How Much Do UFC Refs Make?

How Much Do UFC Refs Make?

How much do UFC refs make? We all know that UFC fighters receive handsome remunerations for their efforts in the octagon. But, what about the officials? How does UFC referee salary compare to a UFC fighter payout?

If you had questions about MMA ref salary, then you are in luck! You have stumbled upon a comprehensive feature that will discuss the financial aspects of UFC refereeing in great detail. 

Does the like of Herb Dean and John McCarthy receive the same amount of money as the fighters? Keep on reading and find out how much do UFC refs get paid for officiating UFC fights. 

LevelFight FeePPV FeeYearly
Pro Ref$2,500$10,000$400,000
Entry Level$500UnknownUnknown
Female Ref£1,000$4,000$80,000

Who Determines UFC Referee Salaries? 

This might seem like a weird question to ask. It has to be the UFC, right? It’s their event, so they should be responsible for paying the referees. But, the reality is, the UFC does not set the UFC referee salary.

MMA ref salary, including UFC referee salary, are determined by the State Athletic Commission. The UFC hires the officials from the commission and pays a fee for it. A portion of that money goes to the referees. 

How Much Do UFC Refs Make Per Fight?

NameMain Card SalaryHigh Profile Fight SalaryEarnings (Annual)
Herb Dean$2,500$10,000$400,000
John McCarthy$2,500$10,000$400,000
John Sharp$2,500$10,000$400,000
Marc Gooddard$2,500$10,000$400,000
Mario Yamasaki$2,500$7,500$340,000
Kim Winslow$1,000$4,000$80,000

So, how much do UFC refs make per fight? Unfortunately, not a lot. On average, a referee takes home $500 for each fight. This amount would, of course, increase for big profile referees, but not substantially. 

In a 2016 episode of his podcast Let’s Get It On, Big John McCarthy, one of the most prominent UFC refs, disclosed that up until that point, his biggest pay from a single bout was $1900. 

He was talking about the UFC 194 fight between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor. McGregor made $500,000 from that fight only in appearance bonus. The $1900 referee purse seems to be a trifling sum in comparison.

In another episode of his podcast, McCarthy said that he received $100-$400 for officiating amateur bouts. Taking that information into account, we can assume that UFC pays at least $400 to refs per fight. 

This is not a huge amount of money. So, most UFC referees do it for the love of the sport and as a side gig. Most of them have full-time occupation elsewhere. 

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On an event night, a referee gets to officiate three or four fights. If $400 is the minimum UFC referee salary, a UFC ref could make $1200-$1500 a night. 

McCarthy also pointed out that the state where the bout takes place is also a determining factor. State Athletic Commissions do not have a universal payment structure. So, the payout varies from state to state. 

He said:  “Nevada pays more for a championship fight than any state pays any official so that $1,900 is the most you’re going to see. Thank you very much, Nevada. It’s very nice of you to give us that much. I appreciate it”.

How Much Is A Professional UFC Referee Salary? 

A UFC referee will have the pedigree of a professional ref if he has three to five years of experience under his belt. Our estimation shows that a professional UFC referee earns $380,000 a year. 

How Much Money Do Female UFC Referees Make? 

Kim Winslow UFC Ref

When it comes to women UFC referees, Kim Winslow is the first name that pops into mind. She was the first female MMA referee to officiate in a UFC event and has been in the business since 2009. 

Winslow and other top tier female referees make a grand per event. Their annual income sums up to $60,000. The wage discrimination between male and female UFC refs is quite big. 

Female UFC referees are vastly underpaid. As UFC continues to evolve and expand, we hope to see a more balanced payout trend for referees regardless of their gender. 

How Much Is A Rookie UFC Ref Salary? 

We estimate that a rookie UFC referee receives $400 minimum for a fight. But, some reports indicate that the amount could be as low as $250. If that’s the case, then entry-level refs make $14,500 annually. 

How Much Do UFC Refs Make Per Fight From PPV?

Apart from the base fee, UFC allocates a PPV share to the referees. However, this opportunity is exclusively for high-profile referees, who get to officiate the biggest events.

The bigger the event, the greater the payout is. But again, the final amount pales in comparison to the money the fighters earn from a single fight. However, the payouts have improved in recent years. 

Herb Dean is said to have scored the biggest UFC ref salary haul to date. He reportedly banked $15,000 in total for a single PPV event. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pinpoint which event it was. 

John McCarthy’s biggest paycheck reportedly got him $8000. But, in most high profile fights, he receives around $5000. Marc Goddard also makes $5000 for big fights while Kim Winslow earns $3500. 

How Do UFC Referee Salary Compare With Boxing Referees? 

McCarthy pointed out the pay gap between boxing referees and UFC referees in one of his podcast episodes. Talking with MMA commentator Sean Wheelock, he singled out one particular boxing event. 

Kenny Bayless officiated the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in 2015. If the reports are true, then the Nevada native received $25,000 in exchange for his services. 

That number is way higher than the money most famous UFC referees make. However, McCarthy explained why his boxing counterparts earn more. 

He argued that boxing is more popular than UFC, which is undeniably true. Despite the recent surge in UFC’s popularity, it lags far behind boxing, which has been around for ages. 

UFC is a relatively new entry into the realm of sports. After beginning its journey in 1993, it has caught mainstream entertainment in recent years. Boxing has been a part of that from long ago. 

So, it is simple economics. As boxing is more popular, it is more marketable, and it brings in more money. Therefore, it results in superior paychecks for everyone involved. 

Fighters, judges, referees-everyone earns more in boxing than they would have earned in UFC. So, it should not come as a surprise that MMA ref salary does not match the highs of boxing refs. 


In the wild world of UFC, where fighters chase colossal paydays, let’s peek at the unsung heroes in stripes – the referees! Unlike the fighter’s fortunes, UFC refs’ pay isn’t eye-popping. On average, they earn around $500 per fight, a fraction of what fighters rake in.

Even Big John McCarthy, a veteran voice of authority, admitted making just $1,900 for a high-profile fight, a modest sum in contrast.

But here’s the twist – love for the sport keeps many refs in the game. They often juggle regular jobs alongside officiating bouts. Refs might manage three or four contests on a fight night, raking in $1,200 to $1,500, not precisely knockout figures.

State Athletic Commissions also play referee to their salaries, with Nevada giving more for championship bouts. After a few years, refs can become “professional,” pocketing around $380,000 annually.

Female refs like Kim Winslow earn about $1,000 per event, a small slice of the $60,000 shared among top-tier women referees. Rookie refs entering the octagon might take home $400 or even less, around $14,500 a year. So, while UFC referees aren’t swimming in riches, their love for the sport keeps them in the game.

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