Yesterday afternoon, we learned that veteran MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy had joined the Bellator MMA family as a member of the promotion’s broadcast team. Initially, it sounded as though McCarthy’s broadcast duties signalled the end of his career as a referee, but apparently that’s not the case. He still plans to work as an officiator in smaller shows.
“Can I go and referee? Yes, I can go and referee,” McCarthy told MMA Fighting. “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.”
“I love officiating,” he added. “I love what I do. I love the people that I get to work with. I love all the fighters. But when I say I’m ‘walking away’, I’m walking away from what people are gonna expect. They think that I can commentate Bellator and then go ref a UFC — that ain’t gonna happen. I’m gonna be stepping away from what most people see of me as a referee. I’m still gonna work with athletic commissions.”
McCarthy also shared his hopes for his Bellator commentating career. He hopes to not only educate fans on the fights themselves, but also on the rules and regulations that govern the fights.
“I think that’s a big part of why Bellator thought of me to do this,” McCarthy said. “I think they’re looking at it as the more educated their fans are, the more they’re gonna enjoy the sport, the more they’re gonna understand what’s going on, the more they’re gonna understand why the judges are doing something the way they are, why the referee is doing something.
“I’m here for the entire aspect of the fight. What the fighters are doing, why someone is being successful, what the other person has to do to counter what they’re being successful with. That’s all stuff that they’re hearing now. But there’s nobody right now that’s out there that can explain and educate to the fans the rules of the sport and why fighters need to do something or why judges are going with one fighter over the other in a specific situation. I think I bring that — even at this early start of my career in commentating — I bring that to the table, while a lot of people are guessing when they’re putting something out.”
At the end of the day, John McCarthy is simply hoping to follow in the footsteps of MMA’s great commentators by being knowledgable and well-prepared.
“There’s a ton of work that goes in,” McCarthy said. “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.”
How do you think John McCarthy will do at the Bellator MMA broadcast desk?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/9/2018.