Stitch Duran: Stepping Out Of The Corner and Into The Spotlight
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gifI had always been reluctant to join Twitter. Thoughts of annoying young girls messaging how they are dying to know what toothpaste Justin Bieber had used that day and crying over updates from " Edward " announcing he was eating vanilla ice-cream were conjured up in my mind. No thanks.
Finally, I relented. Dana White constantly praising the social network and announcing information through this medium finally lured me to the technology age. Although Dana didn't respond to me, I don't blame him—he has over 1,200,000 followers, I did receive messages from other people of great personal interest to me. Legendary Pride commentator, Mauro Ranallo was very gracious to me and so was an enigmatic figure of whom I had been greatly curious for many years.
We can all recall that scene in Rocky 1, when Mick cuts the eye of the gritty, local, challenger in-between rounds. This shocked me as a child. Why would he do that? I relentlessly presented this query to people for many years, always left unsatisfied with their responses. Growing up a boxing fan, I would notice certain stalwarts in the corners working fights: Angelo Dundee ( Ali's guy ), Cassius Green - the dude in the admiral's sailor hat-, and Al Gavin ). This struck me as curious: what do they do exactly? Why are some so highly exalted? What are their instruments and how do they work?
Well, fortunately for me, someone else answered my silly Twitter messages: cutman Jacob " Stitch " Duran. ( This is his Twitter account: http://twitter.com/#!/StitchDuran ) Anyone who has seen a UFC event knows of whom I speak. Stitch is the one we see applying the vaseline, shoving things up people's noses, squeezing down on their cuts and bruises: keeping fighters in the fight. Duran is often specifically requested to wrap fighters' hands. Here is a clip explaining the correct technique straight from the Stitch's mouth:
He is now probably the most famous cutman in the history of sports. After he so kindly responded to my tweet—that feels so lame using that term—I researched him some more and found him most fascinating. He has his own instructional dvd, a book about his life, is heavily involved in charity, and Tap Out has a Stitch shirt! I sent him a litany of questions and asked if I could do a piece on him and he promptly agreed. One question that I wanted to ask was which fighters wince and whimper the most, but we don't want to get Stitch in trouble! Thanks Stitch for your time and for showing kindness to a random, viral, stranger. You can teach the world about handwrapping and more, but also about being decent and giving, so thanks. Here is the interview:
1) Where did you grow up and how did you get to your position?
1. I grew up as a farmworker in small California town called Planada. I got to
this position by first training in the martial arts while stationed in Thailand
in 1974. I trained boxers and kickboxers in Fairfield, Ca., moved to Las Vegas
in 1995 to be a cutman and running into Dana White at a K-1 event in Las Vegas
he asked me if I wanted to be a cutman in the UFC. I started in UFC #33.
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gif2) What exactly is your role in the corner?
2. As a cutman we are suppose to make sure that the fighter is not at a
disadvantage by having a cut that can have blood running into his eyes, swelling
to a point he can't see and just making sure he is able to continue.
3) Do you have any official medical training?
3. I do not have any medical training, as a matter of fact just because you have
medical training does not make you a good cutman. We have about 50 seconds to
control bleeding or reduce swelling and you can not learn that in medical
school. I had to learn the hard way, by trial and error.
4)How much do you get paid in a night?
4. I get paid different fees for different events. In boxing, I am paid by the
fighter, where in the UFC they hire the cutmen per show.
5) What are some of the fights where your work really made a huge impact on the result? You only have a minute to work on a cut or several cuts. Do you not feel stress and pressure?
5. I have worked many fights that have had a positive impact on the results.
Forrest Griffith vs Shogun is a good example. Recently in Germany working with
Duane Ludwig, he had six cuts and won the fight. An important part of being a good
cutman is keeping your composure. I always try to stay relaxed and when I am not, I
try not to show it to the fighter.
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gif6) You always seem so happy and good natured. Where does that come from?
6. I am always happy and good natured because I love my job and am happy to be in
this position. How many guys get to travel the world and work with the baddest
fighters in the world?
7) Was Freddy Roach wearing one of your shirts on TUF? Explain your clothing line and how people can buy your products?
