Pioneering UFC Referee John McCarthy Thinks Jason High’s Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime

June 23, 2014
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Big John McCarthyJason High was recently expelled from the UFC following his actions at the UFC Fight Night event in Albuquerque, N.M.

Referee Kevin Mulhall called a halt High’s fight when he perceived that High was not intelligently defending Rafael dos Anjos’ strikes late in the second round. High immediately popped up, furious, and shoved Mulhall in the heat of the moment.

He later apologized to Mulhall and again via Twitter. “Incredibly sorry & embarrassed for the ref incident. Will never happen again.”

It sure won’t happen in the UFC, as UFC president Dana White – who didn’t witness the incident – fired High.

“What I did find out is that I guess that Jason High kid got up and pushed a referee; he’s cut,” declared White.

The New Mexico Athletic Commission then handed High a one-year suspension and a $1900 fine.

Pioneering mixed martial arts referee “Big John” McCarthy was recently asked about the incident. He feels that, for what High did, the penalty was higher than it should have been.

“Absolutely there has to be varying degrees of punishment, but it has to be a punishment that evenly matches the crime, and the crime was pretty minimal,” McCarthy said during an interview with Submission Radio Australia.

“Jason put his hands on Kevin and kind of pushed him away. It was wrong. (But) to be taken out of the UFC… I understand what Dana White is doing. Dana is slamming his foot down, going don’t do that, you’re embarrassing me, you’re embarrassing my promotion, you’re embarrassing the sport, I can’t have that,” he continued.

“Now the question is, if Jon Jones would have done the same thing, would he have kicked Jon Jones out of the UFC? He wouldn’t have. Now I  understand why, I’m not saying that he should, but Jason got punished in a harsh fashion. Now on top of Dana removing him from the UFC, the New Mexico State Athletic commission has suspended him for 1 year. That’s one year of time that he cannot make a living fighting. That’s a lot. You’re having people take away your ability to make a living, based on one act.”

The referee is in the ring or cage to make sure the rules are followed, and even more importantly, to make sure that the athletes are competing with a reasonable amount of safety, sometimes saving them from themselves so they don’t take unnecessary punishment.

It is, however, a physical sport where violent actions play a part in winning. Emotions run high, and that’s what happen to High. He let his emotions get the best of him. He was the one at fault, but is that reason enough to take away his usual means of earning a living for a full year?

McCarthy seems to think that was overly harsh.

“Sometimes we as human beings, we do things off of emotion that we normally wouldn’t do,” he said.

“Do I think he should have been punished? Yes. He should have had his hand slapped, he should have gotten a five-month suspension, he should have been fined, we’ll say twenty-five hundred, five thousand dollars. That’s gonna hurt him, he’s gonna feel it, but I think that overall Jason got treated very harshly for what happened.”

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  • Straight is OK too?

    AMEN. A fighter can’t be “out of his head, unable to continue the fight” and held responsible for a push 3 seconds later. Either he is IN or OUT of his right mind!

  • Lucas Freire

    Poor High. He had no relevancy to the division so it’s easy for Dana to turn him into an “example”.

  • Emanon

    I agree with John, the punishment is TOO HIGH. Basically Dana destroyed the fighters’ livelihood. I agree that actions have consequences.. BUT it would be like getting a life sentence for stealing a snickers bar… uneven. DANA dropped the ball.

    • Agent119

      Same thing would have happened if I pushed someone where I work. Circle K wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior.

      • Darin

        You work at Circle K?

      • TheCerealKiller

        That’s a retarded comparison. Troll

        • earlsimmons

          rules are rules and thats a legit comparison. What other job can you push an authority figure or upper management and get away with it? BUT WAIT because he was angry and upset and his emotions got the best of him we should just excuse it or give him a lesser penalty? Sorry bro you cant go case by case basis. You make the rules and enforce them. Nuff said. Stop trying to make excuses.

