Jacob "Stitch" Duran spoke out about losing his sponsors due to the UFC's apparel deal with Reebok. One day later, he no longer has a job with the UFC.
Duran confirmed with MMAFighting.com on Tuesday that he was fired by the UFC for the comments he made in a Bloody Elbow interview that was published Monday. Duran initially put the information out on Twitter.
@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
The UFC had no comment on the situation, per UFC senior vice president of public relations Dave Sholler.
Duran, widely respected as the best cutman in MMA, told Bloody Elbow that he stands to lose a good chunk of money since the UFC's contract with Reebok does not include cutmen and that he may consider doing more boxing because of it.
"It's a solid shot," Duran said of the financial loss. "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."
On Tuesday, Duran told MMAFighting.com that he got a text and then a call from a UFC official who he preferred not to name. That official told Duran, an independent contractor, would no longer be hired by the UFC.
"Stitch," who had been working for the UFC since UFC 33 in 2001, said he was not surprised, but he felt he had to speak up. As someone who grew up as a farm worker under terrible conditions, he promised himself that he would not put up with "abuse" from employers again.
"I learned from that," Duran said. "There's no way that me as a person would go through that, as an adult, go through that again. It's been coming in the years where the UFC has just shown no respect for the great work that the cutmen do."
Duran said that he might have been most upset that UFC president Dana White didn't call him personally. White was the one who brought him on in 2001 after seeing him work a K-1 show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Duran said he and White worked together to establish the UFC's cutman program and gives White credit for "changing my whole career."
"That's another thing that pisses me off, that he didn't have the balls to call me directly," Duran said of White. "He had some other guys call me."
"Stitch" said his first phone call after being informed he wouldn't be back with the UFC was to Burt Watson. Watson, the former longtime UFC operations coordinator, quit the promotion in February after a run-in with a UFC executive. Duran said no one ever called Watson after he left to try and smooth things over, even though Watson had been with the company for 14 years.
"He was disrespected," Duran said. "Them disrespecting him really disrespected all of us, because we all worked under Burt."
Duran, who just worked The Ultimate Fighter 22 bouts on Friday, said he made the bulk of his money at UFC events from sponsors, calling the actual salary "garbage." With the UFC's new Reebok deal which went into effect July 1, all fighters and cutmen have to wear Reebok on fight nights. The fighters are being compensated for it, but the cutmen are not.
"Stitch" said he makes far more money doing boxing events anyway and will now seek out boxing sponsors. He'll also listen to offers from other MMA organizations.
Duran should have no problem landing on his feet. Just this week, he signed a deal to work with Andre Berto for his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September, he said. "Stitch" also works for boxing heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
"It's not like I'm going to lack any type of work," Duran said. "It's just that I really enjoyed working with the fighters and the people in the UFC. To get a nut shot by Dana in him not calling me and having the balls to call me, it just showed me the kind of characters that I was dealing with."
Duran believes things have changed from the early days of the UFC. He said that White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta used to be all about taking care of their fighters and employees. Now, Duran said White, once someone he had a tight relationship with, doesn't even say hello to him when they pass each other at events.
"Dana has definitely changed," Duran said. "Now it's all about the economics. It used to be a fighter friendly environment."