Referee "Big" John McCarthy is one of the most respected figures in mixed martial arts history. The former Los Angeles police officer began officiating at UFC 2 in 1994. He was center stage for most of the UFC's biggest matches, and his catchphrase of "Let's get it on" is a Pavlovian trigger for fans around the world.
McCarthy decided at the end of 2007 to move on to the next phase in his life. He accepted a huge-money offer from The Fight Network, became an announcer and commentator, and did not renew his officiating license with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. At the time, it was assumed McCarthy was leaving the octagon for good.
There is a reason why you rarely hear from pro and college sports referees in the media. A sport's legitimacy rides on a referee's ability to call the action in an impartial manner. Even the perception of bias, whether or not it actually exists – think Lakers-Kings, 2002 – can mar a sport's reputation.
So what do we make of passages from McCarthy's Fight Network blog like this one from last summer, in which McCarthy gives his take on Quinton Jackson's alleged road rage incident?
"Quinton, if the State of California takes your license from you just give me a call. I would love to chauffeur you around in that beautiful Audi R8 you have … seriously just call for anything, you will always have a fan here."
Imagine, for a moment, that days after Plaxico Burress' gun incident, an NFL referee went on a football blog and essentially wrote, "I'll hold your guns for you any time, Plaxico. I'm your biggest fan. Give me a call." Do you think that official would ever be allowed to work another NFL game in his life?
Unfortunately for McCarthy, the gig with The Fight Network didn't pan out. And according to a recent Sherdog.com report, McCarthy's application for renewal of his Nevada license was not approved.
This news, per usual, is being portrayed in some quarters as the big, bad UFC machine (with NSAC as a proxy) going out of its way to crush the little guy.
But such complaints display willful ignorance to the ethical minefield McCarthy's return poses. Would you want to be Jackson's next opponent (and we all know "Rampage" will be back), have McCarthy in the middle, and know that the referee has gone public saying he wants to chauffeur his opponent?
McCarthy's blog has another post in which he says he'd pay money to watch Josh Neer fight. McCarthy, who is still licensed in California, is technically eligible to officiate Neer's match with Gleison Tibau at the Staples Center on Oct. 24. Would it be fair to Tibau to have McCarthy officiate this match?
And McCarthy runs a gym in the Los Angeles area that boasts a roster of professional fighters. Would you want to be a fighter who won a controversial decision over a McCarthy gym fighter, then have McCarthy officiate your next fight?
McCarthy has done nothing in the course of his officiating career, including his capable handling of the Fedor Emelianenko-Andrei Arlovski match in Anaheim on Jan. 24, that would suggest he would behave in an improper manner. But the mere perception of impartiality among officials is just as important as the ability to call a proper fight stoppage. If you don't believe that, consider that respected judge Lester Griffin is not allowed to score Forrest Griffin's or Tyson Griffin's fights, even though none of the above are related.
There is no denying McCarthy's pure in-ring officiating skills place him in the top tier of a sport with a limited pool of quality referees. But until McCarthy explains some of his Fight Network comments and decides whether he wants to train pro fighters or officiate their fights, then Nevada is right to put him in line behind officials who focus on overseeing the action, not building their personal brands.
There were no matches involving Top 10 fighters in the past month, and thus no one dropped out of the top 10. This month features one ranked fighter in action, as No. 4 Lyoto Machida defends his UFC light heavyweight title against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 104 on Oct. 24.
For a list of this month's Y! Sports Top 10 poll panel participants, go here.
10. Dan Henderson
Weight class: Middleweight
Hometown: Temecula, Calif.
Record: 25-7 (won last three)
Last month's ranking: 9
Most recent result: def. Michael Bisping, KO R2, July 11
Analysis: Wants a shot at Anderson Silva's middleweight title; doesn't want to fight Nate Marquardt to get the shot.
9. Brian Bowles
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: Athens, Ga.
Record: 8-0 (won last eight)
Last month's ranking: 10
Most recent result: def. Miguel Torres, R1 TKO, Aug. 9
Analysis: Still nothing announced for Bowles' first title defense.
8. Miguel Angel Torres
Weight class: Bantamweight
Hometown: East Chicago, Ind.
Record: 36-2 (lost past one)
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: lost to Brian Bowles, R1 TKO, Aug. 9
Analysis: The next question for the former champ: Does he want an immediate rematch, or is a tuneup fight in order?
7. Quinton Jackson
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Record: 30-7 (won last two)
Last month's ranking: 7
Most recent result: def. Keith Jardine, unanimous decision, March 7
Analysis: Will remain eligible until March if he doesn't fight in the interim. And don't be too shocked if he does.
6. Mike Brown
Weight class: Featherweight (WEC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Portland, Maine
Record: 22-4 (won last 10)
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Urijah Faber, unanimous decision, June 7
Analysis: Defends title against dangerous Jose Aldo in Las Vegas on Nov. 18
5. B.J. Penn
Weight class: Lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 14-5-1 (won past one)
Last month's ranking: 5
Most recent result: def. Kenny Florian, R4 submission, Aug. 8
Analysis: Likely to remain near the No. 5 spot at least until his December title defense against Diego Sanchez.
4. Lyoto Machida
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Belem, Brazil
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Rashad Evans, R2 TKO, May 23
Analysis: Can potentially force his way into the No. 1 discussion with an impressive win over "Shogun."
3. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 142 (five first-place votes)
Affiliation: Strikeforce/M-1 (never lost PRIDE title)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 30-1, one no-contest (won past 10)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Andrei Arlovski, R1 KO, Jan. 24
Analysis: Knows Nov. 7 opponent Brett Rogers has punching power. Rest of Rogers' game is untested.
2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 154 (five first-place votes)
Weight class: Welterweight (UFC welterweight champion)
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 19-2 (won past six)
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Thiago Alves, unanimous decision, July 11
Analysis: On the shelf until early 2010. Hopefully the UFC can come up with a viable contender by then.
1. Anderson Silva
Points: 157 (seven first-place votes)
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 24-4 (won past 10)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Forrest Griffin, R1 KO, Aug. 8
Analysis: Silva is milking the leverage of the middleweight title belt for all it's worth as he keeps the UFC guessing about his intentions.
• Votes for others: Brock Lesnar 16; Urijah Faber 15; Rashad Evans 14; Gegard Mousasi 9; Jake Shields 5; Shinya Aoki 2; Kenny Florian, Thiago Alves 1.
• Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No. 4 Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Oct. 24.
- Lyoto Machida