          • Seth

            You realize that sometimes when you get punched/kick/kneed to the head, you may be concused, right? Let’s face it – being MMA fighter is unique job when it comes to that. You can’t shove your boss, working in the office and get away with that – right. But what if he was concused during that fight or had any brain damage/head injury like that? Can we really bash him for it? He should be fined/suspended, but what he got was way to harsh

          • earlsimmons

            LUL he wasn’t concused so whats your next excuse?

          • Seth

            Go and ask RDA to punch you a few times like that to the head and see how you feel.

            You don’t have to be concused after that, but it doesn’t mean you are 100% ok seconds after a guy like RDA pounds your head that hard.

            And…excuse? Dude, are you stupid? Im not looking for excuse for him, I wrote that he should be punished. I just said what he got, was way to harsh.

      • Wolf Ticket

        The guy has just seconds before been in a fight, which is part of his job. How does this compare to your job?

        Also, it’s not like he went to the ref to push him, the ref was going towards him and he stopped him. There was clearly no intention to hurt the ref.

  • TheCerealKiller

    How many times has a fighter started wrestling the ref when he calls the fight? I remember seeing a guy half out of it start applying a leg lock on a ref. I also think it’s a joke that he can’t work for a year. Can you imagine a chef getting fired and then being told he can’t cook anywhere else too?

    • Ian Price

      Should have been a $1000 fine and 90 day suspension

    • Seth

      Well…its kinda different thing. Most of the time, when they wrestle ref, that’s after a KO or submission – when they lost conciousness and have no idea where they are or what are they doing. If you choke a guy out with RNC and he went to sleep, when he wakes up he may be confussed. Here, High stood up and knew what he’s doing. I still think punishment was too hard thou.

  • Arlen

    You all defend him, but when you watch the push, it’s a classless act. It wasn’t that he was hurt, he knew who he pushed. The UFC doesn’t need morons like Jason High.

    • TakedownD

      So why did they sign Gilbert Yvel? A guy who didn’t push a ref, he violently ko’d one.

      • Grenplen

        u nail it right on the head

      • blob

        He didn’t KO him but I get your point. The shove is on youtube just search for ‘jason high shove ref’

    • George Sperry

      How did you see the push? Where you there?
      I watched the fight and the cameras were on Dos Anjos when the push happened.
      Was there a replay I missed?

    • Seth

      Show me a person that defends High here. No one does. We all agree he f’d up on his own, it’s his fault and he’s the one to blame.

      What we argue about is punishment thrown at him. It was way too much in some people opinions. That’s the main thing we are talking about. If there is someone who thinks that High is innocent and he shouldn’t be punished at all – he’s total idiot and we shouldn’t even care about guys like that.

  • Rence

    IDK, yeah, guys have started trying to wrestle refs when the ref dives in to separate fighters, thats one thing. but to be back on your feet and shove a ref? No. A ref has to be sacrosanct. you cannot put your hands one them intentionally. If you cannot control yourself then how much of a pro are you?
    Just an opinion.

    • Adam Vogt North Yarmouth

      I agree. There can be absolutely no ambiguity about certain issues…if you intentionally put your hands on a ref, you are done. If you hold a choke too long, you are done. Inside the cage, the ref is the absolute authority, and although I think there should be a much better review process to overturn bad calls or stoppages and hold refs accountable for their decisions, in the cage, they are at times responsible for keeping two world class, highly trained killers from seriously injuring one another, and there can be no leniency…refs are untouchable. I don’t support many of the decisions Dana makes anymore, and I agree he wouldn’t do a damn thing if this was JBJ because money and company growth are his primary objectives. He is obviously making an example of an expendable athlete as a warning to other fighters, and although I feel for Jason High, this is along the same lines as when Paul Daley got immediately fired when he suckered Kos. I applauded Dana then, and I applaud him now.

      • Armbars

        Just one thing though, Daley basically told White he didn’t care and wouldn’t apologize. High did apologize.

