Big John McCarthy is widely regarded as the best referee in the history of mixed martial arts. He became an UFC icon even though he technically worked for the athletic commissions. In fact, amongst fans he’s arguably more popular than the fighters with the exception of only the biggest stars. Because of that, when Big John decided to leave reffing to pursue a career in broadcasting with The Fight Network, fans immediately started to the question, “When are you going to ref again?”
John has never said never, and now that he has left The Fight Network, that time may be soon. However, it may not be as soon as we hope. In the time that Big John has been out of officiating, he hasn’t exactly kept quiet about the UFC’s and athletic commissions dirty laundry. Apparently, this hasn’t sat well with certain individuals in positions of power, and it appears Big John may have some obstacles to clear before we hear “Let’s get it on!” again.
As far as the UFC goes, it will be up to the various state athletic commissions to appoint him. However, John has created some issues. He created conflict-of-interest possibilities with some very pointed and negative comments about the UFC while he was a TV analyst … And a little birdie tells me Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer, one of the sport’s most influential regulators, is none too pleased with McCarthy these days for criticisms McCarthy delivered of him. It’s not to say that it’s impossible, but he’s got a long road ahead of him.
Basically, Big John is going to have a hard time getting back in the cage to do what he does best and better than anyone else because he’s pissed a few people off. And let’s be honest here, MMA desperately needs competent referees. With the exception of a few, most of them don’t even fully understand the sport. Take Jorge Ortiz, who stood up Roy Nelson and Andrei Arlovski when Nelson had side control, for example.
Put simply, if Big John is willing, the sport needs him. The fact that politics may keep him out of it is an absolute shame.