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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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Bellator

Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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BAMMA

Exclusive: Alex Lohore “Didn’t Know” Who Richard Kiely Was Before BAMMA 32 Booking

Harry Davies

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We spoke to the recently crowned BAMMA welterweight champion Alex Lohore, as he prepares to defend his title against Richard Kiely at BAMMA 32 in Dublin.

Lohore (13-1) won the vacant BAMMA welterweight title last month at BAMMA 31 in London. Fighting his longtime rival Nathan Jones on the night, Lohore knocked out “Mr Bag & Tag” with a knee in the first round.

Q: Obviously the rivalry between you and Jones had been going on for years, but you finished it in brutal fashion. Did you to speak to him after the fight?

Yeah I did have a chat with him. I was telling him that it was a great fight and we should train together sometime, but he was he wasn’t really keen on it. I guess he was still a bit sore about the defeat.

Q: In the cage after your win, you called out Richard Kiely, now you’re fighting him. Are you happy you got the opponent you asked for?

Everyone keeps saying I called him out, I didn’t call him out, he called me out! I didn’t even address his name, I said ‘this Irish kid has been running his mouth we’re going to go out there and shut him up.’ I didn’t even know who he was. He’s been mentioning my name and talking a lot of rubbish on my social media disturbing me and my fans.

Q: The finish against Jones was picture perfect. From the elbow, to the right hand, to the knee, was it the best of your career?

Yeah I think it is, by far! It was perfect technique. I knew as he was going he back he would try to duck in for the takedown. Because I was throwing the head kick anyway all I needed to do was just switch it to a knee. I couldn’t ask for any better.

Q: Given it’s in Dublin and Richard is Irish, How do you feel about going into enemy territory at BAMMA 32?

That’s great, that’s why I’m doing it! I need to be comfortable in every environment, so going out there will test. I wanted to be on the Dublin card, now I can teach him a little lesson too, I can’t wait.

Q: As you know the Geordie Shore star Aaron Chalmers has brought a lot of attention to BAMMA recently, what are your thoughts on him? 

He’s good man. For someone who doesn’t come from a fighting background and does reality TV stuff, he’s doing good. How can people say he should fight someone more experienced, because he is taking  guys that are on his level and he’s doing good.

He’s helping MMA fighters because he has got a big following so more people are going to be watching MMA and learning about MMA so it’s a good thing having him on board.

BAMMA32 will take place at the 3Arena in Dublin on November 10th. Tickets are now on sale at ticketmaster.ie. The card will air live on both UNILAD’s Facebook page, and Dave.

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Bellator

Exclusive: Andrey Koreshkov eyeing fight with Rory MacDonald

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Former Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov is coming off of an interesting past two years. In 2015 he beat current welterweight champion Douglas Lima, via a dominant unanimous decision, in order to win the welterweight title. He returned in 2016 and beat former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson via another dominant beatdown. It seemed like Koreshkov was going to be the champion for a very long time, making elite fighters look like they had no business being in the cage with him.

Koreshkov’s world came crashing down one night in Isreal. The Russian was beating Douglas Lima in a rematch, he was up 20-18 on the score-cards, and it seemed like he was going to walk away with another successful title defense. Koreshkov forced Lima’s back against the fence and started winging punches at him, Lima started to do the same as he looked to get off the fence, and then it happened, a huge left hook caught Koreshkov on the chin and it was lights-out. Lima was once again champion, and Koreshkov’s reign was cut short.

What was next for Koreshkov after losing the title? Perhaps a move to middleweight? Bellator’s middleweight division has fewer contenders than the welterweight division and could promise a quicker path to the title for the Russian. Koreshkov is a big welterweight, standing at 6’1, he certainly wouldn’t be small in the higher weight class. Speaking to MMA Latest, Koreshkov was quick to shut down the idea of moving up. “No, no, I work hard at welterweight and I’d like to stay there.”

Sticking with welterweight, Koreshkov knew it was going to be tough to get another title shot after his fight with Chidi Njokuani, but he seems to know the key to fighting for the title “It’s not about how many wins, but rather, the quality of my wins”, with that in mind, he promised the gameplan against Njokuani was to “stand and bang”. Koreshkov fulfilled his promise, against Njokuani he came out guns-blazing, giving Njokuani all he could handle on the feet before eventually taking him down and finishing him with some nasty ground and pound.

Koreshkov also got the chance to explain who he’d like to fight next, should he not get a title shot. “I don’t have any favorites, I know that there are a lot of tough fights at my weight class, but if I had to choose, I would say Rory MacDonald.” Unfortunately for Koreshkov, MacDonald is booked against his former opponent Douglas Lima, as the two are set to fight for the Bellator welterweight title in January.

A fight against MacDonald would promise fireworks as the two are known for their ruthless style. There’s a strong chance Koreshkov may get his chance against MacDonald next, as the former champion is certainly either next in line for the shot, or set to fight the loser.

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