"Big" John McCarthy Discusses Liddell, Couture, Tito & Regrets

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If you missed part I of my interview with "Big" John, you can catch it by clicking here.

 

Watching the fight on the outside is so much different from being inside the Octagon. McCarthy, as big a fan as he is, knew he was there to keep the fighters safe and ensure a fair fight.

With that being said, when the opportunities arose to kick off his shoes and watch a fight as fan, there were some other fighters who caught his eye along the way.

“What a fan is watching is completely different than what the referee is seeing,” McCarthy explained. “It’s totally different, the referee’s job first and foremost is the safety of the fighters. A lot of times people want to see a great, back and forth fight, and that’s great when it happens, but a referee is to get a guy out of a problem before bad things happen.

"I don’t look at fighters, per se, as who they are and things like that. I like all of the fighters, every fighter I’ve dealt with I like them. There are certain guys who you give credit to as far as what they have done for the sport. When you look at a guy like Chuck Liddell and what he accomplished, how he helped build the sport, I really respect Chuck for that.

"Couture is a phenomenal spokesman for the sport. When everyone was bashing the sport he went out and in a very educated manner, he would make people realize the fights weren’t about anger. They are about competition, nothing but competition. Royce Gracie was a guy who started it, because of how he was built and the doubt people had that he could defeat these larger men, he proved there is technique in MMA.

"Frank Shamrock is a guy I watched grow from a kid, when I first met him he was very immature and juvenile. He is so complete and such a good guy now, he was a great fighter, but an even better person. I think back to his fight with Tito and he knew he had his hands full, but he found Tito’s weakness and capitalized on it. He knew Tito got tired and he pushed him.

"When there was 30 seconds left in each round, Maurice Smith would tell him from his corner, Frank there’s 30 seconds left. It was at that point he would turn it on and make Tito work. He got Tito’s heart rate up at the end of the round. He knew he was better conditioned and that’s how he won that fight.”

Unfortunately life deals us all some peaks and valleys; not everything can go according to plan. Some of us make decisions that we wish we could take back immediately and others don’t realize the mistakes we have made until it’s too late.

McCarthy is just as human as the rest of us and while he seems to have a great outlook on all aspects of life, he too has has some regrets along the way.

“I have some regrets, that’s for sure, I regret all kinds of things,” McCarthy readily admitted. “There are fights where I think I made mistakes and regret what I did, but I’m honest about it and I would never try and cover anything up. I made a mistake, here’s where I made the mistake and I know why I made it. The best thing you can do is work at it so it doesn’t happen again. There are times when I made decisions when I wish I could have gone the other way.

"You just don’t know at the time, hindsight is 20/20 and you don’t realize it at that moment. You look and think that it’s the best thing you could do and you go with it. Whether it’s being a referee or in my personal life, I’ve made mistakes. I try and figure out why I made that particular mistake and try and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

"No one likes to admit they have weaknesses, but its part of being a human; it’s what life is about. What says a lot about you is what you do after you’ve made the mistake, it shows who you are and what you do. The problem is when you make excuses or try and cover it up. When you look in the mirror you know you did something wrong, be honest about it and move on.”

Dana White likes to believe that Herb Dean is the best referee working today. That may or not be tied to the decision McCarthy made to retire back in 2007 and take a job as an analyst with the Fight Network. White was not happy about some comments McCarthy made about the UFC and never hid his displeasure.

At the end of the day, McCarthy is the most respected official in the sport and wants to help educate referees and the sport's judges.

“What I do now is work with officials, anything I can do to help them or set up a system where the officials have to reach a certain level of knowledge and competency is important to me,” stated McCarthy. “It’s more important to the safety of the fighters. I would be more than happy to be part of anything that would help educate the officials and judges protect the fighters and the integrity of the sport.”

McCarthy just turned 49 on October 12 and takes very good care of himself. With the love he has for the sport, we can only hope he plans on staying around for a long time.

After all the lessons he has learned, he knows life is still full of surprises and is grateful for what he has done and what lies in store for the future.

“I walked away in 2007 to do other stuff and I left what I love doing,” McCarthy mentioned. “We spoke about regrets and work is not work when you love what you are doing. That’s what life is about. There are things we like to do and things we don’t like to do, but when you have a job that you love to do it makes life fun. When I am going to quit? I can honestly say I am never going to leave MMA. I’ll stop refereeing when I stop making good decisions or I’m not reacting fast enough. I’ll know when it’s time to go. I can start judging more or do something else, but I’ll always be part of MMA.

"As you get older you learn things, I look back and my life was completely changed by BJJ. I ended up going in a complete different direction than I ever thought I would go in and that’s because of Helio Gracie and BJJ. I was lucky enough to be able to train and roll with Helio. At the time he was an older man and I was always afraid I was going to hurt him, but he would always choke the hell out of me.

"I can think back and remember rolling with Helio and that’s what is important in life. It’s not the money or the things you accumulate, it’s what you do with your life and how you interact with other people. That’s why Helio was so special, look at how many lives he affected. He was an incredible human being. Those were great experiences and that’s what makes life special.”

 

Bryan Levick is a Featured Columnist for Fighters Magazine and Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanLevick

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