2/03/2007 5:58pm, #1
Call me Stitch. Veteran cutman helps fighters keep fighting in boxing and MMA
Call me Stitch. Veteran cutman helps fighters keep fighting in boxing and MMA
Sat Feb 3, 2:45 PM
By Neil Davidson
LAS VEGAS (CP) - If you're a boxer or mixed martial arts fighter and you're bleeding, Jacob Duran is the man you want in your corner.
Known simply as Stitch throughout the sport, the 55-year-old Duran is an elite cutman. His job is to help look after the safety of fighters while allowing them to do what they do best.
"It's an odd trade, it's a great trade," Duran told The Canadian Press in an interview prior to Saturday night's UFC 67: All or Nothing card at the Mandalay Bay. "I think I've the best job in the world."
In the boxing world, Duran has worked with the Klitschko brothers, Fernando Vargas, Diego Corrales, Johnny Tapia and Mike McCallum, among others. He even appeared in the latest Rocky movie as cutman to the fighter played by Antonio Tarver.
And he is omnipresent at UFC fights.
"He's is one of the pre-eminent cutmen in the world," said UFC vice-president Marc Ratner, former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. "He's worked with numerous champions in MMA as well as professional boxing.
"He's sought after and doesn't panic between rounds or in the Octagon."
It's a pressure-filled job. There can be millions at stake and cutmen like Duran have limited time to tend to their fighters. Once the bell goes, Duran reckons a good cutman only has 50 to 55 seconds to make a difference.
In a sport full of characters, Duran fits in nicely. He has a ready smile, a smooth way and there's a hint of Errol Flynn in his looks. Walking through a room full of fighters takes time for Duran, who is stopped at every turn.
Duran works for individual boxers but his responsibilities are slightly different in the UFC, which hires him to be official cutman to an event.
He and Leon Tabbs, who was the lone cutman back at UFC 2, are assigned different corners the night of a fight card and provide services as needed throughout the evening. Along with two others, they also wrap the fighters' hands before bouts.
Duran came on board as second cutman when the UFC when Zuffa purchased the company in 2001 and also works on The Ultimate Fighter reality TV shows.
His MMA resume includes Pride Fighting Championships, where he works the corner of American heavyweight Josh Barnett and has helped educate the organization on the best ways to wrap fighters' hands.
Duran may have some favourite fighters but he is neutral. Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic has handed Barnett three of his five losses but that didn't stop Duran from wrapping the Croatian's hands prior to his UFC debut Saturday - or giving him tips on what wrap to use.
Duran did 63 events last year, including three trips to Japan plus visits to England, France, Germany and other locales. Next month, he's headed to Germany to help Wladimir Klitschko defend his heavyweight boxing title. He reckons he has 27 events booked the first three months of the year.
Working MMA can make a busy night for Duran given that elbows and knees can open huge cuts. In 2003, Vitor Belfort left Marvin (Beastman) Eastman with a gash above his right eye that looked like the Suez Canal. And in 2005, Gideon Ray's head looked like someone had had a go at it with a can-opener during his bout with Canadian David Loiseau.
MMA cuts can also come in different locations than boxing: the top of the head, for example. Plus MMA fighters can suffer multiple cuts, compared to boxing.
Elbows and knees will cut anyone, but Duran says some fighters are more prone to opening up than others.
Duran says he can get a pretty good idea of whether a fighter will cut when he puts Vaseline on his face and feels his bone structure. Protruding cheekbones and eyebrows are clues that the fighter may cut. UFC light-heavyweight Rashad Evans, in contrast, has a smooth bone structure and so probably won't cut much.
In the UFC, Duran normally doesn't come into the cage unless a fighter is bleeding. But Tito Ortiz, for one, likes him on the inside between every round, figuring Duran can do preventative work including icing his face to limit swelling.
"It's smart on his part," Duran said.
During the fight, Duran says he doesn't watch to see who's winning, just how his fighter's face is holding up.
Cutmen like Duran have several authorized ways to control cuts. The main one is adrenalin chloride, administered on the cut via a swab. It serves as a constrictor, closing up the blood vessels.
