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Big John McCarthy appears to have refereed his last major MMA fight

Beginning on 20 January, the renowned official will serve as a colour commentator for Bellator events.

John McCarthy raises Conor McGregor's hand after his victory in the rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.
John McCarthy raises Conor McGregor's hand after his victory in the rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.
Image: INPHO/Tom Hogan

MMA EVENTS WILL look slightly different this year after Bellator announced that ‘Big’ John McCarthy has signed a long-term deal to work for the US-based promotion as a colour commentator.

Widely regarded as the top official in mixed martial arts, McCarthy has regularly been the third man in the octagon for the UFC since he first refereed for the promotion in 1994.

The 55-year-old American, who played a key role in writing the Unified Rules which govern MMA, has also refereed regularly for Bellator, the UFC’s main rival, as well as various other promotions around the world.

Bellator have announced that McCarthy will join their commentary booth — replacing Jimmy Smith, who’s been linked to a switch to the UFC — starting with Bellator 192 on Saturday, 20 January.

“It is always so hard to leave something you love, but I have always wanted to step away based on my terms rather than someone else’s,” the former Los Angeles police officer said in a Bellator press release.

McCarthy, whose popular COMMAND programme trains and certifies hopeful MMA referees and judges, later clarified to ESPN that although he hasn’t retired from officiating, his new role precludes him from doing so for the foreseeable future.

“I had a few MMA assignments, and I contacted the athletic commissions and let them know I won’t be able to do those,” McCarthy said. “And I’m not going to be able to take any new assignments right now in MMA. That’s a thing of the past as far as this moment right now.”

He added: “If you’re asking me if I’ve officiated my last UFC fight, I don’t think the UFC wants a Bellator commentator officiating their fights. That’s totally understandable. Have I officiated my last UFC fight? As of right now, yeah.”

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Paul Dollery

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