By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA
There is contention that there is no such thing as a stupid question. In my experience, I have realized many questions simply aren’t focused correctly, but with some follow-up questions of your own, the deep-seeded wondering floats to the surface for further elaboration or clarification. In my role as teacher, I instruct students to dig deeper using questions, burrowing below what’s visible on the surface with questions including why or how. The latest news about Jacob “Stitch” Duran, now former UFC cutman, hit close to home because I was reminded that mining the world for answers contradicts anything researched in relation to curiosity; apparently, curiosity does kill something. “Stitch”’s wonderment killed: fighter safety and psyche, fans’ practice of having voice within the sport, and his career with the UFC. In The Energy to Teach (2001) by Donald Graves, he scolded those unwilling to work through a series of questions. He stated,
“I do not have to accept decisions from people who cannot answer at the conceptual/learning theory level. I do not have to accept the response that ‘they say we have to do this.’” (p. 57)
Though it may seem Graves is establishing a picket line, his objective is to discuss the matter at hand, knowing full well that the issue won’t easily be swept under the rug. Pursuing improvement and growth in teaching, as a cutman, or any other chosen field requires collaborative efforts, not a dictatorship.
The vision of “Stitch” in the UFC is as iconic as the cage’s Octagonal shape, the narration of Bruce Buffer or Joe Rogan over the course of the evening, Babysitter to the Stars, Burt Watson, preparing warriors for the main-stage, and the fighters and their battles emblazoned in our memories. When “Stitch”’s kind eyes behind his glasses, built in half-smile underneath his moustache, and glaring compassion for the fighters flashed across the screen, it reminded me that the fighters are in caring hands. After listening to and reading numerous interviews, watching him in action, or educating myself for a trip to Barnes and Noble to buy his autobiography From the Fields to the Garden (2010), it’s obvious his intentions are pure and selfless. In fact, his efforts coincide with mine between 8:30 am to 2:30 pm: I want everyone safe and doing their best.
We live in a time of standards: meeting them, living by them, and continually refining them. Graves (2001) walked his readers down memory lane to a time when the standards movement in education was unfolding, and it was reminiscent to the UFC’s entrance into the realm of professional sports in 1993. Graves flashed back,
“I liked the way the process began by involving teachers in trying various approaches to find the best ways to collect writing and evaluate portfolios.” (p. 86)
Just as the UFC’s groundbreaking endeavor at UFC 1, my dream to earn my teaching credential started off with a naivety of imparting change on the world, only to be met by a beast we both were not prepared for. Graves continued,
“What began as a grass-roots venture has evolved into more of a top-down venture in which standards are imposed on teachers and students.” (p. 86-87)
The waves of change in education never cease, and the end game of the UFC has been to mainstream the sport of MMA, inching closer and closer to an acronym rich in meaning: NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, UFC. The first wave in the UFC’s storm of newness was the release of the Reebok fight kits. On July 11, 2015, UFC 189 launched the kits, and the fighters modeled their duds down the runway to their walkout music. Not everyone was pleased with the Reebok deal, but it went off without too much of a hitch, except for “Stitch.”
Taking the lead, which has led him to today’s notoriety, “Stitch” wondered about Reebok’s financial connection with the UFC cutmen, especially those who were more senior under his tutelage. In an interview with Bloody Elbow’s Josh Nash (2015), “Stitch” questioned at the elementary level of clarification: asking why. Read the article that let the air out of the Reebok Pumps that Reebok wouldn’t pay “Stitch” to wrap hands in. You will find nothing disrespectful, unprofessional, slanderous, or damaging to the UFC product.
I have vocalized concerns as “Stitch” did, under similar levels of pressure and competition: the teachers’ staff room. Like all learning experiences, I unintentionally opt for the road more difficult to travel. At a new school site, I quickly learned how detrimental it can be to ask why. Why? It’s a question that forces individuals to defend their reasoning with evidence. With such introspection, chinks in the armor may be detected, and the status quo will be affected, which actually heightens development rather than pausing it.
Resistance to rethink a given situation reminds me of practicing revision with my young writers. Each year in our first unit of study, they look at me like puppies when we reach the portion of the writing process that requires us to revise our work. Thirty-four heads cock to the side with a look that says, “Look at it again? I’m done!”
In the case of teachers, we have unions, contracts, and other protective bureaucracy; therefore, I was allotted an opportunity to have a sit-down with those who had their feelers bent, and we hashed out our next steps. I am aware that there are no such unions in the fight game, but the cutman who has revolutionized the art of working a corner with techniques, chemicals, materials, and gear wasn’t even offered a chair across from UFC executives.
Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C.’s public schools, received backlash for her belief in speaking out against union dominance. In Time Magazine‘s article titled Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge (2008) by Amanda Ripley, Rhee expressed her problem with education as,
“The thing that kills me about education is that it is so touchy-feely.”
Clearly, the UFC is equally as sensitive in their reaction to “Stitch”’s comments. Had “Stitch” raked the UFC brand over the coals and cut them open, without stopping the bleeding, I, and others, could better understand the decision to let him go. Until then, continue the flood of support for a member of the MMA community who is invaluable, not disposable, because others may soon find themselves in a matching predicament.
Let your voice be heard like these fans who feel slighted in “Stitch”‘s dismissal.
— Jay Walker (@Diehxrds) July 22, 2015
— Galli Espineli (@GalliEsp) July 22, 2015
— Adrian Rivero (@HectikRivero) July 22, 2015
— Ramsey Basurto (@mrwaffles5757) July 22, 2015
— Arnold Tijerina (@arnoldtijerina) July 22, 2015
Graves, Donald. 2001. The Energy to Teach. Heinemann.
Ripley, Amanda. 2008. Time Magazine. Rhee Tackles Classroom Challenge.