Other tools are Avitene and Thromblin, which are coagulants. Duran may only use those for cuts to the top of the head, since one punch and the substance can be wiped off.
"Vaseline comes in handy," Duran added.
Working with the ring doctors, "our point is to give the fighter every possibility to win a fight without creating any damage or any injury," says Duran.
Sometimes that means letting the blood flow, if no serious injury is involved. On Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter, that happened when a cut on the top of Edwin Dewees' head bled like a faucet but the ring physician, a trauma doctor, allowed the fight to continue.
"I thought I did a fairly good job in cleaning it up and getting him covered up until he started rubbing his head on the canvas," Duran said.
Duran is a student of his sport, even producing a documentary called "A Boxer's Nightmare," on the trials and tribulations of a fighter. He made the film, intended to help boxers avoid mistakes, on his own and is looking for someone to help distribute it.
He says his research showed the differences between boxing and MMA.
Many boxers had less than a high school diploma, a lot were minorities and many were below the poverty line. MMA is often the opposite: fighters with college degrees and many with sponsorships.
His next project is a film called "Cuts. Cornermen and Confidence," showing others how to be a cutman.
The world of cutmen is small and one that has been quite secretive in the past, according to Duran. He says many old-timers refused to share their techniques with him. Duran shakes is head at that, reasoning that fighters may suffer if such knowledge is not shared.
Because of his vast experience, Duran has a unique insight to fighters. That's because the act of wrapping hands before a bout often triggers the realization that they are about to step into the ring and fight.
"If I bring an ounce of confidence to the fighter when I put those wraps on . . . I feel real good, because I now I've brought something to the table to help him perform at a maximum capacity," he said.
Different men react in different ways before a fight.
"I've had fighters cry, I've had fighters laugh, fighters give me a big hug and they give me a kiss . . . I get to get right into their hearts. And that's something not many people can say."
Duran stresses he is no doctor. He doesn't ever actually stitch anyone, he notes.
"I leave that to the professionals. I know my limits. I'm good at what I do and when it's time to take it to the next phase, I'll let somebody else do it."
But fighters rely on him. When Rich Franklin took a beating in losing his title to Anderson Silva last October, the Franklin camp summoned Duran from his home at 1:30 in the morning to help patch him up.
Duran said that was friendship, not business.
"You're so close with these guys . . . you want to make sure they're OK."
Duran grew up a farm worker in small California town of 1,500. His journey to cutman started in 1974 while stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. After seeing kickboxing live, he got hooked and started studying Muay Thai.
When he returned to the U.S., he started his own school. "I had to learn to be a cutman because of the elbows and the knees and all that," he said.
"Even though I loved training, I just found being a cutman was exceptional because it's a one-on-one thing. . . . You can make a difference in a fight."
Duran, who is married with four kids, got his nickname Stitch early on while training kickboxers,. A fighter got cut and Duran, although he knew nothing about cuts at the time, took a common-sense approach of applying direct pressure and then slapped on a sterile strip, remembering he had seen others do it.
"The guy said 'Oh man, you saved me some stitches, Stitch,"'
The name stuck and Duran is known simply as Stitch. Everywhere but home, where wife Charlotte "calls me everything but that."
He credits his wife and family for allowing him to follow his dream. After consulting them, he eventually closed his school in Fairfield, Calif., and moved to Las Vegas 11 years ago to pursue being a cutman. He was working in sales for tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds at the time and got a job transfer, although it involved taking a pay cut of US$25,000 - and pulling up stakes and moving in two weeks.
He quit the day job three years ago to be a cutman full time.
Cutmen have to be licensed but It appears just about anybody can join him.
"Just get a towel, 50 bucks and ask me a couple of questions and you're in the game," Duran said with a chuckle.
Long article. Didn't know that, I thought he was hired for specific to fighters but in the UFC is different.Surfing Facebook at work? Spread the good word by adding us on Facebook today! https://www.facebook.com/Bullshido
2/04/2007 9:28am, #2Originally Posted by PizDoff
2/05/2007 3:50pm, #3
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Nice find. I didn't know about his unusual UFC contract either. I just figured that he's always there because every fighter wants the best cut man, especially against a guy who loves elbows.
2/05/2007 4:06pm, #4
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