SACRAMENTO – There was a time when UFC President Dana White and John McCarthy weren’t on each other’s Christmas lists, to put it nicely.
But now, White is singing the praises of the veteran referee, who oversaw the main event of Saturday’s UFC on FOX 9 event.
“John McCarthy and I might have had our moments throughout the years, but I’ll tell you what I love about McCarthy, and it happened again tonight,” he said following the event. “When John is in that octagon, he is in absolute and total control.”
Five years ago, White was thinking more about McCarthy’s behavior outside the cage.
It was in 2008 that the now-retired police officer and current referee, whose first gig as the third man in the cage came at UFC 2, took a job as a color commentator in the UFC’s now-defunct rival Affliction Entertainment. He was critical of the UFC and White, who in turn called him “a disappointment.”
McCarthy returned to the cage as a referee later that year, but it wasn’t until 2010 before he returned to the octagon.
Since then, he’s reestablished himself as one of the premiere officials in MMA, and White has taken notice.
In September, UFC executive gave McCarthy credit for advising officials not to stop a hotly contested title fight between light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165.
And at UFC on FOX 9, which took place at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena, White said “Big John” and fellow veteran ref Herb Dean are part of the reason he feels optimistic that state athletic commissions are committed to improving fight officiating.
“I like how they had McCarthy and Dean going back-to-back on some fights,” he said. “You know who the good referees are. You know who they are. Do it. Put the right guys in there. It makes sense. They’re not working too much. They’re in there moving around and they’re watching.”
White cited McCarthy’s warning to UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon as an example of his authority in the cage.
“Lauzon headbutted (his opponent Mac Danzig), and he stopped the fight and said, ‘Watch your head,’” he said. “Everybody in the arena knew there was a headbutt, and everybody watching on TV knew it was stopped and there was a warning for a headbutt. That’s what you do.
“When you’re the ref, you’re in control and you’re in charge. There are other people who ref that are just completely not in charge when they’re in there, and they make calls out of the f—ing blue. They don’t warn people, and if they do, they don’t let everyone know they’ve been warned.”
McCarthy and Dean conduct seminars that are recognized by the Association of Boxing Commissions, which oversees MMA in North America. Both are key figures in training officials who seek to be licensed by state athletic commissions.
In his autobiography, “Let’s Get it On,” McCarthy admitted he made a mistake in his assessment of White and apologized for his past criticisms.
It seems White has moved on, as well.
“Are [McCarthy and Dean] perfect? Are they going to make mistakes? Sometimes they are,” White said. “But it’s hard to argue that they’re the best in there.”
For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 9, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.