Shout out to our idol Big John "Let's Get It On" McCarthy! The veteran mixed martial arts referee made a Manila detour to officiate the PXC Lightweight match between Seung Hwa Han and Harris "The Hitman" Sarmiento at PXC 33, which takes place this Saturday, September 1, at the Ynares Sports Arena in Kapitolyo, Pasig. Click here for our rundown of PXC 33's fight card and full ticket information.
Big John was also gracious enough to chat with us and it turns out that the 6'4", 280-pound mammoth official is quite the MMA professor. He speaks like a no-bullshit mentor, with words so profound that he could turn any maton into a shrieking, rosy-cheeked fanboy. Check out our exclusive interview with Big John below.
On where his moniker "Big John" came from
"One of the first people to call me that was Art Davie. Art was one of the originators of the UFC. He had an office, the Gracie academy in Torrance, California and outside the back door down the street is his other office called Wow Promotions. One time I was over there and I picked him up over my head and he was like, 'Put me down, Big John! Put me down!' And he said he’ll call me Big John from then on. Then he started saying it to the announcers and the announcers started saying it on television, and it just caught on. If there’s anyone getting credit for it, that would be Art Davie."
On the countries he's been to since becoming a referee
"Lots and lots. I’ve worked all throughout the United States, all throughout Canada, Australia, China, Japan, Kuwait, Brazil, all over the world. I’ve been doing mixed martial arts since the beginning, almost 19 years now. I’ve been doing this even before there was the UFC, so it’s been a long ride but a great one."
On whether he agrees with the rules in MMA
"I don’t find it difficult. There are rules that I like and there are rules that I don’t like. The rules that I primarily use just about everywhere is the unified rule. But I’ve done rules that are basically UFC and Pride rules combined, and there are rules within the unified rule that I think are stupid. They don’t help the fight and they don’t help the fighter. I was one of the people that put them together, but they were done by people that didn’t understand this type of fighting, so they had a perception of rules that they think would help but really wouldn’t. But I go by what they want; my job is to be the official under the rules that they regulate things at and that’s what I do."
On his least favorite regulation
"I don’t like stomps. I don’t care if someone gets stomped to the body per se, but if you watch it in actual fighting competition, the only time it would work effectively is if the fighter is really hurt. Anytime that you have a fighter try to do a stomp on a fighter that’s not hurt, it ends up usually backfiring."
On dealing with early stoppages
"Here’s a way to look at it – people don’t understand the complexity of officiating. There are times when I have a fighter who’s asking me to get ‘em out of the fight. He doesn’t want to tap because he has trainers, he has a family, and he has people that are there who doesn’t want to see him give up. But he wants out of the fight so I get him out of it, and then I'll call the decision a 'referee stoppage' instead of 'fighter tapped out' or 'verbal submission'. Everyone will tell me how I shouldn’t have stopped the fight, and I just say 'whatever'. I don’t tell people about it, but when I talk to the fighter before the fight I tell them these things. I’ll take the heat for them if I have to."
On the controversies surrounding judges' decisions
"I have those moments where I go, 'I don’t agree with that at all,' but that’s not my call. My job is to referee the match and they have three people assigned to judge it. There are many times when their opinion is different from mine, but there is always going to be that subjectivity in judging. The most important thing is that the commission put people in the judges’ seats that understand what the fighters are doing. As a judge, you need to be able to pick out each technique and understand who’s being the initiator, the aggressor, the offensive one, because that’s gonna tell you who’s actually winning the fight. You only get credit for offensive action; defense can only get you so far. It’s not as easy as people think."
On the physical demands of being a referee
"What’s funny is you don’t think about how physically taxing it is, but by the end of it there are a lot of guys who couldn’t take the temperature and the pressure of arenas. It all depends on how you referee and how relaxed you are while doing it – some like to hop and jump around, doing the same things as the fighter. They’re not being smart. Fighting is about understanding how to control your energy level and use them at times when you need to, and it’s the same with being a referee. It’s kind of funny, actually."
Why referees generally don't officiate consecutive fights
"It’s always good to give a referee a break. The most I’ve ever done in one night is 23 fights, and that’s too many, ha ha! The referee has to be focused on the transitions, the complexities of each fight. They don’t look at the fight the same way as the fans do, so they could all use a break after a fight."
On the referee that impresses him the most
"You know what, I like everyone, and I’m friends with all of them. I like Herb Dean; he understands when people are hurt. He does a very good job with that. Yves Lavigne does a fantastic job of positioning himself during stand-ups and he understands the mechanics of being a referee. Josh Rosenthal and Dan Miragliotta are both good. Mario Yamasaki, he’s been my friend for a long time. I’m the one that got him into it. There are lots of good referees out there."
On whether officiating in mixed martial arts pays well
"Do we make good money? Absolutely not. It’s horrible, ha ha! It really depends if you’re working with the athletic commission, they call and ask you to do a fight. It depends on the location and the level of the bout, but I do fights a lot for zilch. When it comes to charity and amateur events, I don’t make anything. The most that you’ll make from an athletic commission is id="mce_marker",000 per fight. You can get id="mce_marker",200 for a UFC event. Normally referees would make somewhere around $200. If it’s something you want to make a living off of, it ain’t gonna happen."
Why MMA referees generally do not work under contract
"There have only been two people who have been under contract with the UFC – that's me and Mario Yamasaki. When Zuffa [UFC's current owners] bought the UFC in 2001, the UFC got to go to Nevada and California, and the commission's there didn’t want to use referees who are associated with a promotion. There can be a conflict of interest if you have an official that was hired and being paid to be a part of that company. So we work for the commission and we get paid what they want to pay us. We don’t have a say in it. It would be better I guess if I were under contract with the UFC – probably more money overall – but that’s really not an available context that anyone can have."
On pioneering the iconic black outfit in officiating
"Long ago, I decided to wear black and that has stuck with mixed martial arts ever since. The only reason I decided to wear black is because it didn’t show blood. Nobody comes to watch the referee. The fans either like or hate the referee. But no one comes to look at you so you don’t have to do anything to stand out. You even do things to try to minimize your actual viewing during the fight. I don’t like it when we have referees that look sloppy. Many times in the sport, the referees don’t look professional – shirts hanging out, wearing sweatpants, stuff like that. You’re supposed to look a certain way, so I hope all referees try to look professional because what we’re doing is a professional job."
On tackling fighters during referee stoppages
"I used to do that long ago, but that was 17 years ago. Back then, they liked it when I do that. I did it in one fight where I basically bull rushed the fighter who was doing damage to a beaten opponent and knocked him off. They thought that was great, but I started realizing that I’m gonna hurt someone if I keep on doing it. I’m not a small person – I’m 280-lbs, and it’s wrong to bull rush someone when he can’t see it coming. The whole point is to get in between them and not to take the guy on top out. If you watch now, I never ever bull rush fighters – I only slide my body between them or I’ll pick ‘em up and take ‘em off each other."
On hanging up his gloves for good
"You know what, I don’t know for sure. I retired for a short while about four or five years ago because I felt that I had to get away from certain things. I knew then that I was gonna be miserable because I was leaving what I love. I love officiating MMA. I know I’m not gonna be doing this forever, but I’m lucky in that I’ve had a pretty long run without making what I would call a 'big mistake'. I’ve made some small mistakes and I’ve always been critical in what I do, but as soon as I don’t think I can get myself where I need to be during a fight and handle things the way I need to, that’ll be the time for me to leave. I don’t have an exact date. I will be turning 50 in one month!"
view article here:http://www.fhm.com.ph/entertainment/interviews/article/15384