Cutwoman Diary: ‘Every fighter should have the best care possible’

By lead writer, Jorden Curran

Cutwoman Jessica Isaacson (above) is a certifiable embodiment of progression within modern MMA. As the latest and future generations of athletes develop, so do those who operate around them, and this includes the likes of Jessica who are pioneers of a revolution pushing for continuous education and certification within the sport, committed to enhanced care for athletes in their corner.

Jess is a graduate of IMMAF’s official certification course for seconds having developed as an apprentice of veteran cutman Joe Clifford, know for his work in boxing, the Olympic Games and in MMA with the UFC. IMMAF certified seconds serve at each international championship with events taking place around the world. The dedicated team is headed by Joe Clifford alongside his mentor, Bob Plant.

“I believe every fighter is entitled and should have the best care possible,” Jess explained to “Even when I started a few years back, you never needed experience to become a second. Joe went about setting up a team that had knowledge and expertise in combat sports seconds so that the care could be given of the highest standard to all fighters. So in fact, it has been progressively developing over the last couple of years as shown with the multi-national team now servicing massive events such as the IMMAF European Open and World Championships.

“I originally wanted to learn how to wrap my own hands for an injury that lead me to Joe. After meeting Joe and chatting with him he actually spoke so passionately about his work and love of all combat sports, it peaked my interest. I never thought I could find something I’d love as much and would motivate me to go on to hopefully having a long, successful and rewarding career as much as Joe has had to date.”

Last year Clifford told of how he witnessed a journeyman pro boxer who competed without a corner team and was thus neglected post fight, left sitting with cuts. The provoking sight sparked him to begin a life long mission towards providing the best possible care and protection for all levels of competitor (full feature HERE). Jess noted how it was this very attitude which drew her in to better learn the craft herself, and how education alongside the group members resulted in tremendous personal growth.

Jess assists Joe Clifford at the 2017 European Open in Sofia

Jess assists Joe Clifford at the 2017 European Open in Sofia

“I met Joe at a show, while I was cornering a fighter, and he wrapped a fighter’s hands. I saw something I didn’t expect. He was a young fighter who was having his first bout and Joe treated him like he was a pro going out to fight the biggest fight of his life. He gave him confidence. It peaked an interest, I didn’t expect it to. He spoke with passion, telling him these were the best days of his life and this experience would be with him forever and to just go and enjoy it all. I was in awe. That made me ask about the course and forget about the original reason for learning to wrap for my own injury.

“Personally, I have grown since joining the team. I feel I found my calling and with this have found a new love for life and sports. When I joined the team, although there had been other females before me, there wasn’t any when I came along. I was lucky enough that the team welcomed me with open arms and really looked out for me. In turn I now do the same for newer team members. Going to shows every weekend takes a lot of time from your family and loved ones but it has its own rewards and at the end of a long day you see all the fighters thanking you for a job well done. It means the world, that they know you’re there for them and their safety.”

Completion of Joe Clifford’s official IMMAF certification course required Jess to begin with the level C entry grade – a basic introduction for all experienced seconds who go through the IMMAF progression pathway.

“There is a specific pathway under Joe’s tutelage we all must follow and it has progressed since the addition of the IMMAF cuts course. Originally, I sat his cutman/seconds certificate and went on to do an apprenticeship starting out wrapping hands and working my way up to cageside with Joe on my shoulder. Then, when the new IMMAF course was introduced all members of the team resat level C and later level B again, almost redoing our full apprenticeship to meet the new criteria.”

In addition to achieving official certification and a license to practice at international IMMAF contests, Jess’ education has resulted in her to working on a number of the biggest MMA events at home in Ireland and beyond.

“There’s probably too many to name them all but I’m lucky enough to have done some of the biggest shows in Ireland, north and south, such as Clan Wars, Battlezone, UXC, Cage Legacy, Wimp to Warrior, Chao, RFC and CRC as well as some international shows with BAMMA in Dublin and Belfast and off course IMMAF at the European Opens in Prague and Bulgaria. Also, in the past year started to work independently on K1 and Thai shows and always ask a member of our MMA cut team to come along as the second cutman keeping the standards to the highest.”


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