7. Yeah, Freddie Roach was wearing my bad ass Stitch Signature Shirt on one of
the TUF shows. Tapout is one of my sponsors and they have included me with many
other fighters who have their own signature shirts. You can order one at
TapOut.com. They also sell the corner vest that I wear.
8) Vaseline or petroleum jelly is applied to the face to absorb the impact of blows and works to prevent cuts—is that correct? How much difference does that make?
8. Vaseline in theory is used to reduce the possibilities of getting cut or to
prevent swelling so easily. I don't know how effective it is with it on or
without the vaseline on, but I would like to take my chances fighting with
vaseline on my face opposed to me having a dry face. I am sure it makes a
difference in the long run.
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gif9) How does the enswell work that you use?
9. The KO Swell that I use is kept in ice and applied to any swelling in the
attempt to reduce or eliminate the swelling. You see many cutmen wipe the
swelling with the enswell when in fact the proper way is to apply direct
pressure. Old school cutmen think they can wipe the swelling away where in fact
they move the clot away and it comes back bigger. I have created a new KO Swell
that will eliminate that technique because the metal is curved to conform to the
areas of the face, therefore applying direct cold pressure, needed to reduce
10) Why do you put q-tips up people's noses?
10, Q-tips in fighters' noses are used to apply adrenaline 1-1000 to the nosebleed. Adrenaline is the medication used for most cuts and its purpose is to
close up blood vessels. Once again, cutmen use the q-tip in the nose the wrong
way. You will see many cutmen insert the q-tip and start rotating it inside the
nose. That scan cause more damage. The proper way is to insert it where the
blood vessel is leaking and apply direct pressure.
11) Sometimes you seem very animated and sincerely pleased when the fighter you are cornering wins. Is there a special bond just from being in their corner or do you have deeper relationships with some of the fighters? Are you able to be friends outside of the octagon or ring? Woiuld they ever be angry if you worked a corner against them and helped their opponent beat them?
11. I am always happy to see a fighter win, especially if I know I had
something to do with his victory. Many times I do have a bond with a fighter
based on past fights where I have wrapped his hands or even worked a cut. A bond
is permanently sealed at that point. In the UFC, I have worked with a
fighter before and have been in his opponent's corner the next fight. It happens
all the time and they understand that it is not personal, just the luck of the
12) What was the best fight you ever saw?
12. I have seen many great fights both in boxing and MMA. I have to say the one
in MMA that stands out the most is Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva. What a
fight! I am in Chuck's corner and I can hear every punch being thrown. Both
fighters gave everything they had.
13) How do you know which fighter you will corner? Can a fighter choose you?
13. Working a UFC event, I do not know who I will be working with until the
weigh-ins. I am always in the red corner and when the fighters weigh in the
second fighter to come out is usually in the red corner. I have been asked to
work a fighter's corner specifically, but I try to stay neutral and let the UFC decide who is in the red and who is in the blue corners.
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gif14) Do you not sometimes wrap hands for both of the fighters in a fight? Isn't that strange or a conflict of interest?
14. I often wrap both fighter's hands whom are fighting each other. It is not a
conflict of interest because we as cutmen always give the fighters 100% of our
effort and they understand that. Many fighters feel comfortable with me wrapping
their hands and I am glad to help them.
15) What is the secret to be a good hand wrapper? Can you please tell people about your dvd?
15. Their is no secret to a good hand wrap. The bottom line is to protect the
fighter's hands and make them comfortable. I used to practice on myself to get
the exact wrap that felt good and protected my hands. I did produce a video
called, "Giving The Fighter One More Round" which shows trainers, fighters, and
fans how to properly wrap hands. The video is available at Titleboxing.com.
16) What can you tell people about your book?
16. I am proud about the book that Zac Robinson wrote about my life and
experiences in the ring and octagon. I have tons of stories from behind the
scenes with many of the greatest fighters in the world. What you see on TV is
nothing what I see behind the scenes. These guys are true gladiators and
everyone has a heart. I talk about those moments in the book. Growing up as a
farmworker and following my dreams is also a part of the book that I am proud
of. Dreams do come true and I am proof that if you work hard and stick to your
goals, it can happen.
