In the world of mixed martial arts, there are few individuals who receive more love than Jacob “Stitch” Duran. From wrapping hands in the locker room to plugging cuts in between rounds, Stitch works his magic to ensure the action inside the cage continues. Over a 25-year career spent in the trenches of combat sports, Stitch has become known as a true master of his unique craft.
As the UFC continues to put on more and more shows, how hectic is your schedule?
‘Hectic’ is certainly one of the words I could use, but I’m very happy doing what I’m doing. As a matter of fact, right now I have 12 days off because I’m doing The Ultimate Fighter. Last night, we had 14 fights on the reality show, but before that, I worked 14 weekends in a row between the UFC and boxing. It’s non-stop, and it keeps me busy. I’m living my dream, so I can’t bitch and moan about it.
What drew you to becomte a cutman?
I had my own kickboxing school, and I had to learn to be a cutman in addition to being a trainer and a manager. After a while, I focused on the cuts more than anything else.
What piece of advice do you have for other people interested in the profession?
I get emails every week. They come in from doctors, paramedics, EMTs, nurses, and regular fans who want to do what I do. They ask me what it takes to be a cutman, and I tell them first and foremost, you have to spend hours, days, weeks, months, and years in the gym learning about fighting. You have to learn the mental as well as the physical part of what goes into fighting. It’s a process. Eventually you learn how to wrap hands, and then you learn how to work cuts, but it’s doesn’t come quickly.
I’ve heard a lot of people refer to being a good cutman as an art form. Would you agree?
There’s no doubt about it. There is an art to what we do in wrapping hands. There is a technique to it. Two guys can wrap hands and do it completely different. I found the way that works for me and the way fighters seem to like. I always ask them if they want the ‘knockout wrap’ or the ‘tapout wrap,’ and I change things according to their preference. It’s definitely an art.
If you had to pick the worst cut you’ve ever had to work on in your career, who would win the dubious honor?
One cut that really stands out that people don’t appreciate in the way that I appreciate cuts came when Cain Velasquez knocked out Brock Lesnar. When you are talking about big cuts, that was a huge cut on Lesnar’s cheek. My swab literally sunk into the wound because the cut was down to the bone. That was a major cut, and you can still see the scar tissue on Brock’s cheek. What made it stand out even more to me came when I was working on Brock, and he whispered to me, ‘Stitch, take care of me.’ I told him not to worry and I would take care of him.
Is there anything that makes you shudder and turn away?
Not too many things freak me out at this point because I always tell myself it’s not my cut. That is normally how I approach it and one of the main reasons I can stay so calm and collected. Although, there have been a couple of instances throughout my career—Corey Hill breaking his leg was a tough one. I’m holding his shoulders as he’s lying down, and I’m looking at his leg going one way and his foot going the other. He’s screaming in pain, and it was kind of fucking freaking me out. I’m holding his shoulders while the doctor is trying to straighten it out. One of the good things I remember about that incident came when he was on the stretcher. They had given him a couple shots of morphine, and he was calmed down. As they were taking him out, he looks at me and said, ‘Stitch, I almost had him.’ What a fucking warrior, man.
How do you unwind when the arena clears out and the event is over?
After the show, I like to hang out with the fans in the lobby and talk about the event or go to an after-party. When the fighters come up and thank me or give me a hug, those are great moments. When fans come up and tell me, ‘Thank you for taking care of the fighters and giving us the opportunity to watch more fights,’ it means a lot to me. Those are things you just can’t pay for and a good way to cap a great night.
Be on the lookout for Stitch’s signature line of products coming soon: Stitch Premium Tape and a new gauze pack called Quick-Aid.