John McCarthy, one of the most experienced referees in mixed martial arts history, is retiring from officiating to move to the broadcasting booth.
Bellator MMA officials announced Tuesday that McCarthy will join the promotion’s broadcast as a commentator in 2018. His first event will be Bellator 192 on Jan. 20 in Los Angeles.
In a statement provided to Bellator, McCarthy indicated the move would be permanent.
“I first want to say how grateful I am for the opportunity I have been given to work with the incredible team Bellator has assembled,” McCarthy said.
“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. 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.”
McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. Bellator president Scott Coker confirmed to ESPN via text that McCarthy is retiring from officiating.
It’s a significant blow to MMA officiating as a whole, as McCarthy is widely recognized as a top and reliable official. He actually played a major role in drafting the Unified Rules, which have governed the sport since 2011.
Since his officiating debut at UFC 2 in 1994, McCarthy has been a regular presence at events for various promotions around the world. He’s officiated some of the biggest fights in the sport’s history.
It will not be his first foray into broadcasting. McCarthy worked events for The Fight Network and for Affliction in late 2007 before returning to the ring as a referee in 2008.
McCarthy joins a broadcast team that includes veteran play-by-play announcers Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo, and color commentator Chael Sonnen.