UFC: Stitch Duran's Firing Yet Another Petty, Immature Display

Jeremy Botter@jeremybotterMMA Senior WriterJuly 22, 2015

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 12: Cutman Jacob 'Stitch' Duran poses poses for a picture during The Ultimate Fighter Finale event inside the Pearl concert theater at the Palms Casino Resort on December 12, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Here's the thing about Zuffa, that collection of folks presiding over the world's largest mixed martial arts promotion: They are petty and vindictive.

This is not a revelation. This is a company that has spent years making examples of people. Remember the time it fired literally everybody on the American Kickboxing Academy roster in a single day because folks from that gym expressed concerns about signing away their image rights for a lifetime?

Zuffa doesn't play around. It's got the power, and it doesn't mind using it to send a message when it feels one needs to be sent.

HALIFAX, NS - OCTOBER 4:  Cutman Jacob 'Stitch' Duran poses for a post-fight portrait backstage during the UFC Fight Night event at the Scotiabank Centre on October 4, 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Gett
Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

So it goes with the firing of beloved cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran, who was summarily released on Tuesday from his crucial position as someone who, you know, protects the fighters during this blood sport that makes Zuffa into the rich teenage boys it often comes across as. Duran's firing came as a surprise, but it shouldn't have. This is par for the course for this company.

Duran spoke out against the Reebok deal during an interview with Bloody Elbow. A day later, he was gone. Zuffa didn't even have the smarts to wait for a week or so before releasing him. Instead, it did it immediately, leaving zero doubt as to what its intentions were. All of the fighters who have spoken out about the deal taking money from their pockets? They're fine. They can't be fired, for the most part.

But Stitch? He's "just" a cutman. He was expendable, and so they made him so.

Duran himself says that he was just trying to let the UFC know that what it was doing to the cutmen wasn't fair.

"I basically became the spokesman for them in coming forward," Duran told Bleacher Report on Wednesday morning. "I didn't expect to get canned right on the spot. With other organizations, they'll usually just say, 'Hey, don't be doing that.' I didn't get that opportunity at all.

"I had to speak up for the team. That was really my only intention," he said. "I didn't expect this firestorm from the fans."

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 05:  Urijah Faber (L) gets his hands wrapped by cutman Jacob 'Stitch' Duran inside the locker room at UFC 175 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 5, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Esther Lin/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Ge
Esther Lin/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

And what a firestorm it has been. Social media reaction to Duran's firing was swift and severe, and rightly so. This isn't an ancillary player in the sport; Duran is the finest cutman in the game, and he is integral to the actual fights happening in the Octagon. He's the guy who keeps classic battles like the one we saw from Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald from being stopped because of a cut. He helps contribute to the UFC's legacy in a way few others do.

And yet he was tossed on the scrapheap because he pissed off someone over on the second floor of Zuffa's Sahara Avenue headquarters.

You can understand why fans are upset.

"People are talking about boycotting and canceling their Fight Pass subscriptions. I don't think the UFC expected them to get financially hit by this," Duran said. "But you have to listen to the fans. You have to listen to the people without having any malice."

Fans weren't the only ones voicing displeasure at Stitch's departure. From the moment Duran himself tweeted the news, fighters began expressing dismay that Duran would no longer be there to take care of them. Middleweight champion Chris Weidman was among them.

And Duran said that he is receiving hundreds of messages of support from those around the industry. I can vouch for the veracity of this statement; during our interview, his phone buzzed approximately 600 times. Former UFC fighter Houston Alexander was among those who contacted Duran to let him know that they appreciate what he is doing.

"It demonstrates what everybody has been thinking," Duran said. "But everybody was scared to say something."

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - APRIL 11:  (L-R) Clay Guida is inspected by Jacob 'Stitch' Duran before Guida faces Tatsuya Kawajiri of Japan during UFC Fight Night 39 at du Arena on April 11, 2014 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Warren L
Warren Little/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

The hardest part for Duran to stomach in all of this? The fact that Dana White himself didn't call to deliver the news. After all, it was White who brought Duran to the UFC 14 years ago after seeing him work a corner at a kickboxing event. And in those early years, White and Duran were friends. They were all part of the same traveling circus, and White was as fighter-friendly as they come.

But lately, that has changed. Everything in this new-look UFC is about money and corporate mumbo-jumbo; to an outsider, it may look as though the UFC is cleaning itself up for a potential sale. But with all this new makeup has come changes to the soul of the organization. One could argue that Burt Watson was the most important UFC employee during any given fight week, but he was let go earlier this year after a run-in with a UFC executive.

First Watson. Now Stitch. Two beloved figures gone from the UFC, and without a single word from White. Perhaps he is too busy making fun of MMA fans on Twitter for being ugly. 

"My wife was just saying this morning that for as loud and outgoing as Dana is, it's surprising how quiet he is right now. That was really disappointing to me," Duran said. "He's the one who brought me in. I think I would have respected this whole thing a lot more than the way it was handled. I'm disappointed that it wasn't Dana."

Duran said that he was immediately contacted by Bellator and other organizations once the news of his firing broke. He has told them he has no plans to get out of the MMA industry, but that he wants to let the dust settle before talking to them next week. And the truth is that, if White were to call Duran up himself and ask him to come back, he would gladly do so.

"Listen, I'm the kind of guy that has no hard feelings. I understand your position. But I can help your position," he said. "If Dana would sit down and not be egotistical and look at what I brought to the table during that interview, those are the things that fans and the fighters are talking about."

 

Jeremy Botter covers mixed martial arts for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.