Not long ago Nevada State Athletic Commission officials announced the referee and judging assignments for the upcoming massive UFC 200 PPV card. And right away Jon Jones had a problem. When it turned out that "Big" John McCarthy had been assigned as the referee for the PPV headliner between Jones and Cormier, Jones' camp was quick to file a protest with the commission and attempt to get the assignment changed. The request failed.
In a recent luncheon with the assembled media Jon Jones attempted to explain his reasoning behind his desire for a referee change. While he didn't quite make it clear exactly what his problems with McCarthy stemmed from, he did make it explicitly clear that he'd rather see just about anyone else in the cage that night (transcript via MMA Fighting):
"I would prefer any other referee but him," Jones said Tuesday.
"It's been a mixture of many things throughout the years," Jones said. "Just the energy. I don't feel like we have the best energy. It's an accumulation of some of the things that happened during some fights and just personal interactions. I just don't feel as, you don't need anything stacking up against you when you're fighting a great fighter like DC."
Jones even went as far as to propose his desires that McCarthy voluntarily withdraw himself from the bout, saying "If you're not welcome, why would you even want to be part of someone's big night who doesn't want you there."
Perhaps these comments are a holdover from McCarthy's "You want to play the game" instruction at UFC 152, where McCarthy chided Jones when he started the fight on all fours and almost got hit with an illegal headkick. Or maybe Jones just got a look at McCarthy's recent insistence that fighters keep their hands closed when probing towards an opponent's face. Or maybe McCarthy's authoritarian vibe just really rubs Jones the wrong way.
Either way, it promises to be an interesting X-factor at UFC 200, as it's hard to imagine Big John taking a step back on Jones' behalf.