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Pathetic pay for MMA judges, referees revealed — and explain why nobody wants the job

MMA judging seems to be a weekly source of anger and frustration, particularly among high-level fighters. But can anything be done to fix it without a significant increase in payouts?

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Stephens v Zapata

When it comes to MMA judges ... you get what you pay for.

Longtime UFC reporter Aaron Bronsteter recently revealed the current pay scale for professional boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, and kickboxing payouts for referees, judges, and timekeepers working in the state of California, where regulators continue to tinker with the troubled formula.

Prepare to be underwhelmed.

This is a big reason why more fighters don’t get into officiating after competing, especially when they can make far greater amounts promoting their own brands.

“Money is a major obstacle at every level. MMA pays more than it used to and we get better talent as a result. Same logic applies in most industries and should apply here too,” NY Post Sports reporter Scott Fontana wrote on Twitter. “If judges/refs can make $4K a gig (they don’t), maybe we see more folks work toward that. Never know.”

By comparison, referee Marc Goddard banked $2,500 for working the UFC 279 pay-per-view (PPV) event last summer, compared to the $2,000 paid to judges Derek Cleary, Sal D’Amato, and Ron McCarthy.

D’Amato took some heat for his questionable score in Round 4 of the UFC Vegas 75 main event on June 17 in “Sin City.” It should also be noted that D’Amato scored more than 40 rounds last weekend split between UFC and Bellator events.

“The refrain I get from ex-fighters I’ve spoken to who’ve thought about or even dipped a toe in is the juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” Fontana continued. “Between the money, the time to get reps to get to the top, and the general negativity officials receive, it’s not attractive. Specifically former high-level fighters, I should note. You see more ex-fighters doing it locally and regionally, but most didn’t rise above regional shows as competitors.”

And let’s face it, officiating is a difficult (and thankless) job.

State athletic commissions are charged with selecting officials ahead of each event, except in those cases where promotions operate outside of a regulating district and must serve as their own governing body, which has a tendency to lead to major integrity issues.

Don’t expect anything to change until the payouts do.

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