In a shocking revelation that has ignited a wave of criticism, the meager pay scale for MMA judges and referees has been exposed, shedding light on why the coveted positions remain unattractive to many. Renowned UFC reporter Aaron Bronsteter recently disclosed the current compensation rates for officials in professional boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, and kickboxing in the state of California, a jurisdiction grappling with persistent regulatory challenges.
“This is how much judges and referees make in California for non-UFC/Bellator MMA events if you are ever wondering why former UFC fighters don’t venture into MMA officiating once they retire.”
This is how much judges and referees make in California for non-UFC/Bellator MMA events if you are ever wondering why former UFC fighters don't venture into MMA officiating once they retire. https://t.co/LqlJzZWLW6 pic.twitter.com/bxN5Ip1UKl
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) June 19, 2023
Inequitable Pay for MMA Referees and Judges Exposed
The figures are disheartening, to say the least, and offer a compelling explanation as to why aspiring fighters are reluctant to transition into officiating roles after their active careers. In stark contrast to the considerable earnings they can amass by promoting their own personal brands, the financial rewards for judges and referees are paltry.
For instance, at the UFC 279 pay-per-view event last summer, referee Marc Goddard pocketed $2,500, while judges Derek Cleary, Sal D’Amato, and Ron McCarthy received a mere $2,000 for their crucial contributions. D’Amato recently faced backlash due to his contentious scoring in Round 4 of the UFC Vegas 75 main event on June 17 in Las Vegas. It’s worth noting that D’Amato presided over more than 40 rounds across last weekend’s UFC and Bellator events.
Undoubtedly, officiating is an arduous and often thankless task. State athletic commissions are responsible for appointing officials for each event, unless promotions operate outside regulated districts, in which case they must self-govern. Unfortunately, such autonomy sometimes results in integrity concerns.
Unless there is a significant overhaul in compensation, it is unlikely that any substantive changes will occur. The current pay structure not only fails to attract experienced individuals but also undermines the sport’s integrity, leaving fans and fighters disgruntled. Public pressure is mounting on authorities to address this issue promptly and institute measures that ensure a fair and accountable judging system.
The recent disclosure by Aaron Bronsteter has triggered a division of opinions on social media, with Twitter serving as the battleground for discussions on the abysmal wages of MMA judges and referees. Fighters and fans alike are engaged in a spirited debate, questioning the credibility of judges and urging a comprehensive evaluation of their performance. The controversial decision at UFC Vegas 74, where Kai Kara-France fell victim to questionable judging, has fueled these demands for accountability.
Additionally, enthusiasts of mixed martial arts have pondered why retired fighters are not considered for officiating positions. Their deep understanding of the sport and firsthand experience could potentially ensure fairer assessments of fights. However, the recent revelation by Aaron Bronsteter has shed light on the financial constraints that combat sports officials face, which could explain the scarcity of former athletes in these roles.
As the outcry intensifies and the calls for change grow louder, the MMA community eagerly awaits a response from regulatory bodies. The resolution of this issue hinges upon rectifying the glaring pay disparity and restoring faith in the integrity of the sport, ultimately leading to a fairer and more transparent judging system.
Twitter users didn’t hold back in expressing their thoughts on the report. Here are some of the reactions they shared:
No wonder they take that corruption money
— Really Freed (@reallyfreed) June 19, 2023
Right now, i cant complain with those prices. Im paying double (2100) for rent now that my landlord repossessed his basement. Based on pay, this is more of a side-gig. You cant live off being a referee or judge which explains why sometimes we see bad judging
— ivan (@bionuce) June 19, 2023
It’s not that great when you figure if that was the only work they were doing the number of opportunities to work a year is limited largely to weekends
And fighters could make way more doing practically anything else related to the sport
— Corwin Prescott (@CorwinPrescott) June 19, 2023
Very little upside for anyone to be interested in these roles. Not just fighters.
— JM (@jarredmerc1) June 19, 2023
Have you ever even asked a former fighter why they don't "venture" into officiating as you say? I can tell you from my personal experience that money isn't the number one reason. Probably not even on the top 10 of their lists of why not to officiate. It's a thankless job.
— Joe Leonard (@joe_leonard413) June 20, 2023
The same here in SA. Judges have not had an increase in "work pay" for years despite needing certifications and despite the sport advancing ito sponsorship involvement!
— PunchyKickyShow (@KickyShow) June 19, 2023
Per fight? Refs get 2-3 a card. Not bad for a day if travel , meals and room are covered.
— crazybaldrunnerguy (@crazybaldrunner) June 19, 2023
Pretty good pay when you remember that they sleep through the job
— BurakkuJon (@BurakkuJon) June 20, 2023
$550 for 15-25 mins not bad. Imagine there’s a knockout in the first minute of the fight, $550 for a minute
— Will (@willex85) June 20, 2023