Monday, July 4, 2022 Article On Retirement Of “Big” John McCarthy

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There’s only one Big John McCarthy

By Thomas Gerbasi

It was the perfect going away gift for a referee — Saturday’s lightweight war between Roger Huerta and Clay Guida. But like all great `third men’, John McCarthy — who retired as an active referee following last weekend’s main event – was noticeable by being noly noticeable, making all the right moves and all the right calls, a fitting end to a 13 year journey that saw McCarthy become as much a part of the UFC as the great fighters who have graced its Octagon.

And as I told him Saturday, there will always be just one Big John McCarthy.

A part of the UFC since its second show in 1994, McCarthy, with his trademark `Let’s get it on”, was the sole arbiter in the early days of a sport with little in the way of rules or regulation. Yet by UFC 3, McCarthy was given more responsibility in terms of being able to stop fights and protect the fighters, and as the years went on, he was known as not only a stern taskmaster when it came to enforcing the ever increasing list of rules which governed competition, but as a compassionate one who put fighter safety paramount over everything else.

Eventually, McCarthy became more than just a referee, as he was deeply involved with the training of future officials and as an ambassador of the sport to regulators, the media, and the fans.

But when it came down to it for McCarthy, through 535 bouts, it was all about the fights, and for the fighters, having John McCarthy referee your match was a sign that you made it to the big time. As Guida said after his gallant loss to Huerta, “He’s somebody this sport won’t soon forget. It was an honor to have that guy shake my hand and say `Let’s get it on’ one last time. You can’t put a price on something like that. It was awesome.”

John McCarthy stayed the course. He survived the sport’s `dark ages’ and was able to witness the explosion of the sport in the mainstream. It was something he knew would happen eventually, as he said in a 2005 interview.

“I believe the UFC is only going to get bigger and better,” said McCarthy. “The sport of MMA is growing at a phenomenal rate right now and the popularity is only going to grow. Boxing is great, but it is the sport
of our fathers, while mixed martial arts is the sport of the new generation. Kids of today like the extreme sports; anything that goes faster, flies higher, hits harder or has more risks is what ignites the interest of today’s young man or woman. The sport of Mixed Martial Arts delivers those types of things in the fighting arena. It is not just about who punches the hardest, but who has the most overall fighting skill. Fighting is not just about punches. That is only one aspect of fighting and that is not enough. Real fighting encompasses all ranges of fighting. The ability to punch, kick, elbow, throw, take down, control and submit your opponent is what makes MMA so exciting. As a referee in the sport I am lucky to be a part of this evolution. I have been blessed by all of the experiences I have been through because of this sport. I have been there from the beginning; I have taken part in the changes and growth of the sport, being there in the beginning with the good times and then into the bad times and now back. I cannot say that I would not have changed a thing, because that is not true. I would have changed the bad times if I could and trust me I tried. But in the end it has all been an incredible experience and adventure that I will remember forever.”

Same here. Good luck Big John, and thanks for the memories.


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