Mixed martial arts’ most famous referee is headed to the commentary booth.
Bellator MMA announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with veteran MMA official “Big” John McCarthy to serve as a color commentator on its broadcasts on the rebranded Paramount Network. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“With the addition of ‘Big’ John to our broadcast team, we have put together the premier group of MMA commentators ahead of our Jan. 20 debut on the Paramount Network,” said Bellator President Scott Coker in a press release.
Bellator 192, scheduled for Jan. 20 at The Forum in Los Angeles, is headlined by welterweight champion Douglas Lima’s title defense against former Ultimate Fighting Championship title challenger Rory MacDonald, and also features a Bellator heavyweight tournament bout between “Rampage” Quinton Jackson and Chael Sonnen. It will be the first Bellator MMA card on Paramount, which was previously Spike under the Viacom umbrella.
Bellator MMA recently parted ways with longtime color commentator Jimmy Smith, who did not agree to the terms of restructured deal with the company.
“They said, ‘We want to change the deal around,'” Smith said on the Jan. 2 edition of Joe Rogan’s “JRE MMA Show.” “They did make an honest effort to keep me. They really tried, they just, they didn’t make me an offer that was worth me coming back. That was the deal.”
McCarthy, a former Los Angeles police officer and student of Rorion Gracie, made his refereeing debut at UFC 2 in March 1994 and has gone on to become not only its most visible and famous referee, but a highly influential official and regulator as well. However, it will not be McCarthy’s first gig as an analyst, as he previously served in such a capacity for Canadian cable channel The Fight Network in 2007 before returning to officiating.
“It is always so hard to leave something you love, but I have always wanted to step away based on my terms rather than someone else’s,” McCarthy said in the release. “My goals are to work as hard as I can to meet the expectations everyone will have for me and to hopefully someday exceed them.”
“I cannot think of anyone I would rather be working with than Scott Coker. Scott has always been a person I admire because of his honesty, loyalty and love for the martial arts. I want to thank everyone from Bellator and Viacom for the trust you are bestowing upon me to keep the commentating of Bellator MMA at the highest levels of the sport.”