notice how good you are that helps you get to the big time like the UFC. When making it to the UFC Stitch quickly gained the trust from all the fighters and he became one the most requested cutman to wrap hands. From gaining the respect from the fighters, fans started to catch on and just like that Duran was a star. At events fans wanted autographs and pictures to being in movies. Stitch Stared in the last Rocky Balboa movie, and is even going to be in the latest movie from the Rocky Series Creed. I asked him what it’s like being a cutman and he said
“I’ve work with the biggest baddest alpha males in the world and after a while it’s just another day”
He went on to tell me that on his last big fight at UFC 189, he felt proud of himself that he was able to keep the Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler in a really bloody fight. Even if you’re the face of all cutman and really popular with the fans it doesn’t save your job. When the UFC partnered up with Reebok to create the UFC fight kit, Stitch spoke out against it. With this deal being done all the UFC fighters and cutman would have to wear Reebok gear, one of the big things in MMA is sponsors, for not just the fighters but also for the cutman.
Sponsors help both ways as the fighters and cutman wear their name and they get paid for it. If you take out the sponsors and just add Reebok, the fighters and cutman started to lose money. Stitch came out publicly against the UFC deal with Reebok saying that it’s not fair to the fighters and cutmen. Soon after his comments came out he was released by the UFC, and if you think that would keep him down your wrong. Duran received nothing but love and respect from fans and fighters from all over the world. After being fired from the UFC, Stitch has worked all over the MMA and Boxing scene as he has worked with WSOF and Bellator. Stitch has even traveled in and out of the country to be a cutman for other fighters. Everyone knows who he is and work comes left and right, but it’s not just that he is popular it all comes back to how good you are at what you do and how good your reputation is. Stitch Duran is the face of cutman, but just like others around the sport he has mastered is craft and now is reaping the benefits from it. As the honorary president of the ICA, Stitch has made it known that he wants to revolutionize the cutman. Stitch has the ability to teach his ways, so that others coming up in the game can have the same opportunities as he did, and maybe even become the next “Stitch Duran.”
From Stitch Duran to another great cutman is Mark Laws. Mark is the first cutman that does it all and when I say all I mean all. Mark is a medical director who does the whole 9 yards, two weeks before the fight he works with fighters to get all of their blood, eye, and physical work done and sending it in to make sure that the fighters are cleared to fight. As my interview with Mark went on we came across the cutman job itself and he stated to me that
“With the Duran debacle the cutman are finally getting noticed”.
In Marks mind he also believes that the cutman are the hardest working men and women in the sport, as hard as they work they don’t get noticed for their hard work. Marks job as a medical director really makes him the core of the event that he works, not just from his pre event work but also by helping the younger upcoming cutman get work at a live event. Nothing gets your more ready for action than a live event. Practice makes perfect but when it comes down to game time that’s when you build your experience and reputation. As Mark went on he began to tell me how he can handle promotions by himself, though he does like to help others come up in the game he believes that with his skills he can handle an event on his own. Mark believes in himself 100% and in my eyes that’s exactly what you need to become the best. Marks hard work has paid off, as he has worked for industries as Titan, and Bellator MMA. Laws worked for Valor fights, and the promotion have 500 fighters on their roster and throughout 22 events he only had one hospital visit. That’s almost 400 MMA bouts and 150 of them being pro bouts. Hard work like that pays off and that’s how we come back to the topic of how hiring the right man to do the job pays off. When you have the right cutman to do the job it not only helps the fighters, but it also saves hospital bills and with less hospital bills that saves the company you’re working for money. Nothing is more bad form for a cutman then using the same tool twice, or even using no gloves on fighters that is bleeding. Recycling Vaseline, and recycling gloves is unsanitary and un professional, when you find a cutman using those techniques you’re more likely to see fighters getting injured and fights being stopped. When I asked Mark what he would want the world to know about being a cutman he preached team, when you’re a part of a team of cutman that are the best at what they do it can bring you nothing but success, to know your skills to make sure the fighters are always protected. Lastly he stated how people don’t know what happens behind the scenes, from behind the shadows to show their hard work and were they came from, and that no matter what do your best, there is no room for failure.
In conclusion, talking to these two men changed my look on cutman even more than it did in my last article on the hardest working men and women in the sport. Talking to a legend such as Stitch Duran and to see where he has come from reaching the top and falling off that top and still landing back on your feet. Just goes to show that hard work pays off, and the love of the sport outweighs everything. What I learned from Mark laws is how when you do everything that needs to be done for a fighter to fight, then you have nothing but 100% belief in yourself, and even if your by yourself there is no doubt that you will get the job done and no one will be injured in the process. My main thoughts here is just how good these two men are at their craft and arguably they are two of the best in the game hands down.
By: Rick San Bartolome
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