And you thought fighter pay was lousy.
The venerable referee "Big" John McCarthy will earn a paltry $1,900 to maintain the safety of Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo when they lock themselves inside the cage for the main event of UFC 194 on Dec. 12, in Las Vegas.
The shockingly low sum was revealed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who is responsible for paying the wages of its officials.
And although it might seem crazy that's what a referee who was officiating at UFC 2 earns after 22 years in the fight game, you might be even more surprised to learn that McCarthy thanked Nevada for paying the highest wages of any state commission in the country.
"We don't do this because we become rich off of it," said McCarthy recently on his podcast Let's Get It On. "And everyone thinks we get rich off of it. We don't get rich off of it. It is the ability to have that opportunity and honor to be able to step into that cage and that ring with high profile championship fighters that bust their ass to get to that point and you're busting your ass to get to that point, too. And when you make it, it's an opportunity, you know? That's the kind of thing that you sit there and later on in life you go, I was able to get to that."
Mixed martial arts (MMA) has a long way to go in terms of matching the payouts of boxing. For fighters and for officials. For comparison's sake, Kenny Bayless was paid $25,000 to referee "the fight of the Century" in Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao.
But on his podcast Big John revealed that he loves combat sports so much that he doesn't mind the low pay at all.
"When it comes to officiating I get paid anywhere from zero--because I do a lot of fights for free--but small shows, we're talking anywhere from, you know, if it's amateur stuff that I'll do at times you're talking about $100."
As for the opportunity to referee what is arguably the biggest fight in UFC history, McCarthy says that moment is both a blessing and a curse. Make a great stoppage and you'll be invited back again. But pull a Steve Mazzagatti...
"Every official wants to do the big fights. That's part of being who we are. You want to be the guy that's making the decisions in there. But with it comes a huge responsibility because of how many eyeballs are on that fight. And if you screw it up you're going to be ostracized, tagged with it forever."
With all that cheddar on the line, I'm sure McCarthy will be on point come Dec. 12, 2015.