"Big" John McCarthy has literally been there since the beginning.
From making his debut as a referee at UFC 2 in 1994 to officiating alongside his son at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg this past January, McCarthy is one of the most important players in the early development of our beloved sport.
His autobiography, co-written with veteran MMA journalist Loretta Hunt, Let's Get It On! The Making of MMA and Its Ultimate Referee, is a tale of not only a man's life story, but an incredible look behind the scenes of the early days of mixed martial arts.
Now it's time for the big question:
Is this 400-plus page book a worthy addition to your MMA library?
Short answer: Absolutely!
The book begins with some history behind McCarthy, delving into his family life (his father helped create the modern day SWAT unit), his experiences in sports (even admitting to taking steroids while power lifting), becoming a police officer in the LAPD and having to deal with the LA riots.
He's not afraid to pull punches either, at others or himself. This isn't the tale of a golden child who miraculously rose to the cream of the crop. McCarthy regularly admits to dealing with anger management problems and making poor decisions. How he proposed to his wife is definitely a highlight.
But for the true MMA aficionados out there, the meat of the book begins when McCarthy builds a friendship with Rorian Gracie and contributes greatly to the early days of Ultimate Fighting Championship.
McCarthy details an incredible history lesson from a first person perspective: politics between the Gracie family. issues with the getting the events televised and eventually his major role in developing the rules we see today in modern MMA. Most rules were made from observations "Big John" made inside the Octagon, learning from past mistakes.
There are also multiple stories about the early fighters like David "Tank" Abbott and Ken Shamrock that are unforgettable. One must wonder how many more were left on the cutting room floor due to privacy issues?
One doesn't truly appreciate the debt mixed martial arts owes to John McCarthy until reading about the countless meetings he had with government officials explaining the intricacies of the sport, that it wasn't simply "human cockfighting." McCarthy was more than a referee, he was a spokesman championing the cause of MMA to anyone that would listen with an open mind.
This book is a "must-read" for those who are interested in the early days of the sport. It is a tale not only of a man who worked incredibly hard to get where he is today, but also of the rise of the UFC from the dark ages of no holds barred combat to the magnificent sporting spectacle we witness today. This is a fascinating first-person account of UFC history from a man who's had the best seat in the house for well over a decade.
Let's Get It On! The Making of MMA and its Ultimate Referee by "Big" John McCarthy with Loretta Hunt is available through Medallion Press on September 1, 2011.