      • TheCerealKiller

        Daley assaulted Kos. You have a contract to fight during the agreed rounds. Once that is over, it’s assault to hit someone. Daley wasn’t dazed, he got up with full intent to assault Kos.

        I’m not defending High, I’m just saying it’s an extreme penalty for a guy that got up dazed, close to being KO’ed, and pushing a ref.

        • Rence

          I absolutely agree with you regarding Daley, no matter how much i enjoyed seeing Kos get hit again. But i agree, that was straight up assault and Daley is just lucky he didnt get charged for assault.

          But, how dazed can you be and not know its a ref youre pushing? I’ve been KO’d, and when i woke up i recognized everyone around me. So, while i also sympathize with High, idk if i can bring my self to trying to find any justification for his actions. Working as an EMT ive seen people coming out of unconsciousness still have enough facilities to know enough to not get hostile with someone, even if it was the person that caused the accident.

          Again, when i ref dives in and tackles one of the guys, as we’ve seen happen, and the fazed one tries to wrestle him etc, thats different. That one “might” mistake for his opponent. But back up on your feet afterwards? idk…if they sent him to the ER after and did a cat scan and said he was severely concussed i would totally think this was an unfair punishment. But, nothing ive read indicates to me that he could claim to have been THAT out of it. Pissed off and pumped with adrenaline sure. But, the ability to control that anger and adrenaline is what separates a pro fighter from some douche’ in a bar fight.

          But, look at gilbert yvel. he’s attacked ref’s and got into (back into?) the UFC, so maybe time will heal this wound as well. If it was a legit mistake on his part then we can certainly hope that after a while DW revisits the issue. I’d have less problem with that than i would if they brought back palhares or babalu.

          Just my opinion

  • TheCerealKiller

    Here it is at the 1:45 mark. I can’t find it on any English sites.

    Your welcome MMAWeekly!

  • brad king

    he luckily it wasnt Herb Dean cause he would threw High across the ring!

    • TrentSki

      Herb would have stopped that s–t earlier, its what he is known for, bad early stoppages

  • Darin

    With the UFC, there is really only one rule: make money for the UFC. Look at what the Diazs did to Mayhem Miller in Strikeforce. Did Dana care? He blamed it on Miller! McCarthy’s example of Jon Jones is dead on, if he’d touched a ref there would be no consequences.

    • Armbars

      Or an even better example is this one: UFC 31, Kevin Randleman gets ko’d by Chuck Liddell. Randleman protests the decision to stop the fight and pushes McCarthy, noticeably harder than High did to Mulhall. Dana White’s response…..crickets. No suspension, no fine, nothing.

      • riverdawg

        That is a terrible example. UFC 31 was in 2001 way before the UFC blew up. Not many people even knew what MMA was back then and those that did care and were watching on PPV could of cared less that Randleman shoved McCarthy. It was a whole different world then. This incident with Jason High happened on a much larger platform, in front a a much larger audience and on national TV for the whole country to see. Much more at stake. Not even close to the same thing man. 2001 might as well have been the old wild west.

  • Justafightfan

    Dana is absolutely right ! Big Jon is wrong! in what sport can an athlete put his hands on an official? Like him or not Dana White is trying to get MMA in to markets, countries, states ,provinces , that don’t think MMA is a legitimate sport. You can’t have juiced up fighters shoving ref’s at an event (especially if its televised )..the guys is a professional fighter he should know better..if he doesn’t then he should find something else to do.
    (which is what he will have to do for at least a year)

    • asd

      But in what other sport the ref decides the game is over in the middle of the contest because he feels like it?!

    • Liam O’Keefe

      juiced??? you know something we don’t? Emotional sure, but juiced??? I hope Dana doesn’t come to a complete and sudden stop.

  • Popeye

    I suppose you have to look at Dana’s side too.He has all of these morons belting his door sown trying to end the UFC. I guess he is just trying to keep it clean.Be careful guys we don’t become hypocrites too,as we wouldn’t like it if that was our Father being pushed.

