A Colorado Springs-area high school wrestling coach was the subject of a debate last week after his remarks during a UFC pay-per-view main event went viral.
Newly appointed Fountain-Fort Carson coach Jason Kutz, Raquel Pennington's corner, made headlines for encouraging Pennington to continue after she indicated, “I’m done, I want to be done,” during her fight against champion Amanda Nunes.
“I know it hurts. Let’s power through this. Let’s power through this, let’s believe,” Kutz told Pennington after the fourth round. “Change your mindset. Change your mindset. Let’s throw everything we got. We’ll recover later … Throw everything we got.”
Pennington, a Harrison High School grad, returned to the ring and lost in the following round by TKO. Pennington was taken to the hospital after the bout to evaluate a bloodied nose and damaged leg, which was broken in an ATV wreck last year.
In the days following Pennington’s bloody fight, waves of criticism flooded social media about Kutz urging her to go back in the ring - some from high school parents concerned about Kutz’s coaching style and athlete safety.
“I do understand that some people can see things differently than me,” Kutz said, “During that instance, I felt that I did what I needed to do as a coach. She is a professional athlete, and she agreed with me after that going back in was the right thing to do."
"When working with high school athletes, certainly health and welfare of student athletes are our primary concern,” Kutz added. “And I would never do anything to jeopardize my position with Fountain-Fort Carson.
"I’m actually proud of my coaches,” Pennington said on The MMA Hour. “I know a lot of people are going against what they said and thinking all this different stuff, and it’s easy to judge, but you never know what’s happening in that moment. At the end of the day, my coaches know me best."
The MMA community seems to be split on the issue, with some arguing that a corner should listen to its fighter, while others believe the corner is there to help encourage a fighter to keep going.
"If she didn’t have the right conditioning to fight, then the coach should have thrown in the towel for sure. I think my coach wouldn’t let me go through that," Nunes told MMAJunkie after the fight. "It’s sad. Everyone must be saying a lot of bad things about him on social media, but I really think she needs to surround herself with people who want the best for her so she can really evolve for her next fights."
Kutz, who worked with the Sierra High School wrestling program for the last three years, was hired by Fountain-Fort Carson approximately six weeks ago.
“Mr. Jason Kutz was selected as the best candidate for the job due to his vast experience as an athlete and coach with the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, NCAA Division I wrestling, and high school coaching,” Fountain-Fort Carson said in an official statement to The Gazette. “As a military veteran himself he is a great fit for our community.”
Kutz has been working with Pennington for five years and said he read the situation in the May 12 fight and could tell she wasn’t done.
“She came over and was questioning whether she wanted to continue the fight,” Kutz said. “But I know her. I know how tough she is and how hard she works. A lot of people on the other side don’t know her like I do, and when she looked into my eyes, that told me a lot. So I gave her a pep talk, and she went back out.
“Afterwards I said, ‘Hey, I did what I did because 10 years from now, you are not going to look back and have any what ifs or regrets. I’m really proud of her for going back out and giving her best effort. What else can I ask for?”
Kutz is a firm believer that “the secret to success is not a secret at all."
“Put in the work and you get the results, that’s it,” Kutz said. “My challenge is convincing the kids to want to put in the work and work hard for themselves.”
Kutz is an Army veteran and has worked with the United States Army World Class Athlete Program, has coached at East Stroudsburg University and was a Division I wrestler at Lehigh University before taking a coaching position there.