By Ross Patterson
For the second instalment of our series focusing on the highly talented women working within the sport, we spoke to cutwoman Jess Isaacson. One of only 12 A-level Certified Cuts People in the world. As the owner of Inside-Out Care, which trains people in all aspects of the role. Jess has also worked with IMMAF since 2015 and shared some of her experiences.
“I used to fight Muay Thai. I’d broken my hands a few times in training. So I approached Joe Clifford about learning how to wrap my hands, more for my protection than anything else. Then I just sort of fell in love with it.”
Hailing from Ireland, Jess re-entered the world of martial arts after having a child. And after despairing at the lack of skill some Cutteams had, Jess started her business, Inside-Out Care, where she ran seminars and workshops on how to do the job correctly.
“I wanted to solely work on teaching people how to do it correctly. A lot of times we were just thrown in at the deep end. A lot of people had done one-day cut courses and were being told they were Cutmen and Cutwomen, and they were going out and making a shambles of what people had put years and years and decades into doing.”
Jess wanted grassroots MMA to have the same standard of care as the professional shows like Brave CF or Cage Warriors, so she stopped working as a Cutwoman and focussed on building her course.
“We just want to help protect the fighters and make sure it’s safe. Who wants to see a fighter go home to their family hurt worse than they have to be? They go in there for our entertainment. They put their lives on the line. Every fighter knows that. So if we can offer some sort of help and guidance and safety and care, to keep them as safe as we can, then I go home feeling like I’ve done something. That’s something I try to instil in our team and all of our graduates.”
Jess is an IMMAF A-Level certified Cutwoman. This means she’s one of the most qualified people in the world in her role. She’s worked with IMMAF since 2015 and said it’s the most difficult show she does.
“If you can do an IMMAF, no other show is ever hard. When you spend 4 days wrapping hundreds and hundreds of hands, with a broken back and torn thumbs, nothing is hard. A show with 40 fights is so easy.”
Jess’ passion and dedication to the sport shine through when she’s speaking, but not everyone in the sport understands why the Cutteams are there.
“I have had over the years some mountain of fights with promoters and coaches, with them not wanting their fighter to be treated in between rounds. Because one, I’m a woman. Because we still haven’t evolved out of the woman side of things in combat sports. Not in all aspects, but there is that mentality still of being in the boys club, and obviously I’m not in the boys club. But they are learning. They are learning. They’re understanding that safety has to be first. You have to train to do a judge’s job, to do a ref’s job, so why would you think you can walk in and do a Cutperson’s job?”
Jess expanded on what it is like to be a woman working in combat sports.
“I say I take the scenic route. It’s been a man’s sport for so long. In the last probably 5 or 6 years, the amount that it’s changed for women, and not just fighters, Cutwomen as well, timekeepers, judges, referees – it has changed hugely. But there is still a long way to go for us. There’s a huge amount of way to go for us.”
“I would like it to move forward a bit more. I would like to see more women, especially Cutwomen doing the job. I think on the level that we’re at, there’s only maybe two or three of us. And I think that’s mad because there are so many really good Cutwomen.”
“It has come on leaps and bounds in 5 years, but I’d like it to come on a bit further. I would like to see women have more senior roles and be paid as much as men are. Because we’re not right now, we’re definitely not. Or if we are and we push it, it’s because we had to push it to get it.”
“It’s not just me. I’m talking about other Cutwomen who are in the same position and they’ve said the same thing. They’ve said ‘this is my price’ and they’ve said ‘can you do it for this’ or ‘can you do it for that’, when they’d never have questioned a man for that price. Yet their experience is the same or even more sometimes.”
“Women in the world, in every country, we’re still at that thing where men are slightly higher than women and paid slightly more than women. I’ll probably be dead by the time it evens itself out, but you know, if a few of us can help sort of guide it along the way, and help other women coming up behind us, and it makes it a little easier for them, then I’m all good with that.”
When asked about her advice to anyone looking to join the Cutteams, he answer was to go for it.
“Follow your dreams. Find a Cutman or woman that will help and guide you. Talk to people. Ask people. Ask coaches. You don’t have to be part of this sport to be a Cutman or Cutwoman, but you have to love combat sports to be it. Don’t allow anybody to tell you you can’t do it. I fell in love with it almost instantaneously. And I have been told over the years ‘you can’t do it’ and ‘you shouldn’t do it’. I just didn’t listen. Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s an amazing journey to be on. You meet so many great people.”
Jess is an inspiring human being. Her commitment to combat sports and the athletes she’s responsible for. The work done has pathed the way for both women and men to follow.
“Externally, I look cool as a cucumber. Internally, I’m a hot mess. And when I stop feeling like that, I’m going to quit doing what I do. But I don’t think it’ll ever go. As long as that buzz is still there, it’s something I want to be doing forever and ever.’