MMA is still a fairly young sport. In just 18 years, it’s made quite an impact, thanks to superstar fighters, PPV, reality shows and TV deals. Our beloved sport is still new enough, though, that the fans appreciate and follow every aspect of it, right down to the officials.
John McCarthy is one of the most recognized men inside the cage, and he’s not even the one fighting. In November, 2011, John will have been officiating MMA for all but two months of the 18 years that the sport has been active. In a recent interview with TapouT Radio, McCarthy gave some insight on his new book, “Let’s Get It On“, and to the UFC’s early trials and tribulations.
“You know, honestly, I would never have written a book or done anything if I wasn’t pushed into it by other people who said, I want to know, or, I want to write this, and Loretta (Hunt) was the one. She came and said, “I want to write your book, and I want people to know what the history of the sport was. There’s always people that are just now into MMA, but they don’t know what the beginning was like, and they don’t understand what really happened. I want to put something out there so people know what occurred.” And that was really what it was.” McCarthy adds,
“There were a lot of people that were responsible for bringing it (MMA) here, first, to the states, and then there were guys that actually put their lives on the line, as far as their livelihood and their financial stability, to try to keep it going. The sport that everyone sees today, with the UFC being as popular as it is, now, they’re having a deal with Fox… all that is fantastic and it’s great, but, you know, it wasn’t always gravy, and it wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always easy for ZUFFA and the Fertittas and Dana. They had their struggles, and there was a lot of history to the sport, and it was about bringing that out.”
John shared some stories of the early UFC days, which weren’t always as profitable as their are now. He comments,
“When I say there are people that put their financial future at risk…Bob Meyrowitz, when he ended up buying it, obviously, it was doing really well in the first couple of shows. They were getting great PPV numbers and they were making money. Then Art Davie saw that there were some political storms coming their way, and he decided that it was time to get out, so he pulled Rorion Gracie out of it, and Bob Meyrowitz ended up taking complete control. Really, at that point, the political storm came, and he was doing ok for a little bit. Then he got into a position, I hate to say it, where he was robbing Peter to pay Paul, where people weren’t getting paid. They were sticking around because they were expecting to get the paycheck from three shows prior, and it was a sad time. When Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought it, everyone was looking at this as what had to happen, what was going to help save the UFC and help save the sport. You have to look at what they did and how much money they actually put into it, trying to get people to recognize the UFC. They went way, way in the hole, as far as millions of dollars, I mean they were forty something million dollars in the hole. Lorenzo came up with this last push with The Ultimate Fighter, and that worked, and now they’re a billion dollar company, but they took big risks to get there.”
When asked at what point he felt that the sport was “safe” from disappearing altogether, he stated,
“It was at UFC 40. When that show happened, I honestly felt like it was going to make it. Throughout the years, things were happening, and everything always looked bleak. It always looked like, this is it, this is going to be the last time. This is going to be the last year. But, when I was standing in the Octagon at UFC 40, I remember standing there before the Ortiz/Shamrock fight and looking around. The energy of that fight, it was phenomenal, and it was the first time I honestly said, it’s going to make it.”
Looks like Big John was right on the money, and we couldn’t be happier with the direction MMA has taken since those shaky, first years.
You can check out Big John’s website here
You can listen to the audio interview at TapouT Radio