Ed Kapp from the excellent AboveandBeyondMMA.com takes you on a day in the life of Jacob "Stitch" Duran, who has been a cutman since 2001. He prefers a fight in his hometown of Las Vegas, but travels the world, leaving Friday night for domestic fights, and earlier for the international gigs.
Stitch gets to work formally an hour and 45 mins before showtime, wrapping hands. He is usually assigned five fighters to tape, but special requests push the number to eight or nine.
“(The fighters) already have their dressing rooms assigned, so once they get off the bus and they’re walking into the arena, Burt Watson and his coordinators will direct each fighter to the proper dressing room,” Duran explains. “Once they put their stuff away, they go into the Octagon and they roll around and get the feel of the mat and all that. Fifteen minutes later, they come back into their dressing room and we start wrapping hands.”
“I feel like the guy in the old gladiator days who would go into the dungeon and start putting the armour on these gladiators before they went out into the coliseum and fought for their life.”
“That’s one of my things — the psychology of keeping these guys relaxed is by talking to them and really kind of shooting the shit with them. I had one guy who literally just cried like a baby. I stopped, I let him cry — I let him vent. Because I know. Once he finished crying, I looked at him and told him, ‘Don’t worry about it — I’ll take care of you.’ He ended up winning that fight.
“BJ Penn would always give me a kiss on the cheek and tell me he loves me. And I would hear that from so many different other fighters. It’s a pretty awesome feeling.”
With an hour to go, Duran prepares his bucket.
“I’ll get my KO Swell, my Vaseline, my Adrenaline Chloride 1:1,000, the Qwick-AID, the icepack, the waters, the towels that I use to wipe the blood,” says Duran. “Once I finish that, then I go back to wrapping hands.”
15 mins before the fight starts he checks his cageside spot - “the best seats in the house, almost," he quips.
“The thing I like to do and the reason I’ll always do the first fights is to meet with the doctors and let them know this is what we do and we’re pretty good at what we do. We understand that the doctor’s decision is always the final one. We’re here to work together with them."
Sttich no longer works the entire card. Now he does the first three fights to make sure everything is functioning properly, and then the final three - the biggest fights of the night.
Before every fight he applies the proper amount of grease and perhaps whispers a little encouragement. Then he prepares for the worst.
“Everything is focused on the face and the techniques and what these guys are doing,” Duran says.
“But basically I’m preparing for a fighter to get cut, a fighter to get swollen or a fighter to get knocked out … S--- could happen — and it happens — 10 seconds before the bell rings where a fighter gets cut, so you have to be prepared to go in there instantaneously.
“We have 50 seconds or less and you’ve got to take advantage of every second available to us.”
“I have everything ready... whatever the situation is, once the bell rings, if they need me to go in there, I’m in there.
“People ask me what the main essential tool that you need. And I think confidence and calmness are the two that we need.”
And when it is all over?
“Man, I pack up my s--- and I’m gone,” says Duran, laughing. “There are usually two big busses. As the fight finishes, I’m packing up my stuff, I’m throwing the ice away, drying up my equipment and putting it in my bag and I try to run to the bus and catch the first bus getting out of town, man.
“It’s that simple.”