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Exclusive Interview with Irish UFC Cutman Joseph Clifford

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Despite the fact that much of their work frequently goes by relatively unheralded by many fans of the sport, the role of cutman is vital to MMA. In fact, the term ‘cutman’ itself is somewhat misleading, as they do more than just what we see in that minute in between rounds. One of these cutmen who works for the UFC is Ireland’s Joseph Clifford. I had the opportunity to speak with him at length about a number of topics recently.

Obviously when people think of UFC cutmen, Jacob “Stitch” Duran and his recent situation comes up. Joseph told me he doesn’t know anything about his situation and, as such, he can’t comment on something he doesn’t know about. He did say that he worked with Duran before and that he was a very nice man, describing him as the “icon for cutmen internationally.” On the subject of the working for a promotion such as the UFC, many wonder what they provide to officials such as the cutmen. “Everything” Joseph told me, “Absolutely everything. Whether I’m working internationally for the UFC, Cage Warriors, BAMMA, all of those shows provide accommodation as standard and then you get paid daily for expenses so you’re not cutting into the money you earn for the week.”

Having worked for many companies in various sports during his career, Joseph has visited countries all over the world. I took this opportunity to ask if anywhere stood out. “I worked on the World Series of Boxing in Azerbaijan.” He answered “35 boxers, 5 coaching staff and the majority of them came from Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan. I was working with that team for 5 and a half to 6 months just on the Dagestan border in Azerbaijan. It was different socially and religiously. It was very isolated and the people living outside of the Olympic complex we were working in were really poor.” He went on to add that “The hard thing was, one guy had broken English and the interpreter only came out intermittently if there was a team meeting on. So other than that I was left to my own devices to try to communicate in Russian. The weird thing was, I ended up as their physical trainer so I worked as that, a sports rehabilitator and a cutman.” Concluding the story, he said that, on the days off they got “There was nowhere to really go. It was up in the mountains, there were no bars, no cinemas, it was the most different place I’ve worked compared to what we’re used to as westerners.”

Another question often wondered is that of the worst cut or injury these experienced officials have seen. After a little thought, Joseph replied “I haven’t really seen anything too gruesome in terms of lacerations. We’ve inherited the name ‘cutman’ but it isn’t really what we look after. Lacerations are what we look after – they’re caused by blunt force trauma, cuts are caused by knives. I’ve come across bad lacerations but the worst situations for me are concussions if someone gets badly knocked out. That person needs to get looked after as fast as possible and unfortunately the standard in many places internationally is so poor, especially in second or third world countries. We (as cutmen) are generally not called in to look after that unless there may be bleeding, but we go in and help the attending EMT’s and paramedics, usually on smaller shows.” He elaborated further on the subject of concussion saying “I have friends in boxing who’ve suffered it and I’ve witnessed the effects of head trauma so I don’t like that injury. The way I see it: a laceration heals with stitches or whatever, but the long term effects of concussion are a whole different story so that’s the worst injury for me. It’s the stuff you don’t see that’s the worst thing for me.”

Fighter safety is always a big issue in MMA and for Joseph it’s the most important element of the sport and runs his own cutman course. “We started this whole thing: Cutman. The reason is, my first experience in a professional dressing room was to see a journeyman fighter with a laceration across his nose, bleeding profusely and, because he was a journeyman he had no cornermen with him to maximise his earnings. He was basically just left in the dressing room bleeding. I didn’t like that whole scene or how it looked. It was so wrong. The more I worked in professional boxing and in the corners I saw the sheer lack of proper sanitation, hygiene etc.” So Joseph, who earned a BSc in Applied Health Sciences, decided to take action. “I put the cutman course together to basically create an A-Z for people to arrive at the side of the ring and attend to a wound, nosebleed etc effectively, using evidence based treatment because they were using all sorts of obscure stuff.” This was initially implemented for boxing, as MMA was still in its infancy. When it began to grow, Joseph saw the opportunity to cross over, with fighter safety, again, at the front of his mind. “What we’ve been doing over the years is trying to put together an international standard because nobody is doing what we’re doing. Most recently, we had a girl fly over from Canada to do the course because she couldn’t find anywhere offering a course in North America that encompassed what we teach here. She stayed for 2 weeks with the team doing the course and the first aid elements of it etc. Basically, the whole theme of this is fighter safety and fighter care first. We don’t endorse the use of dangerous drugs such as adrenaline 1/1000, we use natural haemostatic agents etc. We’re all about using real first aid; combat first aid specific to combat sports.

Joseph took his cutman teachings to the next level, getting involved with the Dublin Fire Brigade Institute and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and then to the UK. “I flew to SAFE MMA meetings in London and spoke to Izzy Carnwath and Dr. Mike Loosemore, the head doctor over there. I presented the case of what we’re trying to achieve. They liked the idea and wanted to grasp it. I asked for their stamp of approval so we could do this with them in the UK, work there and educate people. They thought that was a great idea and they approve our cutman course now. So, when we work an event, we have a standard that has to be met: 4 EMT’s, an ambulance available, doctors etc. What we’ve created is very unique. Nobody is doing what we’re doing internationally. There’s 14 of us in Cutman and we’re all very proud of it.”

