Cutwoman Jess Isaacson is no stranger to the world of combat sports. She trained in Karate from a young girl into adulthood, before taking up Muay Thai at age 30. Though she is no longer fighting, her part time job, and full-time passion, as a cutwoman certainly keeps her close to the action. In 2016, working on BAMMA, Jess was the first cutwoman to work on a European show.
Now the owner of Inside-Out Care, I asked Jess to take me back to where it all began. Having damaged her own hands fighting, she had a natural interest in learning how to wrap for hand issues.
“I had been away cornering a fighter in England about 5 years ago, and I saw a lad wrapping for MMA. I actually loved watching him do it.”
Shortly after that Jess was at a show in Mayo, where Joe Clifford was running the cut team. She arrived early and managed to get back stage to watch Joe wrapping the fighters’ hands. She recalls watching Joe working with a young fighter. He was only about 18 and it was his first fight.
“I just loved the way Joe was with him…Helping him calm down saying ‘it’s your first fight, enjoy it.’ I just loved the way he was with him.”
After that, she “cornered” Joe telling him about her own hand injuries and explaining that she wanted to learn how to wrap hands properly. He told her there was a show coming up in a couple of weeks and she could essentially try out.
“I came along two weeks later to his next show, and I never looked back.”
Jess has made it her mission to continue to educate herself by attending numerous training courses and by being open to learning from others around her. It is clear that her main objective is fighter safety. Herself and her team work tirelessly to give the guys and girls the protection they need.
Jess has so much experience in the corner, I was intrigued to hear if she had seen any particularly gruesome injuries during her tenure.
“I don’t see any injuries as horrific. I suppose because I come from a fighting background… It’s part and parcel of fighting…Obviously I am a cutwoman, I love working with cuts.”
Jess went on to regale me with stories of broken arms and jaws. I was almost sorry I asked.
When Jess was fighting as an amateur, she didn’t have a cut team around her. It’s very important to her to provide the fighters of today with the care she did not have access to. Her hope is that every promotion will eventually deem in necessary to have a cut team in place.
It’s no secret that sports such as MMA are still predominantly male. Although there are some phenomenal women breaking though, they are a vocal minority. A cursory glance at any promotion’s fight card will confirm this. As such, I was curious to hear if Jess ever feels like a woman in a man’s world.
Jess told me that she did have one experience with a male fighter, very early on in her career. He objected to having his hands wrapped by a woman. Jess nipped that in the bud, basically telling him he could be wrapped by her, or go without. She hasn’t encountered such reaction since.
“Over the last couple of years, we have shown that we are here to stay. We’re good at what we do and you either have to put up or shut up.”
She went on to say that having been around fighting all her life, means she is better equipped to deal with the environment. She has an ease with the fighters, but she says, “you have to be firm, but fair.”
“As soon as the show begins, I am that cut person…I am not just Jess, I am there to look after their fighter.”
Jess balances building her business with a full-time job and raising her daughter. She was very clear that she doesn’t work in cuts for the money, she does it because she loves it.
“I could never leave my job and be a cut-man full time…Because we don’t have the big shows coming here as much anymore.”
Always the professional, Jess jokingly told me how she can walk through the dressing room, and see the fighters naked, and not bat an eyelash. She doesn’t see their bodies. She just sees hands that need to be wrapped and fighters that need to be cared for. Because she is that way with the fighters, they identify her not as a woman, but as “cuts.”
Just over a year ago, following the IMAAFs in Bahrain, Jess made the decision to go out on her own, with Inside-Out Care. At age 40, she decided this was the time to “take the leap and either make it or break it.” The business is clearly a labour of love for Jess and her team. Even now, after every show, the team sit down to do a full debrief and identify any learnings or improvements that can be made.
“We are there for the fighters. At the forefront of us, is the safety of those fighters. Fighter safety and fighter care and helping them to go the distance in those fights.”
Inside-Out Care celebrated their first birthday at Cage Legacy 10, last weekend in Dublin. Jess felt it was the perfect setting as Dec Kenna and Darren Sonic have been hugely supportive of her.
“I am proud of the fact that myself, Danny and Brian have really just thrown everything in.”
Jess and her team treat every fighter the same way. From the amateur making his debut, to the professional in his retirement fight. This level of professionalism, and commitment to safety is vital if MMA is the withstand the increased scrutiny it is coming under in The Republic of Ireland.
There are very exciting things on the horizon for Inside-Out Care, with the 2019 diary already filling up with shows. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for Jess and her team.
Jess attributes a lot of her success to the time she has spent networking and building relationships with people involved with the sport. She especially wanted to thank all the fighters, promoters, promotions and companies who have stood behind her, such as First Aid Systems, Empire Pro and Qwickaid.
By Arwen Sheridan – Check out her Blog Here!