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UFC cutman: Reebok deal may chase us to boxing

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Fighters aren't the only one's feeling the impact of the new Reebok deal. The legendary "Stitch" Duran tells us why cutmen are also feeling the loss of sponsors and what it could mean for the future of the UFC.

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A new era for the UFC was ushered in this month as the Reebok apparel deal finally went into effect starting with UFC 189. No longer would any sponsors outside of Reebok (and a possible second brand, such as Monster) be permitted to adorn those in the Octagon. While the focus of this new policy has obviously been on the fighters, most fans have been unaware that another group of professionals was equally impacted - the cutmen.

Matt Marsden, a cutperson at Bellator, weighed in on the subject as well.

Cutpeople play an important role in the sport, but the only time they are noticed is when something goes wrong, such as the infamous Yoel Romero-Tim Kennedy fight. When they are at the top of their game though they are practically invisible. One needs only look at UFC 189 as an example, where not only was some of best fights of the year exhibited but also some of the best cutmen work. That most failed to notice this only demonstrates how good of job was done by "Stitch" Duran and Mike Afanasiev, considering the fact that none of the fights were stopped or - even more importantly - that none of the fighters were permanently disfigured.

So what does this mean for those working as cutpeople in the UFC and for the fighters and fights that take place in the Octagon? To find out I contacted the legendary Jacob "Stitch" Duran himself and asked.

Many people were probably unaware that cutpeople were making money on sponsors. How big of hit will your pocket book take with this new policy ?

It's a solid shot. I got paid on a monthly basis so it definitely added up. I made really good money on that sponsorship so it's kind of a shocker to transition.

And working as a cutman is where you primarily make your money right?

This is what I do full time. I also do boxing and the pay scale is a little different there. The fighters pay you directly in boxing, where in MMA it's the promoters that pay you to work the event instead of with the individual boxers. With boxers, especially when you're working for the top dogs, you make more so the sponsorship money was nice to have [in MMA]. So I might have to start looking more at boxers again.

Could you pick up more work with Bellator or any other MMA promotions?

It's not highly recommended to work for another promotion. Even though we are independent contractors, its an unwritten rule.

I wasn't aware of that. Would you like to be able to work for other MMA promoters?

It would be awesome to go back and forth, but with the amount of fights the UFC has it would be hard because you stay busy.

So did you and the other cutmen know that you wouldn't be able to keep your sponsors with the Reebok deal or were you caught off guard?

We were given sufficient warning but they basically told us we weren't part of the negotiations of that Reebok deal. That was only going to involve the fighters.

I don't think they did this out of malice. Not at all. Really, what I think is we might be doing too good of job where they just maybe forgot about us. I also don't think they thought about or understood what kind of value we could give them.

Them being Reebok, right?

Yes. I understand why my old sponsors used to come to me, because I gave them exposure. Before a fighter entered the cage or between rounds you'd see me and my vest on camera. No reason Reebok couldn't be getting that exposure now. I wonder if Reebok realizes they are missing a nice piece of real estate.

Did the UFC hear about you and the other cutmen's concerns before the deal took effect?

We told our concerns to our higher ups who brought them to their higher ups but we were informed it's a no-go. We were told there's nothing left in the kitty for us so there wasn't much we could do.

So what does this mean for your future as a cutman?

I really love working the MMA circuit. I really love working with the fighters and the UFC, but I also have a family to support. So do I start focusing more on seminars? Do I start giving my business card more to boxers?

If you or other cutmen decided to go somewhere else because of the money do you think this could potentially hurt the quality of cutpeople in the UFC?

That was a question that was asked me by someone from the UFC Saturday night and my answer was yes. And that means you have elite level fighters and you'll have young, inexperienced guys working as their cutmen.

Fans and fighters are starting to realize what we do is pretty important. Look at the fights at UFC 189. Less experienced people aren't going to be able to do what we did that night.

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For the UFC's fighters and fans, lets hope it doesn't lead to this.

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