Like Invicta FC, Swayze Valentine is a pioneer in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. The first woman to work as a cut person for the major MMA promotions, “The Queen of Cuts” continues to knock down barriers and show that she is capable of performing her job as skillfully as anyone in the sport.
Corey Smith: Swayze is rather unique for a first name. What is the origin of your first name?
Swayze Valentine: Swayze is a beautiful name that originates from Germany.
CS: You have spoken about becoming instantly addicted to MMA after your very first live show. How much of the show are you able to enjoy as you work?
SV: That is a good question, as a Cutman, you get the best seat in the house. For me, I personally am too focused on my fighter that I don’t catch the fight in its entirety. I record the fights at home so when I get back, I can actually “watch” it! J
CS: After trying other avenues to become involved in the world of MMA, Cut-person attracted your attention. Whose hands did you wrap the very first time? How did your skills progress from there?
SV: The first persons’ hands I ever wrapped besides my own, was Kit Cope’s hands. He was a coach at the Combat Fitness in Boise, Idaho. He was the first person I saw when I walked in their door that day. I told him that I wanted to learn to wrap hands and I needed someone to practice on. He told me I could wrap his hands. We went to the local Rite Aid and purchased very expensive gauze and tape. I went back and started to wrap Kit, the way I learned just the night before from watching Stitch’s Youtube videos.
SV: I would travel 120 miles round trip to that gym in Boise, every day to wrap all the fighters I could, for their sparring sessions. Some nights I would wrap 1 and some other nights I would wrap 3-4. I feel bad for those victims that let me wrap their hands in the beginning stages of my career! J
SV: They never complained and when I would ask them how it felt, the fighters would have a smile on their faces and tell me, “Feels great!” Looking back on it now, I know I wrapped their hands too tight. Those fighters wore my hand wraps like champs! I’m so thankful for all the fighters that sat down in front of me, to let me practice on them. Their good sportsmanship was so valuable!
SV: Through trial and error for a few years, my skills have progressed so much, that I have had the honor to wrap the hands of Chael Sonnen, Brian Stann, Yushin Okami, Scott Jorgensen, etc. That was a huge step for me! I get the honor at every show, to wrap the hands of so many extremely talented fighters and future legends of this sport! I’m thankful for any hand that allows me to keep up on my craft and for that fighter to trust me with their weapons!
CS: Along with wrapping of hands, you are licensed as a Cut-person, and also licensed to carry Epinephrine. How did the training process for treating cuts unfold? What is the purpose of the Epinephrine?
SV: My personal training process for learning the cut side, was with great help from my mentor UFC Cutman, Adrian Rosenbusch. I flew out to Las Vegas where he lived, and he worked with me for 10 days straight. There was a lot of early mornings and late nights of repetitious scenarios and practicles. Of course this was just the start of it. The real test is to work on an actual person in real life scenarios. He took the time to have me learn every step as perfectly as I could. We spent a lot of time learning each step perfectly. Even on how to apply the grease (Vaseline) to the fighters face. I must have done it over a thousand times in those 10 days J When it came time to work the cage for the first time, we went slow. SV: I would work several shows just greasing the fighters before they enter the cage, then I worked my way up to actually working in the cage. I went slow and took the time to learn every intimate detail of this profession.
SV: The purpose of Epinephrine is to stop bleeding. Epinephrine is a blood coagulant, a vasoconstrictor.
CS: What do you believe a standard cut person’s duties are during a bout? Do you deviate from those in any way?
SV: In my opinion, a Cut person’s duties and priority is the fighter safety! Make every step, to keep that fighter safe. I do not believe I deviate from that one bit.
CS: What does a typical fight day entail for you? How early do you start and when are you finished?
SV: A typical fight day for me entails me waking up around 8am. I start checking all of my supplies after I have some breakfast. I end up checking my supplies several times through out the day, making sure I haven’t forgotten a thing! I catch the shuttle at call time and head to the venue. Once I get to the venue, I will cut towels and set up my hand wrapping station.
