It was in Anchorage, AK, back in 2006, when Swayze Valentine began her journey as a cutwoman. This journey has taken her from working local pro and amateur shows, to bigger events such as Bellator and WSOF, and then in 2014, to the UFC. The journey wasn’t easy for Valentine by any means, but she wasn’t going to let anyone get in between her and her dream job. I talked with “The Queen of Cuts” to get a more in-depth look on her journey of making UFC history.
Mark Carrillo: What were you doing before you became the UFC’s first female cutwoman?
Swayze Valentine: Before I was a cutwoman, I was working at Petco as an Animal Specialist. I loved that job!
Carrillo: How did it feel the first time you worked a UFC event? Who was the first fighter you cornered?
Valentine: It felt amazing to be backstage for my fist UFC event. It was so surreal. There I was, walking the halls with these elite athletes that I had only seen on TV before. It was a dream come true to work at the pinnacle of the sport. I love this sport, and I am blessed that I now get to do what I love and get paid to do it. The first UFC fighter I cornered was Ernest Chavez at UFC 170.
Carrillo: Does it get intimidating being surrounded by so much shirtless testosterone and aggression at these fights? I get intimidated from my couch at home watching some of these guys.
Valentine: Haha, no I don’t get intimidated by the testosterone or shirtless men. It can be a really tense environment at times, so if I feel any tension, I like to break it up. I like to talk to the fighters and their camps and make them laugh. I know it is intimidating to them when they see a woman walk in the room to wrap their hands, so I try to make them as comfortable as possible.
Carrillo: MMA fights can sometimes bring together a pretty rowdy and sometimes mildly inebriated crowd. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in your years of being cage side?
Valentine: The craziest I have seen was when I was working for a promotion in California. I was in the cage at round 2 of the fight fixing up a cut on my fighters forehead. All of a sudden, camps fly out of the cage, the commission locks the cage door, and my fighter rips away from me trying to jump over the 6′ cage walls. I look out and see a swarm of people in the stands trying to break up a fight against a woman (who I found out, was the fighters girlfriend) who was kneeing a grown man in the face repeatedly. The police came and escorted everyone that was involved out. That fight was called, due to the interruption. The rest of the fights went off without a hitch.
Carrillo: Is it hard to keep a straight face while tending to a fighter’s cut? What do you say if a fighter ask you, “Is it bad?” Especially if the cut actually is really bad.
Valentine: I am so focused when I go in the cage. I have one mission when I go in and that is to get the cut stopped as safely as possible. If a fighter asks me the severity of their cut, I don’t answer. I don’t want the fighters focus to ever be lost with anything, other than the directions he/she is being given from their camp. I do see cuts that are really bad, and some of them are hard to stomach. Blood smells and I have been queezy a time or two.
Carrillo: What is the worst cut you have ever had the pleasure of working with?
Valentine: The worst cut would be a tie between Leslie Smith’s ear and Christos Giagos’ eye, at UFC Fight Night in New Orleans.
Carrillo: What goes through your head when the doctor steps in and wants to take a look at a cut?
Valentine: My first thought is if the fight is going to be called. Lets be real, NO ONE wants a fight to be called. When the doctor is in there, I step aside and let him/her take over. If they determine that the fighter would be risking major injury to themselves if they were to continue, then I absolutely agree with that decision. When the Doctor walks out and tells me to continue; It’s game on!!!
Carrillo: Have you ever had any crazy coaches or fighters try to blame you for a loss?
Valentine: No, but I have had a coach physically assault me inside the cage between rounds because he didn’t want me fixing his fighters cut. That was unexpected.
Carrillo: What is the best experience you have had cornering a fighter? And what’s the worst?
Valentine: The best experience is when a fighter comes out of the cage over to me, give me a big hug or shakes my hand. It is an amazing feeling when they tell you their hands felt great in your wraps. That makes it all worth it. When someone shows you they appreciate you, no matter what you did for them, it means so much.
The worst has to be when I was physically assaulted. I took that experience and made it into a positive. It made me stronger and made me believe that I can handle anything. I can, and I have.
Carrillo: How important is it for a fighter’s hands to be wrapped properly? Johny Hendricks thought that the way his hands were wrapped for his fight with GSP may have cost him the fight.
Valentine: It is extremely important for a fighters hands to be wrapped properly! If they don’t feel good in the wraps, it can put their focus on how uncomfortable their hands feel. If a fighter breaks their hands, well then they can’t fight for months!
Carrillo: Are fighters picky about how their hands are wrapped?
Valentine: Some are very picky, and that is fine. I know I would want my hands just the way I like them if I was going into a fight. I cater to the fighters, I keep the integrity of the way I wrap hands and adjust what I need to, for the fighter.
Carrillo: Outside of the cage what, do you spend your free time doing? What hobbies or interest do you have outside of being a cutwoman?
Valentine: I am first and foremost, a mom. I love being a mom. When I am home, I spend time with my children, family and friends. I love music. I love to dance, sing and just chill. I’m down for anything and really easy-going.
Carrillo: How hard was it to get to where you are today? Who helped you to get here?
Valentine: I’m not going to lie, it was very hard. It was hard emotionally, physically and financially. There were times I thought, I should just give up on trying to make making a cutwoman a career. I still have obstacles that pop up here and there and I always will, and I’m okay with that. I handle them well and keep moving. A huge part of my success of making my dream career a reality, is my mentor, fellow UFC cutman Adrian “Tenacity” Rosenbusch. He was the ONLY person that took me seriously and was willing to show me everything I needed to know, not only how to be successful in this industry, but most importantly, how to survive in it.
Carrillo: In 20 years, where do you want to be? What do you want to be known for?
Valentine: In 20 years from now I want to still be doing what I love to do. I want to continue to take care of fighters and my family. I would love to be known for being loyal to everyone, kind, caring and selfless. I love to give everyone the best of me. Oh, and maybe being known as one of the most badass women ever!
Free cage side seats and stuffing Vaseline into fighter’s cuts seems pretty badass to me. Follow Swayze on Twitter @SwayzeValentine, and keep an eye out for her. She’s the one that doesn’t look like Carlos Santana.
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