Often called the “octagon’s ninth side,” John McCarthy is the Ultimate Fighting Championships’ head referee. He has become famous for his unique rendition of legendary boxing official Mills Lane’s trademark pre-match catch phrase, “Let’s get it on!”
McCarthy had designs on becoming a mixed martial arts fighter himself, but ultimately opted not to pursue that path and became an official instead. He is one of the UFC’s longest-serving personalities, having made his officiating debut way back at UFC 2 in 1994. McCarthy was a fixture in the UFC octagon for years, barely missing a match until UFC 77 in 2007. After UFC 77, McCarthy left the organization to become a color commentator on The Fight Network, but rejoined the UFC one year later.
One of McCarthy’s most important contributions to the UFC was his implementation of the “intelligent defense” rule. When McCarthy’s UFC officiating career began, the UFC was fairly light on formal rules. It was McCarthy’s suggestion that the UFC permit its referees to stop fights when combatants were no longer capable of “intelligent self-defense.” The UFC brass was initially opposed to the suggestion, but eventually approved the rule to better protect its fighters.
Prior to joining the Ultimate Fighting Championships, McCarthy was a police officer in Los Angeles. He was also a leading force in the Los Angeles Police Department’s personal defense training program, and taught self-defense and personal combat tactics to new recruits and veteran officers until 2007.
McCarthy also established C.O.M.M.A.N.D., the UFC’s official referee and judge training organization. He also owns and operates a mixed martial arts training facility in Valencia, California, where would-be competitors train in various fighting disciplines including kickboxing, wrestling, judo and Brazilian jiu jitsu. McCarthy holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.