SV: I have my wrap list from the day before and I head to my first fighter and begin wrapping in fight order. Once all the fighters on my list have been wrapped, I get ready to head cage side to start working the fights. My evening comes to a close pretty soon after the fights have ended. I gather my things, say congrats, thank you and good bye to everyone I can find. Then I catch a shuttle back to my hotel. I usually get back to the hotel around 11:30-Midnight.
CS: What do you consider the hardest aspect of your job? What challenges do you face if any, by being a female cut person in a traditionally male dominated occupation?
SV: I would have to say the hardest aspect of my job is also the best aspect about the job. Like travel! It is so cool to travel to different places, but the jet lag or delayed/missed flights can be quite difficult. As for challenges I have faced being a female in a traditionally male dominated sport is gaining the trust of the coaches and fighters. In the beginning, a lot of people didn’t take me seriously. Being a woman, they didn’t trust my work or my ability to take care of them. I would have corners refuse to let me wrap their fighters hands or grease them before they go into the cage.
SV: I have had a man controlling the cage door; refuse to allow me in the cage to take care of an injured fighter. I have even had my hand wraps cut off of fighters by coaches, cursed out by corners. The worst that had happened to me, I was physically assaulted in the cage by a corner, while I was trying to help an injured fighter.
SV: I will always have challenges being a woman in this industry, but I appreciate those challenges. I just shake it off and not let it get to me emotionally. It makes me stronger and pushes me to work that much harder!
CS: What kinds of preferences does a fighter have in the way their hands are wrapped? What is the interaction like as you wrap their hands?
SV: Usually a fighter isn’t too picky about their hand wraps. They are typically in a completely different state of mind and trust you to do what you do best. The most common preference is a thinner hand wrap, thicker pad or to not wrap their thumb. These are the most common requests.
CS: This was your first time working an Invicta FC show. What were you impressions of the company and the way the card was conducted?
SV: This was my first time working with Invicta. I was extremely impressed with the company. The show ran like a well oiled machine! Every person running that show ran it perfectly! I cannot say enough great things about it. There was so much care and thought put into every aspect of this company and it show’s through their production and colleagues. The card was phenomenal, so many amazingly talented woman. I was honored to be asked to be a part of woman’s MMA History!
CS: What was the atmosphere like working a show comprised entirely of female athletes compared to a show that featured only men, or one or two female bouts?
SV: The atmosphere was very well balanced. Even though there were all female fighters, the majority of the corners were male. I think it married beautifully. The interaction between everyone was very supportive. I remember being in the shuttle on the way to the venue and a coach was talking about his experience with working with woman vs. men and he said,” I have to talk to the woman calmly in the corner. It’s not like working with a male fighter. You can’t yell at a woman or she will cry or get all emotional, you have to speak softly!” I thought this was a very logical opinion. J
CS: What do you believe an all female promotion such as Invicta does to further the sport as MMA as a whole?
SV: I feel that Shannon hit the nail on the head. I think that her values for the sport are allowing it to grow in a way no one could have ever imagined. Shannon said it beautifully in her own words,
“My goal has always been — always, from day one and from the moment I ever stepped into this sport — to make a difference. And when I had the opportunity to start Invicta, and to build Invicta, the goal professionally and personally was to still make a difference. And to create opportunities. So for me, this is an amazing thing not only for Invicta, but for athletes and for future athletes. Because these girls are going to go in there and continue to break down those barriers that we’re fighting hard to break down everyday, and they’re going to get the opportunity and the recognition that they deserve.”
CS: Lastly, who would you like to thank?
SV: I would love to thank my children, family and friends. They have all be such great supporters of me.
SV: My mentor, Adrian Rosenbusch. Rob Monroe, Stitch and Don House, I thank them all for their kind words and encouragement.
SV: I really want to thank Invicta for being a monument for all of us women to grow with them and make history!