It’s funny to look back just five years ago and see how little MMA had penetrated the mainstream market, and now it seems to be everywhere, even the New York Time’s best-seller list. Autobiographies from fighters like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes have attracted attention from fight fans and readers who want an interesting and unique story. These days, books on MMA seem to be coming out in droves as their popularity rapidly increases, and it only makes sense that we start seeing some more peculiar books.
Case in point, UFC & Boxing cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran’s autobiography, “From the Fields to the Garden: The Life of “Stitch” Duran”. Co-written by Zac Robinson, when I first heard about this book I wondered about the validity of this. Are we at the point now in the progression of the sport that a cutman can release a book, and even if so, how good could it be? I was skeptical to say the least, but my initial thoughts were quickly shoved aside for a very engaging and surprising book. We spoke with Stitch recently about the book and some other things, and this is truly an inside look at the world of combat sports, as much as it is the life of “Stitch”.
Hit the jump for the full review!
“Stitch” starts the book with an anecdote about UFC 76, where he was in the corner of Forrest Griffin during his match against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Fight synopsis aside, Griffin gets cut, and it is now time for the cutman to shine! “Stitch” manages to seal Griffin’s cut and let him keep fighting, enough to get the win against Rua. This is the man we already know from seeing the many UFC & WEC events, but who we do not know yet is the man behind the q-tips and vaseline.
We learn of his humble beginnings as a migrant worker toiling in the field of California, back when fighting was not even a thought in the back of his head. “Stitch” had dreams of Major League Baseball, but things don’t always go as we want, and an injury sidelined Duran from pursuing that dream and led him to join the Air Force during the Vietnam War. It was while he was overseas in Thailand where he began to learn the art of Muay Thai, something so foreign and awe-inspiring that would soon overwhelm his life.
Upon returning home from the war, “Stitch” continued his martial arts training and began competing and promoting, and eventually fell in to the cutman gig. The story of his first night becoming “Stitch” is such a sudden happening, and it’s hard not to compare his life to a bout in the ring. You can plan all you want, but once you get in there, anything can happen – for better or for worse.
The first half of the book focuses on Jacob’s early life before he was a cutman, and the second half becomes anecdotes on his career, ranging from working with the top boxers to top MMA fighters all over the world. “Stitch” tells us about how he became Matt Serra’s good luck charm, fixing Frank Trigg’s busted hand before a fight, working with the Klitschko’s and Fedor Emelianeko and his friendship with “The Last Emperor”, trying to piece together the puzzle of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s face at after his fight with Wanderlei Silva at Pride 28 and many more.
Stitch stays away from backroom politics and talks about what matters – the fighters. No one gets closer to them then Stitch does, and the reader has the chance to sit down with him as he wraps their hands or closes up a gash. The fighters are at their most open and vulnerable, and it’s no wonder since he has seen them at their greatest and lowest moments. The history of Zuffa-owned UFC is essentially told through his eyes, and moreso through the eyes of the men who battled in those events, all up to UFC 100.
I never expected this book to be so compelling, but it was such a unique perspective, and a candid one at that, into the lives of not just the author but the people he has worked with. The job of cutman is such an overlooked job, but without men like him, so many famous fights would have ended a lot sooner, and in some cases not happened at all. This is a book definitely worth checking out, especially for a die-hard MMA fan, but that is a no brainer. For a newcomer to the sport, I would still highly recommend this, it is the closest look you can get without being backstage, and for a fan who is ready to learn more and dive into the deep-end of combat sports, they need to look no further than this book.
You can order “From the Fields to the Garden: The Life of Stitch Duran” from Amazon.com at this link over here for under $15. And don’t forget to check out our interview with Stitch to hear more about his life, the book and more!