Ask any MMA fan who the best referee in the business is, and chances are that they will all give the same answer – “Big” John McCarthy. McCarthy is the former head referee for the UFC, having refereed almost ever fight for the organization from UFC 2 through UFC 31. His last bout officiating for the organization was the Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida main event at The Ultimate Fighter 6 finale in Las Vegas, NV on December 7, 2007, after he accepted a position as an analyst for The Fight Network. Since then, he has returned to officiating, however has yet to officiate a bout with the UFC since his return.
Rod Moyer of FightLine.com caught up with “Big John” last weekend at the Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields post-fight press conference to talk about his status with the UFC, bad officiating and more. Below are some excerpts of the interview, you can watch the entire eight-minute interview at the bottom of this interview.
Fightline.com: You’ve played a role in helping the sport grow from where it was to where it is. Now in basketball, the best basketball player is Michael Jordon, best Rapper, Jay Z. In MMA, the best referee is considered to be Big John McCarthy. Will we see you working with the UFC again?
John McCarthy: That’s not up to me and I don’t make those decisions. I work where I’m asked to work. I used to kinda only work with the UFC, and that created problems for me. I work where I’m asked, and I try to make sure MMA is worked in the right light.
Fightline.com: Some people say that MMA is too violent, and there are many misconceptions. What would you as one of the most respected authorities in MMA say to the state commissions that have yet to regulate the sport.
McCarthy: The thing about MMA is there are perceptions out there. Everyone has perceptions, but the reality of the sport is that it’s a pretty safe sport, especially when you compare it to other combat sports. There are many sports out there, football, baseball, basketball, and they all have injury rates higher than MMA. There are fights going on all the time. There are regulated fight, and illegal fights going on. Are we going to have injuries, absolutely. Anytime you have a situation where’s there’s combat between two people, anything can happen. Natasha Richardson died skiing down a bunny slope. Should we stop skiing? If someone has an interest in our sport, they should be able to see athletes at least compete in there own state and not have to go somewhere else.
Fightline.com: We’ve seen instances where there’s bad officiating. What would you say is the biggest reason for some of the errors you see referees make in MMA.
McCarthy: There’s quick decision making, and there are a lot of things going on that shouldn’t go on. There are people being officials that do not truly understand what the fighters are doing. They don’t understand the positions they’re in. You shouldn’t be helping one fighter over another and that’s what they are doing. They truly need to be educated on the moves and positions and be put in them themselves so they can understand this is not a comfortable thing. There’s submissions going on, and they don’t see the submission set up. If I stand you up out of it, then I’m affecting the fight, and that’s wrong! We’re all human, and we all can make a mistake, but we just have to be smart about things. You have to be in the moment, and be thinking solely about that fighter. You don’t want to rush in at times, but sometimes you have too. When you see someone go out, and they’re unable to defend themselves, it’s time to go in and take care of them. And if they come back afterwards, that’s great! That’s what we want. 50% of the people will say you did a great job because they wanted the fighter to win, and 50% of the people will be mad because they wanted the other fighter to win, and that’s just how it is.
You can watch the full video below: