MMA referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy is one of the sport’s most iconic figures. His tenure with the Ultimate Fighting Championship extends all the way back to UFC 2 in 1994, and since then he has established himself as the go-to referee when it comes to officiating the promotion’s most high profile bouts.
His résumé speaks for itself and his knowledge and first hand feel for the sport saw him play a part in the implementation of several key rules that are a concrete fixture in the modern era of MMA. He played a big part in pushing forth the idea that a referee can choose when a fighter is not intelligently defending himself and in 2008 he began a referee and judging course that is now used as a standard for those looking to enter into either of those professions.
So with his extensive knowledge of the game and his 22 years as a relevant player at its top level, you would imagine that his opinion on those he officiates would hold at least some merit. He has seen legends come and go over the years and as a result of his close connection to everything involved in the sport’s process, would at this stage understand it all better than anyone.
Recently, in the fallout of the UFC’s monumental UFC 205 event, McCarthy spoke to Lineup MMA about the company’s newly-crowned dual-weight champion, Conor McGregor.
McGregor is at this stage the undisputed biggest star in the history of the sport and with his dominant win over lightweight great Eddie Alvarez established himself as a fighter who is worthy of mention alongside some of the legends of MMA, both on the back of his brash personality and his skills inside the octagon.
McCarthy, speaking of the ‘Notorious’ Irishman, had this to say:
“Conor McGregor, whether you like him or don’t like him, the man can fight. He is so calm at what he’s doing. He controls the fight.
“Eddie probably did not fight the right fight for him against someone like Conor. I think he kinda got drawn into the whole thing of ‘I wanna beat you up’.”
McGregor is indeed one of the most popular, but polarising, combatants in the sport, but Big John maintained that – from his point of view at least – to deny Conor at least some of the praise he deserves is to allow your emotions to dictate your common sense.
“I know what the guy has got. Everyone always wants to sit there and doubt someone [but] Conor McGregor has proved… the guy has got talent and he’s got power.
His left hand, he hurts people all the time. They only guy who has stayed up with that left hand – but was multiple times knocked down – was Nate Diaz, and who knocks Nate Diaz out?”
At this stage, it has become clear that the divisive nature of Conor’s personality is what makes him so popular. Regardless of how you feel about him, you’d be lying if you said you wouldn’t tune in to see him face his next opponent.
The questions that are raised about any fighter’s skill set are what puts bums on seats, for lack of a better phrase.
So as long as McGregor has his detractors, he will never fail to entice the masses.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena