There is no lack of criticism in the world for MMA referees who often draw fire after errantly stopping fights or for a questionable approach to fouls. From fans to fighters to promoters, for the most part, everyone involved with the sport has voiced concern about the state of officiating at some point in the past. However, a recent rant by Maximum Fighting Championship founder and head Mark Pavelich brought to light an interest issue it’s likely few outside of the backstage ranks were aware of.
According to Pavelich by way of a press release, his problem is not related to the actual performance of referees but rather, as he put it, because “certain referees are charging anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 just to show up, bark out a catchphrase, and supervise a fight.” Further elaborating on the source of his ire, Pavelich continued, “But these fees aren’t being paid by any commission. They are paid by a show owner or promoter. And quite frankly it’s sad that some promoters feel obliged to pay them and put them front and center on a poster.”
Pavelich then questioned the principle involved, though never mentioned any refs by name, asking, “How can you not call into question the ethics of these referees? Would you not expect their loyalties to be torn when some promoter is willing to pay them 10K, and that same referee is then calling the action when the promoter’s top fighters are in action?”
The outspoken owner of Canada’s top MMA promotion finished with a message directed at the governing bodies who oversee and assign referees.
“It’s time for the commissions governing MMA to put a pay structure in place for all referees. They would be paid according to their experience, the level of competition they have overseen, and even feedback from notable fighters and insiders. There are a number of very good referees out there including those that have worked recent MFC events. But even they shouldn’t be allowed to just toss out a price tag, or have a commission toss out one for them. There should be a pay scale in place – here’s what you get paid (plus reasonable expenses) … take it or leave it.”
“You don’t see referees in the NFL or NHL tossing around numbers, and then getting paid according to their individual requests,” Pavelich concluded. “They are paid a set price by a league (in MMA’s case, a commission), and the best ones are hired for more high-profile games and playoffs.”
MFC has existed for a decade North of the Border with a major upswing in activity after the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts took off in 2005. The company most recently promoted “MFC 29: Conquer” two weeks ago in Winsor, Ontario with names like Marcus Davis, Hermes Franca, Douglas Lima, and Ryan Jimmo in action.