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John McCarthy comments on Ben Henderson stoppage: My job is to protect the fighter, not make fans happy

And he says stopping Rafael dos Anjos from dishing out further punishment to an unconscious ex-champ at UFC Fight Night 49, was the right call to make.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Known as one of the best, if not the best, referee in mixed martial arts (MMA), John McCarthy has received his fair share of criticism in the past for what many deemed as bad calls inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Octagon.

Case in point, "Big John" came under fire back on Aug. 23, 2014, when he put a halt to the main event fight at UFC Fight Night 49 between Benson Henderson and Rafael dos Anjos in the very first round, after "RDA" floored "Smooth" with a left hand and proceeded to go in for the finish (video).

Many, Benson included, believed the stoppage was a bit early and fight fans in attendance, as well as those watching on FOX Sports 1, felt robbed, seeing as how the bout was barely halfway through the first round.

Still, McCarthy did what he had to do, and that's protect Benson from taking further, unnecessary damage. And if fight fans aren't happy with his call, well that's too bad, because it's not his job to please them.

He explained his views on a recent edition of The MMA Hour:

"This is what it comes down to. A referee is not there to make the fans happy. I am there for the safety of a fighter. It all comes down to, there are many things that we have to live with in our lives. When a fighter goes unconscious in a fight and you are in a position to see it and you realize he is unconscious; there are times when a fighter hits the ground or he gets hit again and they wake back up. But, if you come in to stop a fight, and the fight is over because you are doing it for the safety of the fighter. You can't predict the future and you can't sit there and wait and let that fighter continue to get hit to see if he will come back or of he will stay out and then stop it. That's not what you do for the safety of the fighter. You have to make a decision. And when I saw Benson, Ben got hit with several things that hurt him. Benson is such a tough fighter. He got hit with a left hand and it hurt him and he stood his ground and started firing back. Then he got hurt with a knee that ended up putting him down and when he tried to get up, he got hit with a left hand. When he got hit with that left hand, he went unconscious. And I saw him go unconscious and that's when i decided it needed to end and I would make the exact same decision a hundred times. It's the right thing to do even though fans, at times say, 'No, you should have let it go!' As a fan, I understand what you want, but you can't have everything. When you have a fighter in that position, we have fighters that take damage based upon things that happen after they are no longer able to defend themselves. As a referee, no referee wants to be responsible for that. And I'm not going to let that happen."

While some believe Benson was also robbed of the opportunity to recover and continue on, McCarthy is content with his split-second call and wasn't about to let the former UFC lightweight champion take further punches to the face just to see if he was going to be able to shake them off.

And much like judging, the job of a referee is always under the microscope and heavily scrutinized when fans, and sometimes a promoter, don't get what they want.

But as long as a fighter's safety was procured, McCarthy can sleep at night knowing he did his job well; regardless if there are thousands of fans, and one fighter, unhappy with him.

And I think we can all agree that protecting a fighter's health trumps having said fighter dip in the rankings and sending a fair share of fans home in a bad mood.


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