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gif17) How can someone today learn to be a cutman?
17. Every week I get a request on how to be a cutman. The first thing I tell
people is to spend time in the gyms working with fighters and trainers. They
have to respect you before you can be part of their team. Learn to wrap hands by
practicing on yourself and others. Most important thing I tell people: if you do it
for the money, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Very few cutmen can make
a living in doing what we do. There has to be a love and passion for this job.
The rewards of knowing you helped a fighter win his fight are amazing.
18) What would you do if you weren't a cutman?
18. If I wasn't a cutman, I would be a trainer. Before I was a full time cutman
I trained boxers and kickboxers. I even promoted kickboxing shows.
19) You have been involved in projects with the military and charities—can you speak to that?
19. I love working with the military and have also donated items to different charities. I will be in Germany the week of Dec 11 working with World Heavyweight Champion Wladamir Klitschko. I will spend three days visiting the troops in Ramstein. I will be speaking to soldiers at the Wounded Soldiers Project as well as the USO. I have so much respect for the military people, who like many fighters, sacrifice everything. I will also be working the UFC show at Ft. Hood on Jan 22nd.
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gif20) How does the travel and lifestyle of being in the fight game affect your personal life?
20. One of the great things about my job is that I get to travel. I have seen
much more than I could have ever imagined growing up as a kid with a dream in
Planada. It seems that I travel just about every week for either a boxing show
or MMA show. I try to spend as much time with my family, being that I am gone so
much. Monday through Thursday I am usually home if the fights are stateside. I
will leave on Friday morning and return on Sunday. If I go to another country I
will try to leave as late as Thursday to arrive on Friday and work the show on
Saturday, then come home on Sunday. My wife Charlotte and my children understand
that this is my job and they support me 100%. I am living the dream.
End of Interview.
In conclusion, I wish him the best. It would be nice to see those directly involved in the sport benefit financially. It is not only bookies from Cleveland and wealthy casino owners that deserve the spoils.
His dvd is called "Giving the Fighter One More Round". The website includes information on the dvd and a similar interview: http://www.givingthefighteronemoreround.com/press.php
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gifHis shirt can be ordered through this website:
His book is called From the Fields to the Garden: The Life of Stitch Duran by Zac Robinson sold on
These are excerpts from his book that I took from his website http://www.stitchduran.com/ :
Excerpt on Matt Serra
I was cageside at UFC 69 in Houston and Burt Watson came up to me. “Serra wants you to wrap his hands,” he said.
“Burt, I’m working this fight. I can’t,” I said.
A lot of times I’ll go back and forth, but when I’m already in the middle of working a fight I think it is best that I stay with it. Burt could appreciate that, but Matt could not.
A few minutes later Burt was back by my side. “Look, Serra says he wants you to wrap his hands. He’s not gonna come out until you wrap his hands!”
I had a flashback to the time when I wrapped Ray Lovato’s hands and Trinidad wouldn’t come out because of the tape. This was definitely different circumstances though. “Alright,” I said, “but who is gonna take my place?”
http://www.thewrestlingtalk.com/images/pixel.gifAbout that time Don House came hustling up the cage so I headed back to wrap Matt so we could have a welterweight title fight. He saw me and thrust his hands in the air with his palms up. “Stitch, come on man. You know you’re like my good luck charm. I depend on you!"
Excerpt on Mike Tyson
They saw me enter the room and turned my way. I didn’t know what the hell was going on so the thought occurred that they might pull their weapons on me, but they seemed too relaxed for that. They did give me a hard look and one of them said, “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I’m looking for Mike. Is everything okay?” I said.
The other officer gestured to the extravagant and near empty room. “Sorry, Mike doesn’t live here anymore.”
“Doesn’t live here anymore, what do you mean?”
“House is no longer owned by him. The state has taken control of it.”
The words were hard to process. Mike was having financial troubles, but here I was standing in what was his house maybe twelve, or six, or two hours ago. I didn’t know how long ago, but knew that this place had been the epitome of extravagance, I mean it used to have a freaking Bengal Tiger in it, and now it was Mike’s no more. I was sure he was once again at a low point in his rollercoaster of a life.