UFC Referee Pay: How Much Do Refs Earn Per Fight?

In the dangerous world of mixed martial arts, applying a submission for a few extra seconds or absorbing additional strikes could damage a competitor’s health and career alike. So when it comes to referees, the UFC requests the cream of the crop for every event.

The third person inside the octagon is, first and foremost, entrusted with the fighters’ safety. Sometimes, it means protecting a stubborn, unyielding athlete from himself.

Therefore, a top-notch official commands a fitting payday. After all, he’s the one ensuring the fight runs smoothly all while preserving the fighters’ safety and applying the rules.

So how much does a UFC referee earn? Who is the highest-paid official in the organization? And does the UFC pay the referees?

We’ll reveal all the answers below.

Who Pays UFC Referees

UFC referees are paid by the local athletic commission that organizes the event. The organization pays a lump sum to the commission for every event. It includes various fees, including wages for the officials as well as the judges.

In turn, the commission rewards the referees based on the agreement made with each of them. We must note that referees are deemed independent contractors, so it’s up to each one to negotiate his payday with every commission he collaborates with.

This legal status also means that a ref has the right to simultaneously work for several commissions. Hence, you may see Marc Goddard, for instance, officiating a bout on the European scene, only show up in Las Vegas a week later.

How Much Do UFC Referees Make?

Several aspects play a role in determining how much UFC referees collect, including status, experience, proficiency, the number of fights officiated as well as PPV appearances. But those at the top of the echelon could collect between $250,000 and $500,000 per year.

We’ll reveal additional details regarding some of the most prominent names in MMA below, but first, we must mention that there is a major gulf in terms of earnings between professional male referees on one hand (especially those who officiate the most prestigious fights in the UFC), and professional female referees.

While this doesn’t sound politically correct, unfortunately, this remains the case in the current day and age. There aren’t too many female referees in the sport who have high-caliber experience under the belt.

Sadly, the average wage of a professional female referee is close to that of an amateur referee (those who officiate at unsung events).

UFC Referee Salary

In this section, we’ll reveal the average wages of professional male referees (which includes the most prominent UFC refs) while comparing them to professional women referees. and amauteur officials as per Groundmma.com.

WagesProfessional Male RefereeProfessional Female RefereeAmateur Referee
Salary per Fight$800 – $2,500$250 – $1,000$250 – $500
PPV Bonus$5,000 – $15,000$3,500N/A
Yearly Earnings$250,000 – $500,000$50,000 – $70,000$15,000 – $30,000

How Much Does a UFC Referee Make Per Fight?

The most famous UFC referees generally command a salary of $2,500 per fight. We’re talking about the likes of Herb Dean, Mark Smith and Jason Herzog.

In addition to this fixed per-fight salary, they also collect bonuses when they’re on duty for PPV fights, varying between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars. We’ll discuss the details below.

Who is the Highest Paid UFC Referee?

As you would expect, Herb Dean is the highest-paid UFC referee. He collects an estimated $500,000 per year between his salary per fight and PPV bonus.

The immensely beloved official is often praised for his almost unparalleled credentials with a large section of fans and observers considering him the best in the business, including UFC president Dana White. Therefore, his wages must match his capabilities, so it’s good to know that Dean is being handsomely rewarded for his contributions.

The American’s cat-like reflexes have often come to the aid of a suffering fighter, saving him from further damage.

In the table below, we’ll reveal the wages of some of the most famous referees in the UFC, in addition to their estimated yearly earnings which obviously depend on the number of fights officiated and PPV appearances.

RefereeFee Per FightPPV BonusYearly Earnings (Estimated)
Herb Dean$2500$15,000 $500,000
Mark Smith$2500$10,000 $380,000
Chris Tognoni$2500$10,000 $380,000
Jason Herzog$2500$10,000$380,000
Keith Peterson$2500$10,000$380,000
Dan Miragliotta$2500$10,000$300,000
Marc Goddard$2500$10,000$300,000
Garry Copeland$2500$10,000$300,000
Last updated 28/8/2023

Who is the Richest MMA Referee?

With an estimated yearly wage of half a million dollars, Herb Dean is the richest referee in MMA. The vastly-popular official is often in charge of some of the biggest fights in the UFC, especially in the fighting capital city of the world, Las Vegas.

Dean is often entrusted with the biggest fights on pay-per-views. So in addition to collecting $2,500 per fight, he also receives a lucrative PPV bonus. As showcased by the table above, his PPV bonus of $15,000 is significantly higher than his colleagues who command $10,000.

Therefore, many observers believe that Dean’s total earnings accumulate to circa $500,000 per year, making him the top earner amongst MMA referees – as if being the most beloved isn’t enough.

Surely Herb’s peers have more than a reason to envy him.

How Many Referees Are in the UFC?

In 2022, the number of referees who officiated at least one UFC fight is 27 as per MMAJunkie. But since athletic commissions are the ones entrusted with appointing referees for every event, it’s almost impossible to determine a fixed figure.

Every commission has a host of referees under contract, and the UFC always requests the best on the roster. Therefore, we often get recurring names like Herb Dean, Marc Goddard and Jason Herzog, especially for fights held in Las Vegas or nearby regions.

However, when the UFC organizes events in other countries, we often get some less renowned names amongst the locals. After all, Dean and company can’t ply their trade all over the world.

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Michel Sakr

A freelance sports writer from Beirut, Lebanon. A football fanatic and a Juventus supporter since childhood, but also keeps an eye on various sports around the globe. Currently contributes at Cultofcacio.com and Juvefc.com You can follow Michel on Twitter or Facebook.

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