When the UFC visits Staples Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 24 for "UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun," the organization will be making its first trip to California since July 2007 and its first visit to Los Angeles since May 2006.
Could the event also mark the return of veteran referee "Big" John McCarthy to the UFC for the first time since officiating the December 2007 bout between Roger Huerta and Clay Guida?
McCarthy is currently licensed as an MMA referee in the state of California, and today he told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com
) he would be available for the October event should the commission assign him to the card.
"I will be available," McCarthy said. "It doesn't mean they'll use me."
McCarthy – a veteran referee with more the 500 bouts worth of experience since his debut at UFC 2 in 1994 – briefly retired from officiating following "The Ultimate Fighter 6" live finale in 2007. He returned to action as a California State Athletic Commission employee in November 2008 at "Strikeforce: Destruction."
While McCarthy has stayed busy officiating matches throughout the world since that time, he has yet to again step foot inside the UFC's cage.
McCarthy told MMAjunkie.com he also currently holds licenses in Ohio, Utah, Missouri and Oklahoma. McCarthy was eligible for duty at "UFC 96: Jackson vs. Jardine" in Columbus, Ohio, this past March, but he was not contacted by the Ohio Athletic Commission for his services.
Messages left for Ohio Athletic Commission Executive Director Bernie Profato by MMAjunkie.com to determine why the commission declined use of McCarthy's services were not immediately returned.
This past Thursday at a UFC 102 pre-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said he wasn't sure why McCarthy hasn't been seen in the UFC since his return to action, but the exec insisted his organization had nothing to do with "Big John's" absence.
"I don't know," White said. "That would have to be a question for the – have we talked to commissions and said, 'Oh, keep John McCarthy away from us,'? No.
"Maybe McCarthy doesn't want to ref in the UFC. I don't know."
Following those comments, White was questioned by Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole if the UFC had ever considered using McCarthy for its overseas events. In foreign countries that lack commissions, the UFC selects the officials that govern the card.
"We never talked about that, and Marc (Ratner, UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs) has never brought that up," White said. "And to be honest with you, as you ask me that question, I sit here now, there's a lot of referees that have been loyal and stayed in the business and kept working when John McCarthy took off to go and pursue other things.
"You've got all those guys that have been reffing for years now. Reffing isn't one of these jobs where you make a ton of money. You do it because you love it. If you're in the refereeing business to get rich, you're in the wrong business."
The UFC visits Oklahoma, another state in which McCarty said he is commissioned, on Sept. 16. The veteran official said he would not be eligible to work that card due to prior commitments to Bitetti Combat, an event that takes place in Brazil on Sept. 12.
Officiating assignments for October's "UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun" have yet to be assigned by the CSAC. Bill Douglas, the CSAC's Assistant Executive Officer, is currently on vacation, and a message left by MMAjunkie.com for the commission to determine the likelihood of McCarthy being included as an official at the event was not immediately returned.
McCarthy said his calendar is open on Oct. 24, and if he's assigned to the card, he'll be happy to step into the octagon once again. But the 36-year-old said he'll be just fine even his phone doesn't ring.
"I'm licensed in California, and if I'm assigned, I'll go," McCarthy said. "If they don't assign me, then I won't go, and it's no problem."