‘Big’ John McCarthy Won’t Retire From Refereeing

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Photo: Kevin Jairaj for USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today (Jan. 9, 2017), news broke indicating that veteran referee “Big” John McCarthy had signed a deal with Bellator to be the promotion’s new color commentator.

With McCarthy accepting a new role, many quickly began to wonder if he had retired from refereeing. Speaking on the situation, McCarthy said that he certainly isn’t retired from refereeing, but he did confirm that much of his focus will now be put into commentating:

“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.”

Continuing on, McCarthy said that he still loves officiating and that he’ll continue to work with athletic commissions, but he once again confirmed that his energy will primarily be put into broadcasting for Bellator:

“I love officiating,” McCarthy said. “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.”

Given his vast experience officiating in MMA, McCarthy brings a wealth of knowledge to the sport, and he feels as if that’s a big reason why Bellator showed interest in him:

“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.”

Replacing Jimmy Smith, McCarthy will have big shoes to fill, but he appears to be confident. He’ll make his debut at Bellator 192 on Jan. 20, 2017 in Inglewood, California.