'Big' John McCarthy

John McCarthy
John McCarthy MMA ref.jpg
McCarthy refereeing during MMA Attack 2 in Katowice, Poland
John Michael McCarthy

(1962-10-12) October 12, 1962 (age 58)
Other names"Big John McCarthy"
OccupationMMA referee, podcast host, MMA analyst
Police career
Country United States
Department Los Angeles Police Department
Service years1985–2007

John Michael McCarthy (born October 12, 1962) is an American former professional mixed martial arts referee and current broadcaster for Bellator MMA. McCarthy is perhaps best known for officiating numerous bouts promoted by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), dating back to UFC 2.[1]


The nickname of 'Big John' came about because of his size and stature. He stands 6'3" and weighs 260 lb; making him larger than the majority of the athletes over whom he presides. According to a UFC interview, the nickname was given to him by UFC co-founder and promoter Art Davie. McCarthy recalls that the nickname began when he forcibly lifted Davie off the ground and held him in the air.[2]


McCarthy was the most senior referee in the UFC and is well known for his delivery of "Let's Get It On!", a catchphrase created by boxing referee Mills Lane. McCarthy served as one of the head referees for nearly every fight in the UFC from UFC 2 until UFC 77, and was considered as much a part of the UFC as the octagonal arena itself as he was the key figure in the writing of the current Unified Rules for the sport of MMA, which is now recognized by the ABC and Athletic Commissions across North America. His 535th bout was the main event at The Ultimate Fighter: Team Hughes vs. Team Serra finale in Las Vegas, Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida. McCarthy briefly retired after this bout to pursue a career as a commentator for The Fight Network but returned to officiating just a year later. Since his return, McCarthy has refereed for promotions all over the globe including the UFC, K-1 (Japan), Strikeforce, Affliction, Bellator, King of the Cage and a multitude of others.

His connection to the UFC was attributed to his relationship with the Gracie family, particularly Rorion Gracie. McCarthy had been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Rorion at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA in the early 1990s, and was designated a certified "GRAPLE" (Gracie Resisting Attack Procedures for Law Enforcement) instructor by the Gracie Academy in December 1993.

When Rorion Gracie was putting together his new fighting promotion in 1993, 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 to referee. He debuted at UFC 2: No Way Out in 1994.

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 (also known as tap out), was knocked out, or had his towel thrown in. Although first disfavored by UFC executives, after UFC 2 McCarthy insisted on referee stoppages when a fighter cannot intelligently defend himself.

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.

On December 12, 2015, McCarthy served as the referee for UFC 194 between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, which became the shortest title bout (13 seconds) in UFC history.

In 2018, McCarthy retired for the second time, and moved to Bellator as a commentator.[3]


Personal life[]

In September 2006, John McCarthy opened his first MMA school in Valencia, California. This 29,000-square-foot (2,700 m2) gym was one of the largest MMA schools in California. McCarthy sold the school in December 2015. In January 2007, he was awarded his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.

In early 2008, McCarthy started a referee and judging course for MMA officials called COMMAND (Certification of Officials for Mixed Martial Arts National Development).

McCarthy has three children: sons, John Michael Jr. and Ronald II (after John Sr.'s father); daughter, Britney. Ron has been an MMA judge since 2013.[7][8]

Published work[]

On September 1, 2011, McCarthy's autobiography, Let's Get It On - The Making of MMA and its Ultimate Referee, was published.[9][10][11][12][13]

Film and television[]

McCarthy appeared with retired MMA fighter Bas Rutten in New Found Glory's video "Listen to Your Friends", where he refs MMA fights between the band members. The music video, which was shot on November 5, 2008 in Los Angeles, California, premiered on March 9, 2009. He has also appeared on the Fight Science episode Super Cops on national Geographic.

McCarthy also appeared in the TV series Friends, season 3 episode 24 "The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion" where he plays the referee of a UFC match between Tank Abbott and Jon Favreau.

McCarthy also served as the referee on the MTV2 series Bully Beatdown, along with professional mixed martial artist Jason "Mayhem" Miller.[14]

McCarthy is featured in the award-winning mixed martial arts documentary Fight Life, the film is directed by James Z. Feng and released in 2013.[15]

He's also made a cameo as himself in the mixed martial arts movie Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown.

See also[]


  1. ^ "Refereed by John McCarthy | Tapology". tapology.com. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  2. ^ "100 fighter nickname origins". The Underground. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
  3. ^ "Fightweets: Who got the best of UFC/Bellator announcing changes?". MMA Fighting. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
  4. ^ Bryan Tucker (February 5, 2016). "World MMA Awards 2016 Results". mmafighting.com.
  5. ^ Bryan Tucker (March 2, 2017). "World MMA Awards 2017 Results". mmafighting.com.
  6. ^ Bryan Tucker (July 4, 2018). "World MMA Awards 2018 Results". mmafighting.com.
  7. ^ Farah Hannoun (March 20, 2020). "John McCarthy weighs in on judges' scoring criteria, applies it to Adesanya vs. Romero". mmajunkie.com.
  8. ^ "Ron MCCARTHY". mmadecisions.com.
  9. ^ Moles, Jason. "Interview: "Big" John McCarthy Talks His New Book, Dana White and Fighters Crapping Themselves". Cagepotato. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  10. ^ "MMAmania book review: Let's Get It On! by 'Big' John McCarthy". MMAmania.com. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  11. ^ "Wrestling - [PODCAST] 411 MMA Interviews Big John McCarthy". 411mania.com. Archived from the original on 2014-01-01. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  12. ^ "McCarthy: Refereeing 'a lot different than people think'". Usatoday30.usatoday.com. 2011-09-04. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  13. ^ "'Big' John McCarthy New Book on MMA History". Apocalypsemma.com. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  14. ^ "MTV Original TV Shows, Reality TV Shows | MTV". mtv.com. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  15. ^ "FIGHT LIFE - MMA Documentary by James Z. Feng". fightlife.tv. Archived from the original on 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2015-11-25.

External links[]