So what advice would Joseph give a prospective cutman? “The first thing I’d do is download the Red Cross manual online and look at wound care in terms of arterial bleeds, venial bleeds, general wounds, different types of wounds; lacerations, abrasions or cuts. Then have a look at epistaxis which is nosebleeds, the different types of nosebleeds, septal haematomas, then general haematomas which are swelling and gain an idea on how to treat those using evidence based treatment on what actually does work. If you start with that, you have a good foundation. Then I recommend to take the first aid and wound care course we’ve started up in conjunction with the Irish Heart Foundation. It lets you hit the ground running with the cutman course because it’s a requirement for the whole team. Oh, and practice handwrapping. Wrap thousands of hands to get really efficient at it. So, first aid, wound care and hand wrapping. That’s a good start. Practice like a demon.”

Joseph is not just a cutman, he also works with Team Ryano whenever head coach Andy Ryan needs him to, often as a boxing coach, a sport which he used to compete in himself. As of yet, neither Team Ryano fighter currently signed to the UFC, Neil Seery or Paul Redmond, have fights scheduled for the UFC’s upcoming event in Dublin. “I’d imagine because Neil and Paul are two Dublin boys they’re in with a great shout of being on the card.” Joseph said. “The thing with Neil Seery is, he’s entertainment all day long. You’ll never get a bad fight involving Neil. That’s what he does, he goes out there and entertains. He is a junkyard dog, he loves to fight. Neil hasn’t had an easy fight in the UFC, he’s been in there with some tough guys and he’s proved he belongs. For Paul, he’s had a bad run so far in the UFC, but it’s not a reflection on who he is as a fighter, he just hasn’t had the breaks yet. But a UFC card is put together on entertainment value and any fighter that comes out of Team Ryano, I guarantee they’re pure entertainment. I hope to see the two boys on the UFC Dublin card.”

Conor McGregor is the name everyone thinks of when MMA in Ireland is discussed, but, despite his huge Irish support, there are still some in Ireland, and indeed abroad, who criticise him and his sport. “Conor McGregor has opened the door and shown the way for young fighters.” Joseph began. “There’s an awful lot of talent in this small island. Professional sport is entertainment. Conor McGregor is entertainment. Who cares what these people seriously think? Nationally it’s a shame if we don’t celebrate our successes. It irritates me to hear or see someone pulling a fellow Irish person down and not giving them the accolades they deserve. Celebrate the successes, they come and go quick and fast.”

Away from all of that, Joseph is involved in another project called “He Ain’t Heavy”, which he explained a bit about to me. “My brother Ciaran is physically and intellectually disabled, he has very basic communication but he’ll tell you a lot through his eyes and facial expressions. We’ve been running since he was a child and in 2009 we entered a 10k race in Phoenix Park in Dublin and since then we’ve been running. Someone showed me a YouTube video of Dick Hoyt and his son Rick who had run I think 1000 races together, something like 26 marathons and 9 or 10 ironman races I think – the numbers were staggering. That was in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. He was the godfather of it all. When I started in 2009, it wasn’t as acceptable. People within healthcare said I was using my brother for advertising or charity, I can’t remember entirely, but I ran with it anyway because myself and Ciaran love running. He lights up when he’s in the chair. We went from 10k races to 10 miles, to half marathons and numerous three quarter marathons so a marathon was the next step. So we did the Dublin marathon last year in 4 hours 33 minutes with a specially made wheelchair bike, similar to the racing ones, but I can steer it from the back. This year we’re doing the Berlin marathon in and the Dublin marathon on. We hope to grab people’s attention and get more people like Ciaran who enjoy the sensation involved. The whole spirit of a marathon is human endeavour and endurance so we get a lot of support from the racing community. I love it and more importantly, he loves it. I would never have run a marathon if it wasn’t for him because I don’t like running long distances. He’s great, he constantly keeps you distracted from it, if I get water, he wants water etc. The funniest thing, we were running the marathon going through water stations etc and we came to a jelly baby station. I ran through, grabbed the jelly babies but dropped them. He’s a big fan of jelly babies and he gave me a look that I wouldn’t have wanted to interpret verbally! Luckily someone down the road had a few and gave them to me for him. He loves the whole experience. The message we’re trying to get across is that my brother, and people like him, love inclusion.” In doing this, the duo raise money for the Sunbeam House Services charity, which provides a range of supports to adults with intellectual disabilities.

I have to thank Joseph wholeheartedly for agreeing to this interview and giving me so much of his time. He is fountain of knowledge and information and was a real pleasure to talk to. If you have any interest in his cutman course or want more information, visit www.cutman.ie and irishcutman.wordpress.com, also follow @irishcutman on twitter. For more on Joseph’s inspirational story with his brother, Ciaran, follow @heaintheavy1234 on twitter and like the Facebook page He Ain’t Heavy. You can also find more information on the charity they raise money for at www.sunbeam.ie and, if you feel moved to, you can also donate on that website.

