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Tag: officiating

Exclusive: Big John McCarthy Talks MMA Evolution, Stand-Ups, + More

Big John McCarthy

This week Sports Illustrated Online is looking at refereeing issues in mixed martial arts (you can read my defense of MMA’s refs here), and I got an opportunity to talk with “Big” John McCarthy about his thoughts on the state of officiating in our sport.  We also talked a little about the evolution of rules in the UFC, and the difference between rules that came about out of practical concerns and those that were changed to appease political opponents.

While I expected McCarthy to know more about refereeing MMA bouts than anyone else alive, I didn’t expect him to have such an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport.  The guy can rattle off the names of the fighters in almost every bout he’s ever worked from UFC 2 onward.  He also had a few great insights about the nature of the sport and what it demands from referees.  Here are some select excerpts from our conversation, just for you guys:

So tell me, when you went in to work your first bout at UFC 2, what guidelines were you given?

BJM: (laughs) The guidelines I was given were, ‘Don’t stop the fights.  The fighters will tap out or the corners will throw the towel in.  That’s how the fights will stop.’  That’s honestly how I got my job, because the very first UFC fight ever, Joao Barreto was the referee.  Teila Tuli was down and got kicked by Gerard Gordeau, and Joao stopped the fight and Rorian Gracie was upset because that wasn’t how it was supposed to be.