Estimated Salaries in the World of MMA
Money, money, money. One of the most contentious topics when it comes to our beloved sport of mixed martial arts. After every card finishes, fans clamor to check the purse collected by each fighter. They also wonder if their favorite fighter acquired a 50k bonus for either a performance or fight of the night. At the end of the day, everyone can acknowledge that the fighters that perform inside of the octagon are massively underpaid. Even at the highest level, the most prosperous MMA fighters have wages of mediocre NBA players. Although fighter pay is criminally low, has anyone ever queried what the rest of the salaries are like around the sport? Let’s take a look.
Of course, MMA orbits around its athletes that operate inside of the cage. Without any fighters, there isn’t a sport. There are no entities to generate headlines, accumulate interest, or build legacies.
However, the rest of the positions that make up our amazing sport are often overlooked. Just like the fighters are underpaid, are other contributors to the sport getting their “just due?” Here are some estimates of what the pay scale looks like around the business of MMA.
MMA Referee Salaries
Believe it or not, professional MMA referees have to undergo a strenuous process before they are able to secure the best seat in the house. Especially if they are endeavoring to get booked in high profile matches. Notable referees such as Herb Dean and Jason Hertzog have been apart of some of the high profile fights of all time. But, does that mean their pay reflects the visibility?
Ever wonder how much they get paid? On average, it’s estimated that a UFC referee earns around $500 per match. Furthermore, if the matchup is high profile, the appraisal climbs to up to $2,000. Where there is no concrete solid data to verify the estimates, the payouts for judges have been published on one occurrence.
For UFC 194 Big John McCarthy’s purse was $1,900 for Aldo vs McGregor. On his podcast, McCarthy said the average payout for an amateur fight is $300- $400 dollars. Add up the math, and in 2017, McCarthy made around $48,800 as a ref. Considering how McCarthy was top tier in the sport, one could only wonder what an entry-level referee would earn.
MMA Judge salaries
In the state of California, MMA judges are paid on a scale. The scale is based on the attendance gate of the event in which they are judging. Here’s a quick look at the scale from the California State Athletic Commission website:
Not exactly the most eminent numbers in the world. By these measures, a judge would have to work at least 90 bouts to earn at least 50k. In contrast, a judge in boxing would earn a minimum of $1,600 per bout.
MMA Coach salaries
All fighters need coaches. Without them, there is no guidance or gameplan to go out and execute. Additionally, the way they get paid is a direct result of their fighters.
Coaches receive a portion of the purse that a fighter attains after a bout. Using the UFC as a precedent, a coach would earn even more funds if their fighter wins due to the “show money/ win money” format. Wistfully but true, “if a fighter loses, then the whole team loses.”
In 2015, UFC fighter Myles Jury broke down the expenses of what a fighter has to payout. The number he used for the earned purse was $20,000. Using that number, Jury said that a coach would earn $1,000 of that and the gym would receive $2,000. So, if you want to be an MMA coach, maintain a team of exceptional fighters who can market a fight as well as they can operate in one.
Maybe it isn’t just fighters who are critically underpaid in our sport. Which is peculiar to recollect. Particularly when Dana White gloats about the UFC’s annual revenue.
In 2019, the income would be anyplace from $980 million to $1.1 billion and their margins would be 50 percent.
Where is that money going? Well, that’s a different story for a different day.
But, if you want to be involved in MMA as a career, recognize that it’ll essentially be for the love of the game.