UFC Referees and Judges Salaries

UFC Referees and Judges Salaries

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We’ve already discussed the point system in the MMA/UFC and the role of the referee and the judges. Although the focus of each fight is on the fighters themselves, the referee and the judges also have an important role to play. To recapitulate, a referee is responsible for keeping the fight clean and safe, but has limited decision-making powers. On the other hand, judges do not participate in the process of fighting, except in the role of the observer, but ultimately decide how a fight that does not end with a K.O. or a disqualification will be judged, i.e. they award points to the fighters and decide the winner. 

Fight NightPPV event
UFC referee$1,500$10,000
UFC judge$300$550

We all know that the fighters in MMA/UFC get massive amounts of cash just for participating, not counting the prize money in case of a win. But, did you ever wonder how much money the officials get per fight? Annually? Well, if you have – this is the right place to be since we have all the answers you need. We’re going to analyse the salaries of MMA/UFC referees and judges in two separate sections, bringing you the numbers and the categories that are known. 

UFC and MMA Referee Salary

We’ve already recapitulated the role of the referee in MMA/UFC fights. The referees are hired and paid on a fight-to-fight basis, although more money is earned for bigger events. The fact is that there is a basic salary for different categories of referees and it increases based on their reputation, the event and the money the promotor has.

For example, big name referees such as Herb Dean and “Big” John McCarthy earn substantially more than their lesser known peers for the same event and category, but that is business. So, how much do they actually earn?

Based on the publicly available data for 2020, a professional MMA/UFC referee earns as much as $1,500 per regular match or about $380,000 per year. Of course, big names can earn even more (up to $2,000 per match), but this is an average number. Fees for pay-per-view events, which usually have bigger budgets, can go as high as $10,000, which is a substantial sum. These are, of course, just official numbers and there are speculations that some of the numbers go even higher. 

Along with Dean and McCarthy, the MMA referees considered elite (based on their salaries) are Marc Goddard, John Sharp and Mario Yamasaki. 

UFC Referees and Judges Salaries
UFC Referee Herb Dean declaring Conor McGregor winner at the UFC 189

These numbers concern only professional referees with a high reputation in the UFC. Sadly, there is no equality between different categories or even genders. For example, entry-level referees and female referees earn a lot less than the pros. Younger referees as little as $250 per match, but the less reputable pros manage to average about $500 per match. If we include the fact that younger referees don’t actually get invited to pay-per-view events, the yearly amount of c. $14,500 is not just unfair compared to the above-mentioned sums, but also quite small. 

But let’s that it is somehow just to pay the less experienced referees less, but what about women? There are several reputable professional female referees and they still earn a lot less than their male counterparts, which is something that should be eliminated. Equal work demands equal pay! Yet, women referees average about $1,000 per fight if they have a high reputation, but it’s usually even less than that.

The difference is even more visible with pay-per-view events, where women earn just $3,000, compared to the more than three times higher amount their male peers earn. With a yearly income of around $60,000 it is evident that women referees are discriminated and that should definitely be fixed somewhere in the future. 

UFC and MMA Judge Salary

We might not have stressed it out earlier, but finding precise publicly available information about the salaries in MMA/UFC is quite difficult. And while the numbers for the referees do surface eventually, the ones for the judges are pretty scarce and it is quite difficult to confirm the exact numbers.

The only thing we can say for sure is that they, individually, earn less than the referee, but even that is based on data from less important and smaller scale MMA events, not the big events hosted by the UFC and other promotors. 

The issue with the judges is that they don’t have a high reputation in the world of MMA in general. Their decisions are often criticised and many commentators, even the notorious Dana White, call for their complete elimination which is, of course, not possible. But you can understand why MMA judges don’t have high hopes for living off their sports careers. 

While there is no official confirmation, the Internet anecdotally reaffirms that UFC judges make $900 per fight, which is substantially less than the referees, with the younger ones being an exception. How the fee is calculated is not exactly known. But, compared to some known data – this seems to be a relatively high amount of money.

Namely, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), which lists its data publicly, calculated the judges’ fees based on the amount of money earned from tickets, with the lowest salary being just $300 and the highest not exceeding $550 per match.

The referees get between $50 and a $100 more in the same categories. To add to that fact, the notoriously strict Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) states in its rules that the judges don’t get any sort of pay, just a non-fixed compensation for their participation in the match; the amount depends on the event and other external elements. 

Do Boxing Officials Make More Money than MMA Officials?

We decided to share an interesting piece of trivia with you before this is all over. Namely, boxing officials, who basically have the same role and obligations as MMA officials, earn substantially more money per fight and event. Why is that? The answer is pretty straightforward – the more money you have, the higher the salaries.

Despite the global popularity of MMA, only a few select fights and events actually have abnormally high budgets. Boxing generally generates more money and thus can afford higher salaries for its officials. 

Well, that covers the question of salaries for MMA officials. We hope you’ve found out what you came for and that we’ll see you back very soon.

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