Swayze Valentine is the only female treating fighters' cuts and bruises inside the UFC octagon
- As theUFC’s first and only cutwoman, Swayze Valentine had to fight for her place inthe octagon.
- Cutmen and cutwomen wrap fighters’ hands and tend to their wounds during the fight.
- In the UFC, orUltimate Fighting Championship, fighters use all fighting forms, including boxing, muay thai, wrestling, and kickboxing.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Swayze Valentine: The energy in the cage is just insane. It’s chaotic, it’s stressful, but in all the best way you could imagine. The lights come on, the music come on, it’s like, here we go. Like, I get to, now I get to do what I love to do, and it’s gonna start with this guy right here.
Narrator: That’s Swayze Valentine.
Valentine: I’m UFC’s first and only cutwoman.
Narrator: Swayze works for the UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Valentine: It’s basically the Olympics of MMA, is, like, how I like to put it. It’s the highest you can go.
Narrator: In MMA, or mixed martial arts, fighters are allowed to use all fighting forms, which means they’re more likely than in, say, boxing, to sustain minor injuries like cuts and bloody noses, injuries that can be treated right in the ring by a cutman or a cutwoman.
Valentine: My job as a cutwoman is to, it’s fighter safety. So it’s fighter safety before they fight, I go ahead and I wrap the fighter’s hands, make sure they’re protected so there’s no, you know, it reduces the risk of a hand break in competition. All right, done. If that fighter’s cut, we go in the cage, and we have swabs that we have prepped before, and we have epinephrine that we’re allowed to use. Epinephrine is a vasoconstrictor to help stop bleeding. So if a fighter’s cut, we’ll go in. We literally have 40 seconds to get that fighter to the corner, sat down, cleaned up. We put our swab in there, we hold it as long as we can, until the referees are like, “Seconds out.” When we got seconds out, we know we gotta be out literally in seconds.
Narrator: There’s big prize money on the line for UFC fighters, but if they look too bloody or bruised, a ref or a fight doctor could stop the fight. So a cutperson’s job is to clean up fighters so they can stay in the octagon. It’s a messy, sweaty, and oftentimes bloody job. And in professional MMA, it’s always been done by a man. Women, on the other hand, had a different role. So when Swayze first decided she wanted to work in MMA, the job she was offered wasn’t as a cutwoman.
Valentine: I initially saw my first live event, and I wanted to be a part of it somehow. I didn’t want to fight, because I wasn’t a fighter. So I asked the promoter what I could do to get started into his promotion, and he said to, you know, go ahead and be a ring girl. So I tried that for just a weekend. I was in, like, the tiniest little bikini. I don’t think I’ve ever in public worn that little of clothing, so it was really uncomfortable. It definitely was not for me. But when I was there, I was walking around, and I saw the other fighters getting their hand wraps by someone, and I knew exactly. I’m like, that’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m gonna do. I literally just jumped to YouTube to see how to wrap fighters’ hands. I would go home, I’d practice, you know, hand-wrapping on people. I went to my local MMA gym and just practiced on the fighters.
Narrator: Today, cutmen have to get a license, same as the coaches. But when Swayze was coming up in the sport, there was no formal training. It was all about getting to know people in the business and hoping they’d teach you the trade, and that’s exactly how Swayze did it. But no matter how similar her training was to veteran cutmen, ultimately Swayze was different. She was a woman hustling for a job in a male-dominated field. And like most pioneers, Swayze didn’t have it easy.
Valentine: It was a very long journey. It was about 10 years from when I originally started to where I actually got called for my first UFC event. I’ve been physically assaulted. I’ve been cussed at. A lot of my hand wraps have just been cut off right behind me because they didn’t like what I did. I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to touch certain fighters. It just comes with the territory, you know. I’ll always have those little challenges, but that’s what keeps me going, is overcoming each obstacle as it comes along.
Narrator: Cutmen and women often get a flat fee, or about a 2% cut from their fighter’s winnings. But even with million-dollar purses from big UFC fights, that doesn’t amount to much. Plus, matches can be few and far between for cutmen, who typically work as independent contractors.
Valentine: You’re not in this industry for the money by any means, because I’m telling you, a lot of time there isn’t any money there, or you gotta hustle 24/7 to get a paycheck.
Narrator: Swayze works in a post office six days a week and reserves her Sundays and vacation days for UFC events, but in the end, for her, it’s more about the work than the money.
Valentine: I’ve had some fighters where I close it in the first or in the beginning of the second, and they stay closed the entire time. And that’s, like, the best feeling in the entire world. Just like, see? I can do it, guys.
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