The saga of the UFC's termination of beloved cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran took another turn Wednesday as Lawrence Epstein, the UFC's chief operating officer, defended the move in a piece with the International Business Times.
On July 20, Duran was interviewed by Bloodyelbow.com's John Nash regarding the UFC's uniform deal with outfitter Reebok. Duran complained that the deal resulted in a dramatic loss of personal income due to the removal of his individual sponsorships. He was terminated by the UFC on July 21.
"Unequivocally, his comments had nothing to do with him getting let go," said Epstein. "I can't be more firm on that. There are a variety of reasons that he was let go but nothing to do with his comments on Reebok. He's trying to paint this thing as, he said some stuff about Reebok and as a result, he was let go. It's just not true. That's not the reason why he was let go. I can't be more clear on that."
In a UFC statement released to Bloodyelbow.com to further clarify Epstein's comments, no further explanation of why Duran was fired is given.
"Jacob ‘Stitch' Duran has not been banned from UFC and he is free to corner any athlete if they choose to pay for his services," the statement reads. "We want to provide other cutmen the opportunity to work UFC events. UFC certainly respects Duran's experience and accomplishments as a cutman, and wishes him the best. We will not comment about the other reasons that lead to the ending of his independent contractor agreement with UFC, other than to say it had nothing to do with his comments about Reebok."
Well, Duran isn't buying it.
@TBarrabi Great story!Can't believe UFC attorney Lawrence Epstein said I was not let go because of my interview of the Reebok deal. Bullshit— Jacob Stitch Duran (@StitchDuran) August 19, 2015
The UFC, and perhaps more notably Reebok, received a firestorm of vitriol from fans following Duran's firing. According to the IBT, Epstein says the majority of feedback they've gotten from fighters has been positive, in terms of the quality of Reebok gear and "a sense of legitimacy it brings to UFC events."
"We, as an organization, are very proud of the amount of money that we're sharing with athletes," said Epstein. "We're giving them essentially all of the money that we're getting from Reebok, and we're proud to do that. Whenever you make changes -- and this is clearly a change, and it's a major cultural shift within the world of mixed martial arts -- there's always going to be some resistance. Like everything we've done at this company from day one, we're trying to build a sport."
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Very cool! Thanks for all the support Etihad Stadium. I will be there in a couple weeks. pic.twitter.com/8sRPtAp8Qu— Dana White (@danawhite) August 19, 2015
Carlos Condit (@CarlosCondit) August 19, 2015
Georges St-Pierre (@GeorgesStPierre) August 19, 2015
Wow This guy just made it real personal comparing me to Bisping. Reality is coming for you.— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) August 19, 2015
Haha @bisping I'm fighting for the title for the 5th time. How many times have u fought for the title in your decorated career ?— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) August 19, 2015
@bisping I'm your biggest fan. I only want the best for you. Chill out buddy.— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) August 19, 2015
@ChrisWeidmanUFC and well done to you. Really! But don't think you can talk shit about me and not get a response. Belt or no belt!— michael (@bisping) August 19, 2015
Please be careful.
Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) August 19, 2015
Any ladies looking to punch me in the face for money? Be warned, I might punch you back. ;)— Sarah Kaufman (@mmasarah) August 19, 2015
It looks like I owe @BigfootSilva an apology. You took a legit tough fight with a legit opponent. I got bad info. Im sorry.— Matt Mitrione (@mattmitrione) August 19, 2015
That damn media at it again.
Some of you media writers are just not good at your jobs and are just as bad for the sport as PEDs in my opinion https://t.co/pzKcBkoMhq— Will Brooks (@illwillbrooks86) August 19, 2015
He shouldn't have said what he said but to take everything he says and say 'oh well he has a history' is ridiculous https://t.co/igOiOZPI8o— Will Brooks (@illwillbrooks86) August 19, 2015
Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 20, 2015
Announced yesterday (Aug. 19 2015)
Michael Bisping vs. Robert Whittaker at UFC 193
Akbarh Arreola vs. Jake Matthews at UFC 193
Kyle Noke vs. Peter Sobotta at UFC 193
Steve Kennedy vs. Richard Walsh at UFC 193
Anthony Perosh vs. Gian Villante at UFC 193
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Day comes via ynassar.
The 6th edition of Lions FC has been announced for September 12th in Neuchatel (Switzerland). Headlined by a middleweight bout between Cheick Kone and Lahat Faye, the card features another 11 bouts in what promises to be a stellar event showcasing some of Europe's most promising fighters.
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @SaintMMA and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.