A little over a day after my interview with renown MMA and boxing cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran was posted to Bloody Elbow, in which he discussed how cutpeople had lost their previous sponsors because of the new Reebok deal, he tweeted the following to a concerned fan:
@daej81 You will be the first to know that the UFC just let me go because I spoke out about the Reebok deal. Got to look for a new job!— Jacob Stitch Duran (@StitchDuran) July 21, 2015
Stitch Duran says he's been fired by the UFC
It looks like the UFC will be going forward without their signature cut man, as Jacob "Stitch" Duran reported that he will no longer be working with the UFC following his comments to Bloody Elbow over the recent Reebok deal.
Shortly thereafter, websites and forums blew up with a massive outpouring of support for Stitch and criticism of the UFC. The top Reddit discussion has been Stitch's firing.
Stitch will not be out of work long, as he's already booked to work two major upcoming boxing matches. He'll be in the corner of Andre Berto for his bout against Floyd Mayweather on September 12th and he will also be Wladimir Klitchsko's cutman on October 24th, when he faces Tyson Fury.
There is also the possibility of working for other MMA promotions. When I asked Scott Coker if Bellator would be interested in having him work their shows he replied "Stitch is a free agent. He'll work for everyone - except the UFC."
While Stitch won't have to look hard for work there's still the matter of why he was released for what seemed to me to be rather benign comments. So I called Stitch again last night to get his take on the matter.
Were you surprised that the UFC told you they wouldn't be using you anymore?
Yeah, I guess so.
With that article we put together, where I told you that I and some of the cutmen were losing money, that it was not a good deal for us. What I think happened was your article created a firestorm with the fans. The fans responded and they tweeted to Dana, Lorenzo, and Reebok about what a shitty thing they were doing not including the cutmen in their compensation deals when it came to Reebok.
All that negative stuff the UFC didn't want to hear even though it was the truth. And I got a call and basically was told that they - and they didn't throw names out - but they don't want you to work anymore UFC shows based on the article regarding the Reebok deal.
They specifically said it was because of your comments in that article?
Do you think they're maybe being extra-sensitive about any comments about Reebok because of some of the other criticisms we've heard?
Oh, absolutely. The thing is there's been so much negative talk about it. The last few fights that I did, all the fighters - a majority, 98% of them - weren't happy with the outfits and I think maybe the UFC thought they didn't need any more negative publicity. That they had enough. From a marketing standpoint, and I've worked for a marketing company, you look at the responses and you act accordingly. If you're smart instead of arrogant you look at that and try to tweak it.
Did you think that something like this, basically getting "fired" by the UFC, was going to happen when you made your comments?
That's always been an unwritten rule, that if you speak up with the UFC something is going to happen. But that's the way I am: if I'm right about something I am going to speak the truth about being right.
The other cutmen, I wanted to help them out. They're not in my position so I thought "I'll be the guy to take a bullet for them" by saying something. And maybe Dana, Lorenzo and Reebok will see this article and realize that maybe they did the wrong thing with the cutmen and maybe they'll compensate them now. Because they want them to wear Reebok uniforms but they don't want to pay them and that isn't right.
A lot of the fighters don't seem to be happy with the deal either but it still doesn't seem as if it is going to change at all. Are cutmen now in the same boat as fighters with this? Do they have to be resolved to live with it?
Some of the things we discussed in our interview, those aren't positive things for anyone. [Fighters] or cutmen.
If the UFC or Reebok were smart they would reevaluate it because so far they haven't put so much in those uniforms and maybe redo this over again and turn that negative into a positive.
Have you been getting any messages of support?
Oh yes. I've been getting them from everyone. My phone has been blowing up. I had to stop reading them because I've been getting them all day from the fighters, the fans, the referees, even some of the commission members.
I notice a few fans who wonder why everyone is making a big deal about a cutmen. Do you think there are some fans who don't understand the importance of your profession to the fighters?
Absolutely. These are the fans that are probably the ones sitting behind my wife at the shows yelling instructions to the fighters but don't know anything about fighting.
Are you disappointed how this turned out? Do you think maybe it was a mistake to say what you said?
I'm not disappointed I made the comments. I'm glad you asked me what you did. I'm not going to be the one to bullshit about it. You asked me some good questions that I thought I answered honestly.
Am I happy? I would be happier to keep working with the UFC but I couldn't work under these terms. The money we get just to work the shows, without the extra sponsors, is minimum and way below what an A-level cutman could get.
The reality is they didn't want to use my services anymore which I think is a shame and I think that the fighters are the ones that are really going to feel it.