Famed cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran is on the outs with the UFC. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
One of the most recognizable faces in combat sports will no longer ply his trade inside the Octagon.
Jacob Duran, better known as “Stitch,” was released from his Ultimate Fighting Championship contract on Tuesday after the famed cutman spoke out against the organization’s controversial new deal with sports apparel giant Reebok.
“I was shopping at Costco when I got a text from someone at the UFC asking if I could talk,” Duran told Sherdog.com in an exclusive interview. “When I called them, they said... ‘They don’t want you to work for the UFC anymore because of the article you did on the Reebok deal.’ At that point, you know I’m not going to kiss anybody’s ass and try to argue with them so, yeah, it was that quick.”
Duran was unsure exactly who was involved in the decision to terminate his contract, but the issue stems from an interview published Monday on BloodyElbow.com. Speaking with the site, Duran lamented the financial impact the Reebok deal would have on cutmen, who, like UFC fighters, are no longer allowed to display sponsors on their apparel.
“I’m going to have to go back and read the article again, because I think all I said was when I was asked about what I thought of the new uniforms, I was honest,” he reflected. “I told [the interviewer] that I had just done three shows in, like, four days and none of the fighters in the dressing rooms liked [the Reebok uniforms]. When I was asked about the cutmen, I told him we had to wear the Reebok gear and all they gave us was this generic jacket, but there was no compensation for us. We lost all of our sponsors. So, that created a firestorm.”
Duran revealed that he made much more money through his sponsorships than what the UFC paid for his services. While he wouldn’t give specifics in terms of the amount of money he lost because of the Reebok deal, Duran said it was a substantial part of his income upon which he relied. When the Reebok deal went into effect, every cent of sponsorship money went out the window.
“We were told about a year ago that we were going to lose our sponsors,” he stated. “It got us into a frenzy because we thought it was going to be right away. It turned out to be this past July 11. They wanted us cutmen to be a part of the Reebok deal, to wear the gear, but we weren’t going to get compensated. In my book, that’s not right. I spoke up for the cutmen, and with my character, I had to speak out about it.
“I know business,” Duran added. “I know how it works. I’ve been with companies like Tapout, One More Round, Xyience... They all saw value in me and our other cutmen, and I’ve been with these companies from the beginning. We gave these companies great exposure. So, now I’m getting penalized for speaking the truth about something that needed to be said.”
Duran said he has been inundated with hundreds of texts and calls, as well as an endless steam of support on social media since the news of his firing was made public. According to the cutman, it all could have been avoided had the powers within the UFC been willing to listen to key people regarding the uniforms.
“I’m a sensible man, and marketing is something I understand,” he said. “If they were smart, they would listen to all these comments about how nobody likes the new designs, and they should re-tweak it. They’ve invested all this money into it, so re-tweak it and get some opinions from people that understand the game. Listen to the fans. Listen to the fighters. They all said it looked generic. But I spoke the truth, and I guess the truth hurt. I’m the one who took the bullet for the cutmen.”
Duran, who trained in muay Thai and boxing in his younger years, started out as a cutman on the local California boxing circuit under the legendary Chuck Bodak in the mid-1980s. Duran learned on the job, and as he became a more established “ringside surgeon,” his clientele increased. Eventually, Duran was hired to work on boxing’s Klitschko brothers, Andre Ward and many others. “Stitch” began working fighters’ corners for the UFC in 2001.
Duran is widely regarded as the best cutman in fight sports, so it’s logical to assume that he will find work in a corner almost immediately. He’s become such a recognizable figure that he was included in several UFC video games, as well as cameos in high-profile boxing-related movies such as “Rocky Balboa.”
But he’s not sorry that he said what he said.
“The way this machine has been working, something had to be done,” he stated. “We were the forgotten soldiers. On the battlefield, we were left behind. Dana [White], being the general, left us in the trenches. They never really appreciated the work we did. The fighters did, of course, and I worked my ass off for these guys. If I was assigned five guys, I did eight or nine, because everybody wanted me to wrap their hands, too. I always did it, because I love the fighters and I love the game. [UFC] never respected us.”