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Exclusive: Curtis Blaydes on Francis Ngannou: “He’s not the cleanest striker but he is very powerful”

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The last time fans saw Curtis Blaydes in the Octagon was against Oleksiy Oliynyk at UFC 217. Blayes ended up winning the fight via a weird stoppage. In the second round of their fight, Blaydes got up from Oliynik’s guard and threw an illegal soccer kick aimed at his opponents head. Although the kick didn’t land, the referee stopped the fight and had the doctor check out Oliynyk. Oliynyk informed the doctor that he was unable to continue and the referee called a stop to the fight. The fight was ruled a TKO win for Blaydes in what proved to be a lackluster ending.

Even with the fight ending the way it did, it didn’t seem to take anything away from Blaydes’ victory. “No,” Blaydes told MMA Latest. “I was winning the fight. I would of won, anyone who says otherwise is just irritating. I don’t think the weird ending has anything to do with how the fight was going.”

Although Blaydes has moved on from his fight with Oliynek, one man who hasn’t moved on from a fight with Blaydes is new UFC signee and DWTNCS alum, Allen Crowder. Crowder has been calling out Blaydes in almost every interview he’s done so far. The Mebane, North Carolina native first fought Blaydes in April 2015, with Blaydes winning by TKO in the second round. “He’s not worth it,” Blaydes said. “If anyone wants to watch the video of our last fight they can look it up, it wasn’t much of a fight.”

Speaking of former opponents, Blaydes also represents the only fighter in the UFC to have gone toe to toe with Francis Ngannou without having his lights shut off. The Chicago native wound up with a closed eye and the doctors were forced to step in and stop the fight. But unlike Ngannou’s former opponents, Blaydes was able to experience the power first hand without going to sleep. “He has been getting a lot of hype but he is extremely powerful, Blaydes said. “I won’t- I’m not going to be a sore loser and downgrade all the things he does, but he is a powerful striker. He’s not the cleanest striker but he is very powerful.”

Ngannou was able to successfully able to shed the prospect label after he knocked out Overeem and punched (pun intended) his ticket to a title shot. Meanwhile, Blaydes believes he’s shed the prospect label himself after winning four straight in the UFC. “I mean I think so, but I guess it’s not for me to say,” Blaydes said. “It’s up to the audience and the media to say. I wasn’t the one who gave myself the prospect label in the beginning so it’s just up to the people who gave it to take it away.”

After four straight wins, three in 2017, Blaydes goals heading into 2018 remain simple. “To get better every fight, just trying to climb the rankings.”

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UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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Exclusive: Alexander Gustafsson eyeing summer 2018 return- wants title shot next

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Top light heavyweight contender Alexander Gustafsson hasn’t fought since an impressive knockout win back in May, against Glover Teixeira. “The Mauler” is currently on a two-fight winning streak, and for many people, is seen as one of the most logical names to fight for the title next.

Currently absent from the Octagon since May, speaking to MMA Latest, “The Mauler” explains why he’s been on such a long layoff. “I have had an injury in my shoulder,” Gustafsson told MMA Latest. “I had a surgery a couple of months back where they put in a titanium plate to keep my collarbone in place. But that plate was taken out last week so I am back to training and slowly but surely getting better with all the rehab. I’m excited to be back in the Octagon soon.”

After so many obstacles, Gustafsson details when we can expect him back in the cage. “If everything goes well with rehab, I’ll be back in the octagon in the beginning of the summer – right in time for the next title match!”

Volkan Oezdemir was calling out Gustafsson for a European number one contender fight, Gustafsson explains he was never interested in the fight. “No, my prior goal and my only interest is the title fight,” Gustafsson said. “If Volkan wins against DC he will probably be my next opponent.”

The title fight is “absolutely” what Gustafsson believes is next for him and don’t expect to see him in a number one contender fight first. “As I said previously, the title fight is my number one interest.”

With Daniel Cormier and Volkan Oezdemir fighting for the title at UFC 220, Gustafsson shares his thoughts on the matchup. “It’s an exciting matchup – DC is the more experienced fighter and he is a more complete fighter than Volkan,” Gustafsson said. “DC has also been in this situation before, Volkan has not.”

Back in July, Jon Jones failed his second test for PED’s after beating Daniel Cormier to regain his light heavyweight belt. Before the fights with Daniel Cormier, Jones went to war with Gustafsson back in 2013. Gustafsson shares his thoughts on Jones’ second failed test. “Disastrous is my first thought,” Gustafsson explains. “But for the sport, it is good that the truth is out. I wish Jon good luck in his rehab and he is one of the most talented fighters in the UFC.”

Gustafsson was also asked if he eyeing a rematch with Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones before the end of his career. “Of course, I feel good and I’m motivated,” Gustafsson said. “I would like to get the opportunity to match up against both DC and Jon before I retire.”

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