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“Big” John McCarthy Dishes on MMA in ‘Let’s Get It On!’

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Lets_Get_It_OnTypically, the two athletes duking it out for supremacy in the cage are the centerpieces for viewer interest. MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy changed this notion with his gradual rise to celebrity as the third man in the octagon. Now BJM, along with co-writer Loretta Hunt, bring fresh insight dating back to Big John’s start at historic UFC 2 in 1994 in their new book, ‘Let’s Get It On: The Making of MMA and Its Ultimate Referee’ (Medallion Press: September, 2011).

Big John really shines in the arc spanning from his childhood up until his time as a member of the LAPD that takes up the first 117-odd pages of the book. His father was a pioneering member of the LAPD, but there was no pressure for John to follow in his footsteps. John’s high school football career was aborted due to injury, and he made it into college on scholarship thanks to his ability on the water polo team.

A lack of discipline, failure in academics and inability to cut it in a 50-meter pool (versus the 25-yard pool he’d dominated in high school) led to John dropping out of California State University Long Beach. McCarthy tried a two-year junior college, but his wild side again caught up with him.

Luck saw him fall in with world-class powerlifters, as he worked in a gym and met Elaine, his future wife. Experiments with steroids and anger management issues reared their ugly head; John makes sure the reader knows that steroids weren’t illegal at this time, and that he stayed with legal drugs like alcohol, never having smoked marijuana.

It was McCarthy’s need for steady income that pushed him into joining the LAPD. He passed the tests, and after months of waiting, was finally told his training academy class was being scheduled, when a workplace matter nearly derailed his career trajectory. While working at a mini-Indy car track in Fountain Valley, John was forced to eject two unruly patrons who had overstayed closing time. The two men elected to spit on McCarthy when he politely tried to nudge them into leaving. He gleefully recalls sending one of the men across the room so hard, he smashed an arcade game. The second man had an even sweeter door prize for coming out. “I grabbed the other guy next and leveled him before doing what I’d done for so many years,” explained McCarthy, “I started stomping and pounding the p–s out of him. He was out, but I just didn’t care.”

A phone call to the right people in the inside of the LAPD helped prevent any blowback from the episode and McCarthy got a telephone call the very next day telling him to report to the academy.

Big John’s 22-year career on the Los Angeles police force yields some anecdotes more interesting than his time in MMA. For instance, he references his time on Prostitution Enforcement Detail (PED) where he followed “one of the biggest celebrities of all time through Hollywood as he picked up [transvestites] and drove them back to his Beverly Hills home.”

Is there any doubt whatsoever that McCarthy is referring to superstar actor and comedian Eddie Murphy, who made headlines for being stopped by police with a transvestite in his car back in May of 1997?

Big John’s vantage point as a member of the LAPD also puts him between two opposing forces: dealing with ruthless criminals while acting as a lighting rod for political blowback. The 1991 Rodney King incident, as well as the subsequent 1992 LA riots, were pivotal events that demonstrated how police are used to handle dangerous situations, but were held solely responsible when order deteriorated.

McCarthy deconstructs the events in a manner far different than the sensationalistic news clip disseminated throughout the world, pointing out that two black males who cooperated with the arresting officers were taken into custody without incident, as well as noting how King provoked the beating by going after an officer. On recognizing one of the officers involved in the beating, McCarthy shares that, “With the badge on, sometimes he’d act much tougher than he actually was.”

The only way of approaching the corruption, excessive force, anger management issues, racism and general abuse of power found in the LAPD is for Big John to minimize or ignore it. Putting ordinary people into difficult situations always influences their actions, as the findings of the 1971 Stanford prison experiment clearly demonstrated. In that groundbreaking psychology experiment, students were assigned roles as guards or prisoners; the guards demonstrated blind obedience to authority and took the experiment as seriously as if they’d been assigned to San Quentin. The members of the LAPD have developed similar defense mechanisms, such as cognitive dissonance, in order to survive and endure the difficult conditions of their workplace.

The political fallout of the LA Riots included the formation of a Civilian Martial Arts Advisory Panel where different martial arts experts would pontificate on the effectiveness of their respective arts. McCarthy was the police representative, and ended up meeting Rorian Gracie, who later founded the UFC to prove the power of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

This was the course change that saw McCarthy rescued from the drudgery of police work to his role as an integral part of the UFC’s evolution and growth. The book is abound with details concerning the stoppage of fights, as MMA’s rules were never static; rather, they evolved with every event that occurred.

Big John’s former position as a salaried employee of the UFC makes him feel that he owes a lifelong debt to the organization. Rather than delve into the frequent criticism of the UFC, McCarthy papers over the cracks with nice, neutral vanilla statements. This is the best policy, as it was minor events like a request for a business class airline seat and a statement made to a radio DJ over the so-called ‘Zuffa myth’ that ended up creating a rift between BJM and Dana White.

The book isn’t an overview or history of MMA, as it tells events solely from BJM’s perspective. ‘Let’s Get It On!’ is a good supplement for dedicated MMA fans who already have knowledge of the sport. 


Brian J. D’Souza is a Canadian writer who has covered Mixed Martial Arts for ESPN.com, FoxSports.com and FIGHT! magazine.

Amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Get-Making-Ultimate-Referee/dp/1605421413/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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