McCarthy: I’m not retired from reffing but it’s on the back burner

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bellator MMA recently announced that they had contracted with the father of MMA referees, John McCarthy, to join their commentary team. There was a widespread belief that this meant McCarthy was retired from reffing, but in a recent interview with Marc Raimondi for MMA Fighting, ‘Big’ John said it wasn’t complete retirement, and that he loves refereeing, still.

In fact, he’s reffing a boxing match in California the day after he commentates at Bellator 193. There is a possibility he refs boxing in Nevada too. And he will continue with his COMMAND ref and judge certification courses. However, we will not see him reffing for the UFC or Bellator.

“Can I go and referee? Yes, I can go and referee,” he said. “If I want to go and referee something internationally, I can do it. I can do small shows here if I want. I’ll do charity events and things like that. I’m not gonna say, ‘Oh, I’m retired.’ I’m not retired. At this moment, I’m just taking on something else, so that’s gonna go on the back burner. All of my attention is gonna go toward being the best color commentator I can be for Bellator.”

The immediate spur to the change was a call from Bellator president Scott Coker, asking if he would like to try out as a replacement for Jimmy Smith. However, over the summer McCarthy was injured in training, needed two surgeries, and was out of action for months.

“That injury made me kind of relook at things,” said McCarthy. “I don’t want to be a guy who’s holding on or stepping into the cage when there’s somebody else that can actually do a better job, because I’m not prepared.”

The fighter’s loss is Bellator fan’s gain. McCarthy, a BJJ black belt, who has been reffing since UFC 2 in 1994, brings unparalleled knowledge of the fight game.

Another reason for the change is that there was nowhere else to move up in the field.

“I say this and I don’t want anyone to think I’m egotistical in this, but in the realm of refereeing, where could I go?” McCarthy asked. “I was doing two to three to four shows a week and I was running my ass off all over the place. But I got to do the greatest fights there were. I could not complain about anything that I was given as a referee. And there’s only once place for me to go and that’s down. I always told myself I was gonna walk away from that situation before someone told me that I needed to walk away, because I wasn’t doing the right things.”

“There’s a ton of work that goes in. That’s why Jimmy Smith was so good, that’s why Brian Stann was so good. They put in the work ahead of time to make themselves successful. And I’m smart enough that I follow smart people. If I see someone doing something that’s the reason they can be successful, I’m gonna grab onto what they’re doing and I’m gonna follow it. I’m gonna put in a ton of work to make myself successful, because I will not ever be ill-prepared for standing in front of the camera or putting on a headset and telling people what’s going on in a fight. My promise is I will always work my ass off to be the best that I could be.”