Forrest Griffi n’s face was covered with blood, but Jacob “Stitch” Duran didn’t hesitate to start working on a serious cut in the middle of Forrest’s forehead. It was UFC 76; Forrest was in the middle of arguably the biggest fi ght of his career. The cut, courtesy of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s elbow, was threatening Forrest’s vision and possibly the outcome of the fi ght due to a possible doctor’s stoppage. Stitch worked vigorously yet cautiously on the gash. The bleeding subsided and Forrest was sent out for the third and fi nal round, where he went on to fi nish Shogun with a rear naked choke sealing the victory.
The cutman is an extremely important part of any fi ghter’s corner, especially in mixed martial arts. “In MMA, there is nothing like it,” Stitch said, comparing MMA to other combat sports. “You’re dealing with knees, you’re dealing with elbows, with everything for the most part. Cuts are bigger, more jagged, and in multiples,” Stitch explained. “When I work with [boxer] Vladimir Klitschko, I kinda feel like I’m cheating him, because when he gets cut, it’s a single cut and I can almost do that with my eyes closed now,” Stitch said with a chuckle.
Cutmen bring a wide array of supplies to the ring in order to get the job done. That equipment includes an enswell, a small piece of steel with a handle that is kept on ice, to help stop swelling and decrease the blood fl ow in areas around a cut or bruise. Vaseline is used to help prevent cuts to the face, and is applied by the cutman to a fi ghter before he steps into the ring. Adrenalin chloride (also referred to as epinephrine) is used by cutmen to help decrease blood fl ow. Avitene, a white cotton type substance, coagulates the blood.
“When Forrest got cut between his eyes, he had a real nasty zigzag cut. First, I used the adrenaline chloride, which I applied with pressure to constrict the blood vessels. But to coagulate the blood that was still coming out, I plugged it with avitene, and then covered it with a mixture of adrenaline chloride and Vaseline. Low and behold, I gave him another round and he ended up winning the fi ght,” Stitch said. Cotton swabs are used to apply medicines, and cutmen are required to wear latex medical gloves.
With all the materials cutmen carry with them, organization and preparation is key. “I can make it into the ring and start putting pressure on the fi ghter within fi ve or six seconds after the bell rings. You have to be prepared to eliminate as much time as possible. Seconds are very important,” Stitch stressed. “I am getting my medications ready; I am getting the Vaseline ready, the enswell ready just to expect the worst scenario. The guys that open up the gate for the Octagon are very good with me, they know that I go in fi rst.”
The job of a cutman doesn’t end with stopping blood fl ow or swelling. “From the moment I walk into the dressing room, until the moment the fi ghts are over, we stay very busy,” Stitch said. At weigh-ins or rules meeting, fi ghters are asked if they want their hands wrapped by the cutmen. Cutmen are usually the best at this task, so the majority of fi ghters want them to do it. This keeps many cutmen working hard throughout the night. Many organizations have at least three cutmen on hand at a fi ght. This can help ease some of the pressure cutmen have to deal with, and allows them to concentrate on their tasks.
While the job of a cutmen is stressful, it has it’s rewards. In Forrest Griffi n’s case, the work of his cutman allowed him to go out and fi nish his job. “Those are the things that make our jobs special, right there,” Stitch said. “The respect and admiration they give us is something you can’t go to the store and buy. It is something that you have to earn. The fi ghters want every opportunity to win, and we can help give them that opportunity. That’s what we live for.”