MMA cutman David Maldonado
MMA cutman David Maldonado greasing a fighter

I just returned from a trip to southern California where I worked two shows and had a great experience meeting new people and helping fighters put on a great show.

If I were a big fish in a small pond, I certainly got the chance to gauge the temperature of the big pond. Efforts were made to offer my corner seminar to anyone interested in the area.

Admittedly the advertising support for that did not end up being as solid as I hoped, the fact was that nobody contacted me or showed interest in attending. Given that, one must either assume everyone in the area already knows all they need about MMA with regard to cornering and trying to help their fighter stay healthy, or too much pride was floating around to allow them to take an opportunity to learn.

What were my observations of the majority of corners who felt determined to try and do basic tasks without my help?

  • Greasing fighters – Countless cases of hesitant, ambiguous, insufficient, or illegal greasing attempts by corners. I’m sure they were trying their best, but many have so much to learn and are guessing their way through the task. Multiple times the fighter went into the cage insufficiently prepared to fight or we had to redo the process due to error.
  • Taping hands – I wish I could say I saw better technique than I have in other parts of the country, but sadly no.
  • Cornering – Again, lots of pride, but no evidence of the skills needed by a desperate fighter. Thankfully I did not hesitate to step in when necessary to make sure the task was done quickly and properly. I saw a few more people who bought a “basic cutman in a box supply kit” but just like toys don’t include batteries, the purchase doesn’t have expertise included in the box.

Multiple times guys were gung ho and nearly insistent to do tasks themselves. “I got it, I got it,” they boasted, but I felt bad for the fighter that was proven to not be in adequate hands.

I expected in that part of the country they were used to cutmen being present to take over such tasks. Instead, maybe I was right and they were, but coach after coach craved being involved and didn’t want to recognize his limitations.

This personal characteristic is true in so many areas of life, not just sports or MMA. Good self-awareness and guts are needed to admit where we are best suited to be helped by others for the best possible result.

It is interesting that I don’t find such misplaced gusto to be as present in organized events like college sports where coaches know they are there to coach, and an athletic trainer like myself takes care of the physical issues and preparations.

I suppose this just helps grade MMA for the lack of support and resulting uneducated attempts made by those less capable who have been forced to fill in the gaps themselves. I have heard from the small shows to even one of the top five promotions on the continent who have said regarding a cutman, “the corners at my shows take care of that stuff themselves” or “they like to do that on their own”.

To the first response I say of course they do, they aren’t given a chance to do otherwise. Aron Ralston, the outdoorsman who cut his arm off to survive (see 127 Hours if you aren’t familiar), didn’t prefer to do it himself, I’m sure he would have gladly handed the blunt tool over to a surgeon if given the chance.

To the second reply, well I saw plenty of that this weekend and the investment in fighters and a promotion is too costly to let a night’s success or failure fall directly into the hands of an over-zealous coach.

Harsh or direct words perhaps, but only those who are in denial of their limitations will frown at the commentary. I know if someone said I would be best served letting someone else coach a fighter, I’d be the first to say, “You couldn’t be more right, thanks for stepping in to save my bacon!”

This week I head to another sunny and warm corner of the country. Grateful to do what I do and I hope I can help someone new in the process. If I can bring my seminar to any place interested in what I can bring, please contact me. In the meantime, CFA on AXStv Friday night, tune in and enjoy a great show!

In his column “Between Rounds” MMA cutman David Maldonado shares with readers his experiences and thoughts from inside the world of MMA. Readers are encouraged to respond, interact and ask questions about the life and work of the MMA cutman. “Between Rounds” is part of‘s ongoing series of exclusive content written by individuals involved in the mixed martial arts industry.

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