Photo by Roger Williams
If you’ve watched an MMA event in the last decade, chances are you’ve seen Jacob “Stitch” Duran doing his thing — patching up fighters’ faces to give them one more round. The legendary cutman — who has worked thousands of fights in boxing, kickboxing, and mixed martial arts — recently took some time to chat with us about blood, living the cutman life, the worst gash he’s seen, and stitching Dana White’s mouth shut.
CagePotato: When did you decide you wanted to rub vaseline on guys’ faces and fix gashes for a living?
Jacob “Stitch” Duran: Well, it was actually when I saw my first pint of blood coming off of one of my kickboxers. I kinda’ smiled and said, “You know what, man, this is kinda’ freaky, not everybody does this.” I got hooked on it right from the get-go and that was about 1988.
Who taught you the trade?
I studied some of the legendary cutmen that were in the game — in boxing at that point — and tried to emulate some of the techniques they did. Really, I had no pattern. I didn’t know whether what they were doing was right or was wrong. I tried to ask some of the cutmen as I was up-and-coming and for the most part they kinda’ blew me off, “Hey, fuck you. You’ve got to learn just like me. I learned off my master. I’m taking this to my grave.” So I kind of studied on my own, I started asking a lot of questions to the ringside doctors, I read manuals on blood and arteries. For the most part it was on-the-job training.
Because of those things that happened to me, it’s important for those things not to happen to other people. I’m in the process right now of producing a DVD called “Cuts, Cornermen, and Confidence: Giving the Fighter One More Round”. It’s real important. I was going to do it when I was in boxing years ago and when I got mixed up with the UFC, I realized their are so many trainers that want to learn how to properly take care of the fighters. Wrapping their hands, working corners. And I think, as an instructor, I’m qualified to do it. I figured I might as well pass on some of the ideas and work experiences that I’ve gone through, so that these guys don’t have to go through what I went through. For the game to get better, we have to teach the trainers how to take care of the fighters — and give them that one more round.
An instructional DVD is great, because no one can just go to school and get a cutman degree, right?
Exactly. It’s going to be for the layman. It’s designed for the trainers, the fighter, the armchair quarterback — or the weekend warrior, we call them in this sport. Even if you train yourself, at least you can learn how to properly wrap your hands for training. My wife’s birthday is July 7th and I’m committed for it to come out before that, if not on that date.
Who gave you your nickname?
That came from my early years in kickboxing. I worked with this one fighter that got cut. I knew nothing. Really, that was my first experience working on a cut — I had no medications, so I just applied direct pressure on him and covered it up with vaseline. After the fight, I did what every other cutman would do: I put a butterfly on the guy to close up the cut. And he goes, “Hey, you saved me some stitches. Stitch.” So that’s where the name came from. You know what? That’s a pretty nice name. I was coming home from San Jose today and I was at the San Jose Airport, and this young kid was coming by in a TapouT shirt and he said, “Hey, Stitch!” So the name has penetrated to the fans. A lot of people don’t even know my real name!