MMA referee John McCarthy never expected to write a book about his life, but he also never expected that his own story would be woven in so closely with the sport of MMA.
"The truth is, I was originally talked into it by Loretta [Hunt, the book's co-author]. The reasons she gave me were valid," McCarthy told Cagewriter. "It wasn't so much about me, it was about the history of MMA and the way things actually happened. There's a lot of people out there that are fans of MMA, but have been fans since "The Ultimate Fighter" was on TV. A lot of them think that's where it started, and there's a long history before that. It's not that many years, but it's a long history with the people that have done a lot to put themselves out to try to help the sport."
That story was written into "Let's Get It On," a tome that follows McCarthy's life from a police officer in Los Angeles to one of MMA's best known referees. McCarthy's applause during pre-fight introductions often rivals that of fighters. He is still surprised by the attention.
"I joke and say, 'People recognize me because I have an ugly face and it's burned into their memory.' I'm very appreciative to people who have paid attention to the work I've done and who will give me a moment of applause. That's super-nice. It makes me feel good, but I try to tell all referees that our job is not to be popular. Our job is not to have people like us. Our job is to look out for the safety of a fighter. Sometimes you're going to do things that will make you not popular based on what you have to do for the safety of the fighter."
A well-known referee is unique to combat sports, as officials in other sports try to stay inconspicuous. In MMA, referees are one of three people in the cage, and have to be involved in ending fights. Fading into the background isn't an option, but McCarthy doesn't mind that as long as officials do their job correctly.
"It's very hard to have an official in MMA or boxing to not be noticed. It's not what people notice, but it's how the person conducts the bout, and when they actually decide to bring themselves into the action, and when they don't, that's going to determine how much someone is going to notice the referee in MMA. At times, that's something a referee has no control of, and other times it's something he has no control of. It really is dependent on the fighters."
McCarthy thinks that officiating in MMA is in a good place, but needs to be consistent across the sport.
"Officiating today, as a whole, is much better than it was 10 years ago. The sport has evolved and many of the officials have evolved with it. It still needs to continue to improve and evolve with the sport. The consistency is what we need to have from show to show, so that the fighters, fans, everyone becomes accustomed to it, no matter the show."
McCarthy's jobs of police work and officiating both revolve around keeping order. He says that a sense of right and wrong were clear to him from an early age.
"I was brought up with a serious sense of what is right and what is wrong, and sometimes, what's right goes against the rules, and sometimes what's right is with the rules. Common sense has everything to do with law enforcement, if you're going to be good at it, and it has everything to do with a referee, in any sport. You have to look at something, understand the spirit of the law, and dispense it in a fair fashion."
"Let's Get It On" is available at bookstores everywhere.