‘Big’ John McCarthy
Big John McCarthy, the ‘Octagon’s ninth side’, is a referee for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
McCarthy is the most senior referee in the UFC and has become well-known for his delivery of “Lets get it on!” – a now-trademarked phrase that is shouted at the start of a bout. McCarthy is considered to be as much a part of the UFC as the octagonal arena itself. For this reason, he generally officiates the main events.
The nickname of ‘Big John’ came about because of his stature. He stands 6′4″ and weighs 260 lbs; this makes him larger than many of the athletes that he presides over. According to a recent UFC interview, the nickname was given to him by a promoter named Art Davie. McCarthy recalls that the nickname began when he forcibly lifted Davie off the ground and held him up in the air.
Before becoming involved in the UFC, McCarthy worked as a police officer in Los Angeles County, California – a natural career choice for him, following his father who worked for a police officer for thirty years. McCarthy holds a position in that job field even today, working as a tactical response instructor for the Los Angeles Police Department.
His connection to the UFC is attributed to his relationship with the Gracie family, particularly Rorion Gracie. Initially, McCarthy expressed interest in fighting for the UFC, but Gracie advised against it. However, due to his experience in law enforcement, McCarthy was seen as a fitting man for a spot as a referee. He made his debut at UFC 2: No Way Out in 1994 and has served with the company ever since.
The early days of UFC did not contain many rules; McCarthy’s role was only to supervise the fight and to ensure that it ended promptly when a competitor either submitted (a.k.a. tapped out) or was knocked out. Although it was at first looked down upon by UFC executives, referee stoppage eventally became a more prominent part of the UFC, and McCarthy’s role now includes the stopping of a fight where it is clear that one fighter is unable to intelligently defend himself.
McCarthy does not believe in the spiritual side of Martial Arts, and is quoted as saying, “I never met a single person who stepped foot into a dojo and stated, ‘I am here because I want to become more spiritual’.”
On December 31, 2004, McCarthy served as the referee for a fight held on the K-1 Dynamite! card at the Osaka Dome in Osaka, Japan between MMA legend Royce Gracie and Sumo legend-turned-fighter Akebono Taro.