Swayze Valentine is the only cutwoman in the UFC, the popular mixed martial arts league. Her job comprises mainly two key aspects — wrapping a fighter’s hands before a fight, and patching up any bleeding suffered during a match that would otherwise lead the referee to forfeit a fighter.
“I have 45 seconds or less to get that fighter to the next round. Because if for any reason a doctor comes in and calls it and says, ‘Hey, he is not good enough to fight or she’s not good enough to fight,’ It’s on me,” Valentine told CBS This Morning during a recent appearance.
Becoming the only woman in the UFC to serve in a role that historically has been almost completely dominated by men, unsurprisingly, wasn’t easy. Valentine says she had known for a long time that she wanted to be part of the MMA scene. She tried working as a ring girl, but stopped after just a fews days. What she really wanted to do, she realized, was work with the fighters directly.
“I walked out and that’s where I saw, like, all the fighters and the coaches. And the fighters are getting their hands wrapped. And I’m like, ‘You know what, there’s no greater honor in this sport than to be the person to wrap that fighter’s hands,'” she recalled.
To make her dream a reality, she studied footage of legendary cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran and began working in amateur leagues for free — all while juggling her responsibilities as a single mother of two kids. After she moved from Washington state to Las Vegas with money saved from donated blood, she began scoring more regular paid work — culminating in a call for a job offer from the UFC itself.
“I’ve been through a lot,” Valentine acknowledged. “I’ve dealt with physical assault inside the cage by one of the coaches in front of hundreds of people.”
Asked why she thought the coach attacked her, she responded unhesitatingly.
“It was because I was a woman. They’ll go right behind my back and go, ‘We don’t want her, we don’t want her,’” she said. “I’m not going to let anyone make me feel like I don’t belong here. Bottom line.”
Watch Valentine’s interview with CBS below.
Read the full story at CBS News.