Former referee John McCarthy was at the forefront of the UFC’s chase for acceptance during the promotion’s early years, and helped put together a ruleset and argue the case for the sport in front of judges during the organization’s battle for legal acceptance. So his opinion on the UFC’s upcoming events in Jacksonville, starting with UFC 249 on May 9, comes with a level of experience and gravitas few in his field can match.
The former official, who now works as a fight analyst and commentator for rival promotion Bellator, said he has watched the UFC’s attempts to stage UFC 249, and revealed that other officials had contacted him for advice about potentially working the event. Speaking to MMA Junkie, McCarthy said that when the situation surrounding the staging of the event changed, so did his advice.
“There’s two sides to it,” he explained. “We had UFC 249, where they were trying to put it on tribal land in California, and everything that they were doing was going against what they had always done. They were running from regulation – because the California State Athletic Commission could not do it, said they would not do it. Y
“You had some of the very best officials sitting in California. Guys like Herb Dean, Jason Herzog, Mike Beltran, Frank Trigg, Mike Bell, Ron McCarthy. All these guys that go everywhere were not going to do that show because, hey, we can’t do that. It’s not a regulated show and it’s in our state. But you had some guys that were going to do it. Now they made a decision – it was a bad decision, because there comes that point where you gotta say, ‘I can’t do that because it’s wrong.’ It’s wrong for the sport. The promotion wants to do it – that’s great. But I’ve got to be the guy that does things by the book, because I’m that regulator. I’m with regulation.’”
But while McCarthy was against the UFC’s previous plans to host their show at the Tachi Palace, he says he has no issue with their upcoming event in Jacksonville, Florida, because it will be run under state governance.
“Now the UFC is going to do this show in Florida, in Jacksonville, and the Florida State Athletic Commission is allowed to do it, so anybody that is going to do that show I would tell them, ‘Go do it,’” he said. “I would say, ‘Hey, yes. You have the opportunity to go do it? Go do it,’ because they’re working for the Florida State Athletic Commission.
“The UFC as a promotion, look, they’re a great promotion. I would never sit there and say they’re not. And I know people that they use as medical advisors – Jeff Davidson is their chief guy that they go to and he’s a guy I’ve worked with as a ringside physician for years in Nevada, and he’s fantastic. He’s a great guy and I know that he’s putting together a plan and I know he’s going to be working with a guy called Don Moosie who is a physician in Florida who is also the president of the Ringside Physicians Association. So they’re doing everything that they can to make this as functionally safe as possible. Does that mean they can cover every little gnat’s ass there is? No. That’s impossible unless they put people into quarantines for weeks before, and then weeks after. It’s a position where you can only go so far.
“But I believe they’re going to be doing all the right things for the officials, I believe they’ll be doing all the right things for the fighters, and there comes a point where you’ve got to start to try to move forward. And I think that, after waiting what they’ve waited, I think this is a good time, and the athletic commission in Florida is able and willing to do it, so I think anybody that asks me about doing this show, I would tell them, ‘Go do it.’ (The) prior show? ‘Don’t do it.’”