Big John McCarthy: The Campaign To Bring Him Back

Darren WongSenior Analyst IDecember 31, 2009

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 21: Brock Larson (L) battles Brian Foster (R) during their Welterweight Fight at the UFC 106 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) writers tend to disagree with each other about a lot of different issues, but occasionally some of them will join together in a united cause. One example of this occasional unity is the campaign against the Hoelzer Reich clothing company.

Banding together against alleged Neo-Nazis is always an easy thing to do, and then we writers can give ourselves a nice little pat on the back for stopping Neo-Nazism, or whatever.

I digress.

Anyway, one of the other major campaigns this year was the campaign to bring John McCarthy back as a referee for the UFC.

It's clear that McCarthy wants to referee again in the UFC, as he's stated that he would accept the job if an athletic commission offers it. The only question seems to be why the athletic commission doesn't want McCarthy as a referee?

Never mind about that question. Let's get into the campaign to bring back McCarthy.

Steve Cofield wrote a curiously convoluted blog entry today where he discussed the love-hate triangle between McCarthy, UFC President Dana White, and Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) Executive Director Keith Kizer.

Cofield seems to think that Dana White is angering Kizer by complaining about referee Steve Mazzagatti. According to Cofield, Kizer may be stubbornly supporting Mazzagatti simply to stand up to White, and show him that White is not his boss.

Cofield then goes on to ask if Dana White's war against Mazzagatti is also a contributing factor as to why Kizer has not added John McCarthy back onto the roster of NSAC referees.

All of this leads to one simple question: If Kizer is trying to annoy White, then why hasn't he reinstated McCarthy?

It is common knowledge that White doesn't want McCarthy to referee again in the UFC. If Kizer really wanted to get back at Dana White, then hiring McCarthy would probably be the easiest and most wildly celebrated thing that he could do.

The media would praise him for "coming to his senses," plenty of fans would be overjoyed, and truth be told, McCarthy is one of the best referees in the business, so the NSAC could surely benefit in that regard.

Why doesn't Kizer do this?

First of all, Kizer doesn't have a war with Dana White. The two obviously disagree about Mazzagatti, but nobody knows more about White's positive impact on the economy of Nevada than Kizer. Kizer appreciates White, but at the same time, he's going to have his own opinions.

Secondly, Kizer has his own problems with McCarthy. Kizer has already been interviewed about McCarthy on many occasions, and has defended his decision not to bring him back.

The explanation has something to do with McCarthy overstepping the traditional profile of a referee. When McCarthy retired from refereeing a few years ago, he did so to pursue opportunities as a sports personality. He provided analysis and commentary for various promotions and stations, and was generally an outspoken and public figure.

This type of behavior is hardly reprehensible by itself, but it is seen as going beyond the natural scope of a referee.  Of course, many of us will disagree with this ethical standard, but it wasn't one that was secret in any way.

McCarthy knew about the standard, and before he committed to it, he discussed his plans with the NSAC.

The NSAC told him explicitly that he could not pursue both avenues, and that if he was going to become such a personality, he would need to permanently give up his position as a referee.

In this way we can see that even if you don't agree with the ethical position of the NSAC, it is not like the NSAC didn't give McCarthy a choice. He could have remained a referee, but he chose a different path.

If Kizer allows McCarthy back, he will be sending the message that the rules do not apply to him, which sets a dangerous precedent.

A third interesting approach is actually found within Cofield's latest blog entry. Cofield argues that by pressuring Kizer to fire Mazzagatti, Kizer may actually become more steadfast in his support of the moustached referee.

If that is indeed the case, is it also possible that the consistent pressure of the media campaign to reinstate McCarthy is also having a counter-productive effect? I would absolutely not be surprised, especially considering the media propensity for being annoyingly persistent.

Ultimately, MMA journalists are wrong to blame White or Kizer completely for the fact that McCarthy isn't reffing right now in the UFC.  Nevada is only a single state. If any other athletic commission decided to offer John McCarthy a job at a UFC event, the UFC would have no choice but to accept the decision.

Take whatever message you want from the fact that no athletic commission has done so.

By Darren Wong

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