Almost anytime you turn on an episode of TUF, order a UFC card or watch other promotions across MMA territory, there are always going to be familiar faces on the tube. Whether it is the training camps (Jackson’s, TriStar, AKA for example) or referees like Herb Dean or Mario Yamasaki, there will be people we recognized and come to expect to see at the shows. Even though personally they may not be strapping on the leather or competing for world titles, they have become known personas and personalities in the industry.
Probably known more than any other of the non fighter roster fans look forward to seeing, and interacting with if lucky enough to have the opportunity, is longtime boxing and MMA cut man, Jacob “Stitch” Duran. Involved with some type of martial arts since the 70s when he himself was training and competing while enlisted in the USAF, Stitch has become the face of healing and taking care of our favorite competitors: win, lose or draw.
Always moving and never really in one spot for long, Stitch was kind enough to talk to Fight Hub TV before heading out to Invicta FC 4 in Kansas City. He talked about women’s MMA, UFC 155, one sided victories he has witnessed recently, and his intention of not going anywhere anytime soon.
FHTV: Starting off, you are leaving for Invicta FC tomorrow, how do you see women’s MMA evolving in general? Years ago Dana White said it would “never happen in the UFC”; now we have Ronda Rousey and promotions dedicated solely to women, what is your take on this?
Stitch: Well you know, when Shannon Knapp called me, and asked to go work with them at Invicta, we brought the same formula we use in the UFC. Not knowing much about women’s MMA, it’s been fun for me because – when I go to these shows like Invicta, these girls come to fight!
FHTV: Taking someone like Rousey who has finished every fight, they are putting on a better performance sometimes than bigger name male counterparts, would you agree?
Stitch: Without a doubt and not only Ronda, all of these girls, they are coming in there to fight. I know my first big (women’s) fight was when Meisha Tate won her title and to me, I was really impressed and watching these girls fight is always impressive
FHTV: Speaking of impressed, how impressed were you with Cain Velasquez’s dominant win over Junior Dos Santos?
Stitch: I was pleasantly surprised to see him dominate Junior Dos Santos, because that’s the kind of fight where you just don’t know who is going to win because of how fast he got knocked out in their last fight. But that’s the nature of the game when you have two guys like that, it could end right away with the right punch at the right time. Watching him trying to take Dos Santos down, I thought that would be the nature of the fight to take him down, but then we saw him stand up and beat him, take him down and pummel him, it was very impressive.
FHTV: If you could share with us, what were you telling Velasquez in the back when you were wrapping his hands?
Stitch: We always talk. I told him “I always wanna wish you luck” because I can remember when his trainer, Javier Mendez introduced me to him for the first time and was like, “Hey I want you to meet this guy. He is a Mexican fighter, gonna be the heavyweight champion of the world,” and I laughed because I had heard that line so many times before from so many other people over the years. It’s just always the matter of trying to make them smile and get the edge of for them. Same thing with Todd Duffee; he was coming back for the first time in the UFC last Saturday, he was so tense when I was wrapping him so I got done and told him, “Stand up Duff, give me a hug.” So he stands up, gives a big ol smile and a hug and says, “Thanks, Stitch.” These are the situations when a guy gets ready for battle and it means a lot to talk to them and it plays a big part in the psychological part of the fight. After Cain won, he gave me a hug in the middle of the ring and wished me happy birthday, Saturday I turned 61. So that meant a lot to me you know, for him to acknowledge me there and wish me happy birthday after his fight like that.
FHTV: You cornered another title fight last month in Seattle, Henderson vs. Diaz. Were you surprised at Henderson throwing Nate off with that punch in the first round?
Stitch: No, you know it didn’t surprise me at all. Watching Ben over the years, he’s a bad boy and that’s the thing with Nate. Like when he fought Rory MacDonald and didn’t check those leg kicks, it gave him a lot of trouble in that fight. To me that was going to be a big issue with this fight because Henderson has some thunderous kicks and when Nate did not check that first kick, I knew it was gonna throw his game off. Then when he landed that power shot, I knew it was destined for Ben Henderson to win.
FHTV: What do you think of Pacquiao after the brutal knockout loss to Marquez?
Stitch: I still have not seen that fight believe it or not. My daughter kept me posted with it since I was working in Seattle. I saw the knockout on highlights from SportsCenter but have not watched the actual fight yet
FHTV: Staying on Pacquiao, Filipino doctors are saying they see early signs of Parkinson’s with him. Do you think he has more left in him or should stop?
Stitch: I have not heard or read anything from the Filipino doctors but, if they are talking about dementia from the pugilistic side being “punch drunk” and then having a knockout as devastating as what happened, I think he may want to say like Roberto Duran and say “NO MAS, NO MAS,” especially considering the things he wants to do outside of boxing, like his political career.
FHTV: Some fighters will say when you have been knocked out once; it gets easier to knock that person out. Do you agree with this or is it an old wives tale?
Stitch: Ehh, I think that’s more an old wives tale if anything. I mean, it is never easy to knock someone out, you know? Look at Cain, the way he got knocked out by Dos Santos the first time they fought; then he comes back and is dominant against Antonio Silva and Dos Santos again.
FHTV: What do you think of these fighters pulling out from injury? Is it due to training harder to be the best or do you think some guys are pulling out when they are not hurt, trying to fight in best shape possible?
Stitch: In my documentary “The Boxer’s Nightmare” Mike Tyson said that a fighter who wants to be successful needs to learn to deal with pain. I think that goes a lot for MMA and fighters overall today. Nobody ever goes into a fight 100%, just does not happen. If anything, they are getting hurt more in training then for the match they have prepared for. Example, Michael Bisping in his last fight, I was wrapping his hands in the back and he told me he hurt his hands a few weeks prior but never thought of pulling out of the fight, he goes on to win that night. So, I think that a lot of fighters are fighting with injuries and there are some who are smart enough to know what they can and cannot fight thru. It takes a lot of resilience and proper faculties to do this, because a lot of the things they are injuring: shoulders, hands, arms, etc. are things they are going to need in everyday life after fighting is over.
FHTV: When you mention resilience, BJ Penn comes to mind as a fighter who is always there in the fight, not quitting. Looking at his last two bouts however, do you think he should retire for good or keep coming back?
Stitch: There is a time when the new lion takes over for the old lion and that is what happened against Rory MacDonald. BJ Penn has done all the great things one could ask for in a career. That said, if this last fight does not tell him it is time to hang up the gloves, I don’t know what will.
FHTV: When will Stitch hang up the gloves?
Stitch: (laughs) Oh man, I don’t see that happening anytime soon at all. This is not a job to me, you know? I love being home with my family and my kids, but I also love the weekends when I am going out to shows and working with these fighters and being involved. I just turned 61 last Saturday; I am healthy and still able to do this. I do not see me even thinking of walking away for at least another ten years.
FHTV: Stitch, it is always a pleasure to speak with you. Travel safe and thank you for the time
Stitch: Will, I thank you and thank you Fight Hub TV for talking with me. Stay in touch and talk with you soon!