Joe Clifford talks cutman courses & his combat sport journey

Picture: Joe Clifford (center, left) with members of the CFMMA at his course in Paris In recent years veteran Irish cutman Joe Clifford has seen a tremendous increase in demand for his Cutman Course which is now approved by Safe MMA and the IMMAF. The course has hosted a diverse attendance over the years including fighters, coaches, officials and other healthcare workers. As an experienced cutman in the realms of both professional boxing and the UFC, Joe spoke with IMMAF.org of how the sad picture of a fighter cutting their costs is what first motivated him to share his education and insight. “It was my first experience in a pro boxing dressing room where a journeyman was left bleeding,” Joe explained. “In order to maximise his earnings he had brought no team and was alone. I thought that these guys need to be protected from themselves. I’ve also seen the harm done by cornermen who would use anything to stop bleeding, including super glue in vaseline. Also, over the years I have seen some friends in boxing and their health deteriorate through parkinsons disease. Talking about the success of his course, Joe told immaf.org, “Feedback over the years has been amazing from pro fighters, coaches, officials, health care practitioners, EMT’s, paramedics, etc. It’s been overwhelming really.” In recent weeks courses have taken place in both Portugal and France with two anticipated dates set for London on February 28, and Dublin on March 6 (click HERE for more information). “Between 10 and 15 people are expected. I generally only work with a maximum of 20. Generally the people that attend are competing or working in combat sport e.g. coaches, fighters, or officials, sometimes healthcare practitioners and sometimes those who just want to know what cutmen do with no connection to sport.”

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Joe leads a demonstration for the CFMMA in Paris
Joe explained the scary reality of how at present there is no official certification required for the practices of a cutman in combat sport, making his courses a much appreciated aid in getting a helpful standard of education to those who may need it from the grassroots upwards. “At present in professional combat sport no specific requirements for cutmen are mandatory. Some professional bodies require a first aid course which is not very specific to the types of injuries acquired in combat sport. “That is the whole point of the Cutman Course, to set a standard both national and international.” Joe has worked extensively both nationally and globally since 2004. He graduated with a BSc in Applied Sciences, holds a Diploma in Physical Therapy and is a certified Strength and Conditioning therapist. He is also a member of the Irish Physical Therapy Association, Irish Exercise Teachers Association and the National Strength and Conditioning Association USA. With these extensive qualifications and expertise, Joe will be working with the IMMAF to develop licensing and progression pathways for cutman to work at IMMAF events. “Requirements for entry are first aid training in CPR AED & Wound Care. To gain some experience in the field and to familiarize yourself with the environment it’s a good idea to join an MMA gym. Although not completely necessary it does help.” Joe shared the story of his roots in Irish boxing that opened the door to him first becoming a cutman, plus how a friendship with UFC light heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson lead him towards Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC. “I’ve been involved with amateur boxing since the age of 14 (now 48) so 34 years now. I work as an official in amateur boxing and coach boxing to MMA fighters. “I had just finished studying health science and was involved in boxing when our gym, Crumlin BC, turned pro and they were looking for someone to cover corners as a cutman. Olympian Phil Sutcliffe asked if I would be interested in working as a Cutman… Bish! Bang! Bosh! Here I am today. The journey has been unbelievable.”
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Joe watches over hand wrapping practise in Portugal with members of the CAPMMA
With MMA being the world’s ‘fastest growing sport’, Joe may always have been destined to make the transition. However,  it was a stint in the Swedish boxing scene that lead to a freindship with the number-one Swedish UFC standout Alexander Gustaffson and his coach Andreas Michael. “On my return from Swedish boxing I got a phone call off a friend in Swedish Boxing, Andreas Michael, who is Alex Gustafson’s coach. Alex had 5 fights with the UFC at the time. His coach was looking for sparring in Ireland for ten days. I organized it and grappling with Team Ryano. Andreas and Alex stayed with me in my family home. Andreas convinced me to cross over to MMA as a growing sport. It has been a blissful marriage since.” Joe revealed how he lit up inside when the UFC came calling for his services. In addition, he recalled some of the names he has most enjoyed working with at UFC shows, inlcuding bantamweight champion Holly Holm as she prepared to shock the world and defeat Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia. “I was in the dressing room with Holly Holm taping her gloves at the Rousey fight. She was so relaxed and composed. I thought, ‘this ain’t going to be an easy night for Rousey’. You could almost feel something in the air. “Neil Seery personifies what a champion and an old school fighter really is. He’s a junk yard dog. Man, he puts everything into a fight, no half measures. He puts his heart and soul into every round then goes back to work on Monday morning. Regardless of where he fights he’s back in work on Monday supporting his family of four. There isn’t many like that today. “It felt amazing to be contacted by the UFC. The UFC is the premiership for any working professional. When I got the email I’d be lying if I said I didn’t light up inside. I had always imagined getting there. I even had a process by which to do it but had to pinch myself when I got the shout.” Joe paid respect and shared credit for his achievement with his mentor and fellow UFC cutman Bob Plant. “I couldn’t have done it without Bob Plants, What a mentor! He’s everything I would like to model myself on as a cutman. He’s humble and a true gent, a very transparent human being with nothing but good will for others.” Written by IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran To book a place on the course at MyNextMatch go to:  https://www.mynextmatch.com/event-finder

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