“Let’s get it on!” will ring throughout the ears of fighters and fans yet again. It has been reported that Big John McCarthy’s return to the cage will begin at Strikeforce: Destruction on November 21st. This news comes hot off the heels of last month’s statement by McCarthy declaring his intentions of leaving The Fight Network.
McCarthy wore many hats throughout this last year; from color commentator with TKO and Hardcore Championship Fighting, to analyst for the Canadian cable channel. However, the itch of being the third man in the ring or Octagon revisited the former Los Angeles police officer.
Why did he leave The Fight Network? McCarthy has been quoted saying “It just didn’t work out there.” While the details of his exodus from the Canadian cable channel may be unclear, McCarthy has had a few choice words for his former employer. “To all of the higher ups that have taken over the Fight Network over the last year I only have this to say… Shame on you.”
One would never dream that a referee’s return to action would inject excitement into the MMA community. McCarthy’s comeback means more to the sport than just making fighters return to their neutral corners. Big John’s contributions to the sport both in and outside of the action made him an icon in the world of fighting.
Alongside former Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic and current UFC vice president, Marc Ratner, McCarthy has worked with numerous governing bodies to sanction MMA in the United States. McCarthy continued to lobby for MMA sanctioning during his absence from reffing, but until every state in the Union has legalized mixed martial arts, be sure McCarthy’s work will not be done anytime soon.
While fans, fighters, commentators and journalists may be critical of most referees, Big John seems infallible from those criticisms. John McCarthy being back in the fight game not only eases concerns of fighters and fans; it raises the bar of performance for other referees.
McCarthy demands respect inside the ring; something not all refs do. Hopefully his return will curb some of the foolishness that has gone on regarding referees in the past year. If Big John took the same point away that Steve Mazzagatti did from Brock Lesnar at UFC 81, be assured none of this nonsense of Lesnar’s lawyers black balling Mazzagatti from any future Lesnar bout would be happening.
So what brought the world’s most famous referee back to the center of the cage? “I missed doing it,” said McCarthy. “Sometimes when you walk away from something and you think it’s time, once you’re away you realize what you’re missing –- it’s kind of like why guys come back to fighting. It’s what I like doing. It’s what I was meant to do.”
It will be good to see John McCarthy back in the middle of the action. The reverence he carries in the sport stacks up with the most renowned fighters. He will undoubtedly set the example for future referees, command respect from fighters and make sure outcomes of fights steer clear of controversy.
-Matt De La Rosa