  • Maddawgmar

    I seem to recall many of these situations. I recall a Strikeforce fight between James Thompson v Kimbo Slice. Thompson was rocked a couple times, but was destroying Kimbo over 2 and a half rounds. With like two minutes left a punch exploded a swollen ear of Thompson, rocked him a bit but not nearly enough to stop the fight, yet the ref called the fight. Thompson, pissed pushed the ref in the face, nothing happened. This fight was televised on CBS for the whole world to see. But this little shove cost this kid his whole year. Putting food out of his kids mouth.

    • earlsimmons

      Its no one elses fault but his own. Stop making the offender seem like the victim…you sound like a liberal.

      • Maddawgmar

        The mere fact that you believe my political opinions have any measure on how I feel about this topic, just goes to show how narrow minded and unintelligent you really are. I pride myself on the fact that I can look at any situation and formulate my own opinion, and not be swayed by some political party. I am not a conservative nor am I a liberal. I can look at an issue and make up my own mind, I am not a crone that thinks what politicians tell me to think. As for this situation, yes it is his fault, but should a person who steals a candy bar be sentenced to a year in jail? No. Should a guy why gave a little push lose his job and not be able to find more work in the same field for an entire year? No. Jason High fouled up, yes, but he was way overly punished. You seem like you are knowledgable about politics and policies (Sarcasm). Is this justice to you???

        • earlsimmons

          Absolutely it is justice. Rules ares rules and if they are broken then you get punished. you cant look at it by a case by case basis and all the other factors. That takes time and money. Easy solution? Whenever someone pushes a ref they are suspended and fined. I guarantee people wont be doing that anymore. You show leniency and people will do it over and over and over. Grow up ya liberal.

          • Maddawgmar

            Just getting punished for breaking rules is not justice. Justice is the principle of fair treatment when dealing with others. This means you do something wrong then you get something done to you that is equally wrong. An eye for an eye. Why is it that we have cheaters that are juicing, putting other fighters in danger, and they get 6 months for a first offense and get to keep their job, yet a kid gets fired for a push. He broke the rules, give him consequences, but make it equal to the crime.

          • earlsimmons

            Eye for an eye LOL. So what the ref gets to push him back?!?! Thats the problem with you dems. Always have to bring some type of emotional argument in to it “O now he lost his job, Now he cant eat, How is he suppose to support his family it isnt FAIR that they fired him”….life isnt fair and if he was so worried about all that he shouldnt have broken the rules. And if it was up to me anybody found juicing or smoking weed would be FIRED. You break the rules you are gone thats FAIR and EQUAL for all. But with dems running society this is what you get.

  • I understand the punishment dont fit the crime but i understand where its coming from.

    UFC and MMA as a whole has a bad reputation for being barbaric. Things like this and what Paul Daley did make the sport look bad so they need to make examples so things like this dont happen again.

    The harsher the example the higher the chance it wont happen again.

    • Hello

      Reputation of being barbaric? It’s a sport where people beat the s–t out of each other…

  • Seth

    I agree with Big John. It was totally wrong thing to do – but he got punched to the head just seconds ago, you can’t say he was 100% himself at that time and we know it. He should control himself – as any other fighter. So far he’s first one in the UFC to do so – with A LOT of fighters being in the octagon in last 20 years. But still it was too much IMO. Definition of an overkill.


    Tito Ortiz pushed the referee when He fought against Chuck Liddell end of the round… He never got kicked out or fined !!!!

    • riverdawg

      That happened in 2004 and it wasn’t televised on national TV for the whole world to see. It was a whole different game back then. This was before the UFC blew up and had TV deals and millions of people watching them. It doesn’t make it right but nobody gave a crap back then because MMA wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today. You can’t compare the two eras. Jason High shoved a referee in front of the whole world basically. I do feel his punishment was too harsh but Thats just not gonna fly in todays MMA world. 10-15 years ago nobody would of cared and why would they? The sport has changed a lot in just 10 years.