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Legendary UFC cutman Leon Tabbs dies at age 86

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Leon Tabbs accepts an award for Outstanding Contribution to MMA at the 2013 Fighters Only World MMA Awards.
Denise Truscello/WireImage

Legendary UFC and boxing cutman Leon Tabbs died Friday at the age of 86 in Atlanta, his son Bruce confirmed with MMA Fighting.

Tabbs was the only cutman at UFC 1 and continued on with the promotion for 19 years, retiring in 2012 at the age of 80. He is survived by a son, two daughters, two son-in-laws, a daughter-in-law, as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren and nieces and nephews, Bruce said. Born in Atlantic City, N.J., Tabbs was the last surviving of his siblings.

“My dad is my hero, forever and a day,” Bruce said.

A longtime boxer, Tabbs served in the U.S. Navy for eight years as a medic and trained his fellow servicemen in boxing, per mixedmartialarts.com. Settling in Philadelphia after the Korean War, Tabbs worked as a police officer and boxing trainer. It was there at Joe Frazier’s gym where he was noticed and landed a part in Rocky I.

In addition to his work for the UFC, Tabbs was the cutman for boxing great Bernard Hopkins for many years. Tabbs was a cancer survivor and was involved with combat sports starting at age 13. In 2013, Tabbs was honored at the Fighters Only World MMA Awards for Outstanding Contribution to MMA.

Many MMA luminaries took to social media this weekend to honor Tabbs with their words, including fellow legendary cutman “Stitch” Duran and John McCarthy, the godfather of MMA officials.

“Leon Tabbs should be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, where he belongs,” Duran wrote on Facebook.