Swayze Valentine has been a part of several of the UFC’s biggest fights, even if you’ve never heard of her. She is a professional cutwoman and she has gone from fan, to working regional promotions, to now wrapping the hands of some of the best fighters in the world. “The Queen of Cuts” took time to speak to MMAUncaged about her fascinating career in the sport of MMA.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Swayze. With MMA popularity at an all-time high, what is your schedule like this year in terms of working events? It seems like you could be traveling every week for work.lol
My pleasure! MMA is growing so fast, I love it! I have a pretty busy schedule. I work MMA events up to a few times a month, and in between those events I keep myself busy being a mom and working 6 days a week for the United States Post Office.
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment, you have discussed the story of going to your first MMA event in Anchorage and from there being hooked. What do you remember most about that first event that got you enamored with the sport?
The first thing I remember is how much I loved the atmosphere! There was so much energy in the air. I wanted to feel that all the time and immediately had the desire to be a part of the industry somehow. If you have ever had the chance to go to a live event, you can relate. Even watching it on tv is thrilling. You know immediately if you like it or not.
What was it about being the cutman, or in your case cutwoman, that made it the job you wanted to have?
To be honest in the beginning, I wasn’t sure what I could do in the industry. All that was available to me, to my knowledge at the time, was to be a fighter. I knew I wasn’t a fighter, so I decided to ask the promoter of the event, what I could do at his show. He looked me up and down and said, “You could be a ring girl! I have a 2 day Halloween tournament that you could work.” Well, that was not what I had in mind! But I was willing to give it a try, so I could at least get my foot in the door and see what else there could be for me. When I went back to the event a few weeks later to work as a ring girl, I was in the back with the other girls getting ready. Trying on and trading the plethora of bikini’s back and forth seeing who looked best in each one. Once I found my string for the evening, I decided to escape the room of bikini madness, to see other options. As I was checking things out, I saw coaches wrapping the fighter hands. My heart fluttered and I knew at that moment….That was what I wanted to do! To me, there is no greater honor than wrapping the hands of a the fighter! Those are my exact thoughts and feeling to this day. There is no better job than that, in my opinion. I left that evening with a dream, went home and started to wrap my hands over and over again. I started to frequent local MMA/Muay Thai gyms volunteering my time 5 days a week, just wrapping fighters for their sparring sessions. I didn’t learn the Cut side of things until years later, which is a whole new level of love!
Help out us fans out a little bit. First, exactly what is the cutman in charge of during an event? Because I assume it’s a lot more than just treating cuts, of course. Secondly, we see you carrying several tools for your job at each event, can you go over what they all are and what they’re used for?
A Cutman’s job at the event isn’t just cuts. We are responsible for fighters safety inside and outside the cage/ring. Before the bright lights come on, we are in the back carefully and intricately creating magic and catering to each individual fighters needs and preferences, concerning their hands. It all starts with the hands. This is not a craft we take lightly. If their hands aren’t right, it can cause serious injury or damage to the fighter and their careers. As the night continues, the fighters arrive at all different times of the evening during an event. Us Cutmen/Women work as a team. We take turns wrapping fighters and swapping spots cageside once the fights have begun. A few items in the Cuman’s caddy that we are never without is: Cotton Swabs, towel, ice, enswell and Epi. Each of us set up our spot a little differently and have more/less items, but those are the necessities.
You obviously built your reputation in smaller events and now you work large events like those held by the UFC. What has been the most high profile fight that you have been the cutwoman for?
Man, that’s a hard question! I feel every fight I have worked in my career are high profile! I have been blessed to work a lot of amazing cards. If we take UFC for instance, every fighter is high profile. So there is no single answer to that one. Sorry guys!
I’m sure the energy inside the cage during a fight is electric, what is it like to be treating a fighter in the middle of an intense match?
Man, it’s intense! Amidst the chaos, you have no choice but to try and keep your cool. I think for me personally, the most stressful part of being in the cage isn’t what’s happening around me, no matter how loud the crowd is, how many cameras you have in your face, how hot or bright the lights are… I am hyper focused on the fighter in front of me. Everything else disappears. It’s the stress of the fight against the clock and the overwhelming thought that this fighter is trusting and counting on me to get them to the next round. Can I stop this cut successfully or bring the swelling down, in under 40 seconds?! But that adrenaline and stress is what I like. It drives me and is addicting. I love every bit of it. I do my best in the most stressful/intense of situations.
As cutwoman, what kind of things do you see and hear in the fighter’s corners between rounds? Can you tell us any of the more memorable ones?
Even though I am very aware of my surroundings cage side, I don’t pay too much attention to the corners during the actual fight. I have to watch my fighter every second of each round. I watch every blow, every takedown..etc. Most of the action that happens with the corners is usually after a decision. It can get a bit crazy especially if there was a decision the corner didn’t agree with. I have seen corners pick up and smash the stools, pieces flying everywhere. There was this one fight I was working in California (not UFC) where I was in the cage cleaning blood off my fighter after the round, and there was a commotion in the corner. The other corner was taunting him…. so my fighter’s girlfriend ran to the other corner, grabbed the coaches head and threw a Muay Thai knee straight to his face. My fighter ran out of the cage and they all went at it. It was a big brawl! There were about 30 people that got themselves involved. The cage door operator locked us inside the cage until security safely got it under control. That was probably the craziest corner kerfuffle I have witnessed.
Shifting gears, I’m sure you experience things a little differently as a female in your profession than some of your male counterparts. For example, you’re a beautiful woman and I’m sure fighters have noticed also. Have you ever been hit on by a fighter you’re treating?
There is one situation that sticks out in my mind. I was working a televised event in Kansas City, Missouri. My fighter won the round by submission. His win didn’t go without receiving some damage! I went in to clean him up before his post-fight interview with the cage announcer. While the announcer was standing next to us with his mic on, the fighter says to me into the mic, “You are so beautiful, wanna go out tonight?!” I turned 50 shades of red, I was caught so off guard, I just smiled and made a quick exit. Haha! It was very sweet and flattering.
Recently, you’ve had a guest starring role on the DirecTV series Kingdom. What has been your favorite part of being on the show?
My favorite part of being on Kingdom was getting to hang out with everyone. I got to see UFC fighters that I haven’t seen in awhile and hang out with refs I work with at events. It was like a reunion every episode. I loved it! It was also great being a part of a television series. It was a huge change of pace and such an amazing experience.
You’ve gained recognition as a trailblazer for the job as the most famous cutwoman in MMA. Do you still experience sexism in your job or after so many events have such incidents finally stopped?
Some things have changed, or got better. But at the same time, there will always be something I have to work through or work harder at. I will always have challenges, everyone does. I’m ok with that. It keeps you humble and keeps you sharp. The moment you get comfortable in this industry, you fail.
Do you see a time when there will be more and more women working as cutmen in MMA?
I think so for sure! I already know of several women in Brazil and in Europe! I think it is so great for anyone to do what they love!
Finally, what do you see as the next step for yourself? Is it about working as the cutwomen in super fights or is it something else?
I want to be a Cutwoman for life! It is what I love and what makes me happy, outside of my children. As long as there is MMA, Muai Thai and Boxing, I will be a Cutwoman, and this sport isn’t going anywhere.
Thank you so much for your time Swayze! Where can fans find you on social media?