"Stitch" is back in the major MMA fold.
Jacob Duran, the renowned combat sports cutman, has been signed by Bellator MMA, the promotion announced Thursday. Duran was fired by the UFC last July following comments he made about the UFC and its outfitting policy with Reebok.
Josh Gross of The Guardian was the first to report the news.
Duran will make his Bellator debut at Bellator 153 on April 22 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. That card is headlined by former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson challenging Andrey Koreshkov for the Bellator welterweight title. Matt Marsden will remain Bellator's lead cutman.
"Working with my old friend Scott Coker and Bellator is a true honor," Duran said in a statement. "I can't wait to get started working for a great organization that respects their employees and truly makes their fighters the top priority."
Duran was axed by the UFC after telling Bloody Elbow about the negative effect the Reebok contract had on him. Duran had been sponsored by apparel brand Bad Boy, but he was no longer allowed to wear that sponsor at UFC events due to the Reebok deal. Neither the UFC nor Reebok were going to compensate him for the losses, either. "Stitch" had been with the UFC for 14 years.
"It's a solid shot," Duran told the website at the time. "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."
Not long after the article was published, Duran was let go by the UFC. "Stitch" obviously took umbrage, mostly due to the fact that UFC president Dana White didn't call him personally to let him know he was being fired.
"It's not like I'm going to lack any type of work," Duran told MMA Fighting in July. "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's release caused an uproar among fans on social media. "Stitch" has become one of the most beloved non-fighters in the sport of MMA, so much so that he has appeared in multiple UFC video games. The outcry forced Reebok to comment on the situation on Twitter.
UFC fans: We have no input on decisions of UFC employment or fighter compensation. Our focus is providing the best gear for fighters & fans.— Reebok (@Reebok) July 22, 2015
Duran also works with the likes of Wladimir Klitschko and Andre Ward in boxing. Duran has resurfaced a few times recently on MMA shows like World Series of Fighting and Invicta FC.
UFC president Dana White said a week after his departure that Duran would not be brought back to the promotion.
"I've never dealt with the cutmen ever," White said on FOX Sports 1. "We have a department that deals with them. We weren't friends, we're not friends and no he shouldn't have been expecting a call from me. And if he's my friend, why didn't he reach out to me? Right? If we were such good friends and all that."