From Royce Gracie Sparring Partner to MMA Pioneer, Big John McCarthy’s Been There, Done That


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Big John McCarthy at WEC 28

Big John McCarthy at WEC 28

“Big” John McCarthy is one of mixed martial arts pioneering referees, widely known for his famous catch phrase, “let’s get it on!”

The 48-year-old’s no-nonsense attitude originated when he was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department.  For 23 years, McCarthy served in law enforcement, but it was mixed martial arts that became his calling. He’s become one of the most recognizable figures in the sport, but still finds himself sometimes missing his former colleagues.

“I truly miss the clowns; I don’t miss the circus,” McCarthy told MMAWeekly Radio.

“There are a lot of very good people that are a part of the LAPD and there are a lot of very good people who live in the city of Los Angeles that are citizens there that are just going about their lives and just trying to be happy doing the right things.  So I miss those people.  Do I miss all the wacky stuff?  That’s kind of fun.  Do I miss all the political stuff? No, I’m glad I’m away from that.”

In his book “Let’s Get It On,” the Californian mentions how he almost fought at UFC 2 instead of refereeing.  Having been a sparring partner of the legendary Royce Gracie, McCarthy felt he was ready to fight, but after speaking with Rorion Gracie, McCarthy stepped out of the tournament and called the action right down the middle.

“What happened was, I wasn’t smart enough to figure life out.  In the beginning, when they had UFC 1, I was there with Royce as one of his sparring partners to get him ready for it and I went to the event and helped out with the event and I loved it.

“When I came back I said, ‘you know what, I can be with these guys. I want to fight in this.’ I filled out the thing for Wild Promotions (which was the promotional company for the UFC).  Next thing I know is Rorion is calling me in and he asked, ‘what are you doing?’  He said, ‘you can’t fight Royce.’  It was obvious that Royce was the star and I was just too stupid to recognize it at that point.

Big John McCarthy at the TUF 6 Finale

Big John McCarthy at the TUF 6 Finale

“There was never any disrespect in the fact I wanted to fight Royce, I wouldn’t have ever done that.  It was at about that point that they asked me to be the referee and I thank them for that because they allowed me to have a career that I would’ve never had if I was lucky enough to fight or dumb enough to get myself in there.”

At the end of the day, McCarthy is happy and believes that he’s rich in life because he gets to do what he loves for a living.

“I love refereeing. I love the sport of MMA. That’s what makes me happy.  You learn things as you get older and I’m old, so I’ve learned a lot.  Life is not so much about how much you make or what you have, it’s more about what you’re able to do and what you’re able to be a part of and what makes you happy.

“If you’re happy with what you’re doing, then you’re rich in life. It may not be rich monetarily, and that’s fine, but you’re rich in life and that’s the most important thing.  I’m very rich in my life and I get to do what I love to do and I couldn’t be any luckier.”

McCarthy is headed out on a tour to support his new book. Check dates and locations below for a stop near you:

Thursday, September 15 at 6pm ET
Barnes & Noble, Tribeca
97 Warren Street
New York, NY 10007

Friday, September 16 at 7pm ET
Bookends
211 East Ridgewood Avenue
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Sunday, September 25 at 2pm ET
Indigo Rideau
47 Rideau Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 5W8

Monday, September 26 at 7pm ET
Indigo Eaton Centre
220 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5B 2H1

Tuesday, September 27 at 12:30pm ET
Indigo Place Montréal
1500, avenue McGill College
Montréal, QB H3A 3J5

Friday, October 21 at 7pm PT
Book Soup
8818 Sunset Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Sunday, October 23 at 2pm PT
Barnes & Noble, Pico-Westwood
10850 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Wednesday, October 26 at 7pm PT
Glendale Public Library
222 E. Harvard St.
Glendale, CA 91205

Follow Andrew Gladstone at @gladstone1 on Twitter.
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