In MMA, there are numerous notable referees, with Herb Dean and ‘Big’ John McCarthy being two of the most well-known. These referees are frequently seen officiating at major pay-per-view events, typically reffing three or four fights in a single night. You might be wondering how much and how much referees in the UFC are paid. Is it per event? Are you on a salary? So, in this piece, I’ll go through everything I can locate in an attempt to address any queries you might have about referee pay.
So, what do UFC referees get paid?
A UFC referee earns around $500 each contest on average. Referees will receive up to $2,000 for high-profile fights, adore massive John McCarthy’s $1,900 for Aldo versus McGregor. Referees are more likely to earn $300 each bout since they can officiate many fights in a single night. Big John earned almost $44,500 in 2017 based on an average of $500 per match multiplied by the 89 UFC and Bellator fights he oversaw.
However, referee compensation and how much they may earn in a year are determined by a variety of circumstances. I’ll go over the sources, official payouts, and estimations for referee compensation in the UFC in the rest of this piece.
Official And Estimated Payouts
There are various websites on the internet that claim to provide referral reward sources. However, because the majority of these sites do not connect to or even disclose their sources, I would treat them with caution. Despite this, I was able to locate official compensation for one UFC event, UFC 194.
The authentic payoff through the Nevada State Athletic Commission for Jose Aldo as opposed to Conor McGregor was $1,900, in step with MMAJunkie and referee ‘Big’ John McCarthy himself. Big John and Herb Dean both have $ 1,900, with a dean of herbs that has arranged the bust of the average championship between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman.
UFC 194 was a HUGE event, as I’m sure you already know, but just in case you didn’t, it was a HUGE event. The main event was a highly anticipated unification match between Aldo, the longtime defending champion, and McGregor, the fan-favorite acting champion.
Because the $1,900 for UFC 194 was likely the largest compensation up to that time, it provides us some insight into what the typical remuneration for a referee is. Big John and Sean Wheelock debate Big John’s salary for the event in an episode of his podcast (at around 28:20). Big John himself admits that the financial gain isn’t nice which he mostly will it for the love of the game.
Big John said in the same interview that he is paid anything from $100 to $400 for amateur matches. We may infer that this is the bottom limit for UFC referee compensation, implying that the average is between $400 and $1,900.
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According to John McCarthy, the state that sanctioned the bout has an impact on referee pay: “Nevada pays more for a title fight than any other state pays any official, so $1,900 is the maximum you’re going to see.” Nevada, thank you very much. It’s really generous of you to provide us with so much. “I’m grateful.”
Aside from Big John’s podcast, I came upon this website with some statistics on MMA referee earnings. However, the piece is poorly written, lacks citations, and appears to be ambiguous and fuzzy overall. I wouldn’t believe their figures because they appear random, but they are there if you want to look at them.
I’d also want to point out that a referee’s salary typically rises in tandem with the size of the event and the amount of media coverage it receives. MMA is still a relatively new and growing sport, attracting a large number of new fans each year. This continual growth in viewing will almost certainly result in higher remuneration for all participants, including referees.
I also believe that a referee’s remuneration is exactly proportional to how long he has been a referee and how well-known he is. You can see who the better-paid referees are by reading our page on the Most Famous UFC Referees.
Estimating An MMA Referee’s Salary
Let us now calculate the compensation of a well-known referee, such as Big John McCarthy. To do so, I visited a Tapology page that details all of the huge John McCarthy fight up till the top of 2017.
Big John served as a referee for three organizations in 2017, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Bellator, and the Russian promotion Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB). Due to their lower popularity, Bellator and ACB are likely to pay refs less than the UFC, therefore I’ll take that in mind when evaluating Big John’s paycheck.
I’d also want to point out that the UFC is affiliated with two other organizations: Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series (DWTNCS) and The Ultimate Fighter Series (TUF), both of which Big John has officiated. This is significant since I’m not sure if the compensation for these sorts of bouts differs from fights under the UFC name, therefore I won’t include them in the average.
Finally, I’m not sure if the referees are paid per event or each fight. I’m going to presume it’s per fight, but keep in mind that this may increase their real wage if they’re paid per event instead.
Given that Big John stated that amateur events pay anything from $100 to $400, I’m going to estimate that the lowest a pro bout will pay a ref is $400. I’ll assume this is the average for all of the fights he referees, so this is a very cautious estimate.
Big John McCarthy officiated 45 UFC fights, 47 ACB fights, and 30 Bellator fights in 2017, for a total of 122 matches. Assuming a $400 average per bout, John McCarthy earned an estimated $48,800 in 2017 for officiating.
Of course, several assumptions have been made in this calculation, and you should take them into account. The two most important assumptions are the average compensation per bout ($400) and the fact that refs are paid per fight rather than each event.
Big John also mentioned on his show that a hotel is normally paid for by a commission. Travel is only reimbursed if the ref must fly, and if they drive, they must pay for their own transportation. Any additional costs are borne by the person.
Why Do Boxing Referees Earn More?
Big John McCarthy and Sean Wheelock addressed the money Kenny Bayless earned for refereeing Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, a highly anticipated boxing event, on their podcast.
Kenny Bayless was reportedly paid $25,000 to officiate the fight. There are various reasons why boxing payouts are much larger than MMA payouts.
For one thing, boxing is a lot more popular sport in general. It has been around for centuries, and millions of people throughout the world watch it. The UFC, on the other hand, has only been established since 1993 and is continually developing and gaining popularity.
There is a difference in income and profitability due to the variation in popularity. Because boxing contests are usually additionally profitable than UFC events, there’s more cash to compensate the combatants, judges, and referees.
It’s worth noting that, whereas the State Athletic Commission picks and pays referees for MMA events, the promoter selects and pays the referee in boxing. I’m not sure if this has a direct effect on how much a referee makes, but I’m sure a promoter would pay significant money to ensure that their event isn’t ruined by a terrible referee’s call.
In summary, MMA referees earn an average of $500 for every contest. Referees will be paid more at highly anticipated events, up to $2,000 per fight. Based on a coffee average of $400 and assumptive a referee officiates roughly a hundred and twenty fights per year, a referee for MMA may expect to earn around $48,000. This is determined by a variety of factors, including the scale of the event, the popularity of the referee, and the state in which the fight takes place.
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