If it weren't for some convincing, Alexander Gustafsson would've walked away from UFC 165 with Jon Jones' light heavyweight belt strapped his waist. Or, at least, that's if you're to take the word of UFC President Dana White.
"I don't know if you've heard," White told FOX Sports following the five-round battle. "But the doctors were going to stop the fight in the last round because of the cut. Jones begged him not to stop the fight. And from what I understand (referee John) McCarthy did too -- pleaded with them not to stop the fight."
The cut above Jones' eye did indeed appear nasty. All the same, McCarthy stopped by Monday's 200th episode of The MMA Hour, where he explained that White may have dramatized the situation.
"He's right on one thing," McCarthy said. "The doctor was concerned about Jon's eye, and if you looked at it, it was a serious cut.
"That cut happened in the very first round, but it continued to evolve throughout the fight. By the time it got between the fourth and fifth round, the cut was actually -- there was an upper level one that was on his eyebrow, and it creased off, like a point had been crossed into his eyelid. There was a flap of skin. So the doctor absolutely had a reason to be concerned with the cut that Jon had."
McCarthy chuckled about White's assertion of him "pleading" to have the fight continue, though the veteran referee does acknowledge that he advised the ringside physician in regard to the matter.
"We're a team when we're in there," McCarthy explained. "I talked with [the doctor]. He said, ‘It really doesn't look that good.'
"I said, ‘Jason, this is the last round. I think you need to let him go. I will look at it. If it gets worse, I promise you I will bring him to you.' He said okay. That's both of us working as a team together. He let the fight go on, the cut didn't get any worse, and the fight came to its natural conclusion the way it should've."
McCarthy went on to state that regardless of which man was cut, whether it was Jones or Gustafsson, by the fifth round both fighters had "given so much" to the fight, it would've been unfortunate to end it prematurely.
Cageside officials were prepared to do so if the cut was severe enough to leave "any type of keloid scar" on Jones' eyelid, which could've damaged Jones' vision in the future. However after examining the cut, all parties involved were content to allow the fight to continue.
"(Cutman Jacob) Stitch (Duran) was working on the cut," McCarthy explained. "Stitch was very vocal in saying, ‘Hey, let me take care of it. I've got it.' And that's Stitch's job, that's what he's supposed to do, is take care of that cut. We want to have someone like Stitch in there taking care of it and given the time to show that, you know what, I can make this thing okay. And he did.
"Jon was asked by the doctor, ‘Are you okay? Do you want to continue?' He said, ‘I'm good. Let me go.'"
Jones, of course, won the ensuing final round on all three judges' scorecards, cementing his dramatic come-from-behind victory to defend the UFC light heavyweight title for his sixth consecutive time.
The decision was not without controversy, as numerous fighters and fans scored the bout for Gustafsson. McCarthy, however, was not among them.
"I went back and I watched it [Sunday]," McCarthy said.
"A lot of people are talking about the fourth (round). It's kind of funny because (they say), ‘Well Alexander was ahead for four minutes.' That doesn't matter. The damage that Jon Jones did to him that last minute of that fourth round absolutely is what you're looking for as a judge. Someone possibly just about brought an end to the fight. That's going to win him the round. So going into the fifth round, I thought it was an even fight. And in the end, I thought Jon Jones just did a little bit more in that fifth round. I thought he won the fifth round and I thought the judges got it right."