At UFC 235 last weekend in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, veteran welterweight fighter Robbie Lawler nearly pounded former Olympic wrestler and 2/1 favorite Ben Askren into a first-round TKO victory. But Askren, making his first UFC appearance, managed to endure Lawler’s early onslaught of body and head shots, and about two minutes after, at 3:20 in the first round, completed the comeback, ending it with a bulldog choke.
Respected referee Herb Dean watched Lawler’s arm limp while he attempted to extricate himself in the choke, causing Dean to halt the fight in what goes down as a submission win for Askren. While controversial and unfortunate for Lawler (along with his backers), it was clear, and the popular Lawler immediately turned from aggrieved to praising Dean and expressing his own comprehension (transcript here.)
The NFL is the king of U.S sports gambling, but mixed martial arts offers something different, in some ways better and more exciting, and indeed controversial at times, same as every sport. Certain events, even to get a somewhat niche sport now in its very first year of a distribution deal on ESPN platforms, can generate the gambling handle seen in an excellent NFL game.
“Everyone knows a fight”
Exposure to more mainstream audiences via ESPN and FOX Sports 1, through an earlier deal, continues to increase MMA’s profile. To get to this point, UFC and other promotions such as Bellator have long embraced and understood the participation value of sports betting.
“The UFC has been on the forefront of sport wagering content,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, told Sports Manage. “They embraced it by including chances on the websites on telecasts. And the announcers will mention the betting favorites throughout the fights. They also have their own produced gaming show which airs before each pay-per-view on UFC Fight Pass, which assists.”
The PGA Tour, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League alike have”evolved” because the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering out Nevada. Each of the commissioners of those leagues currently tout the virtues of greater engagement anyhow sports wagering, fabricate new monetization opportunities, and enjoy the ones that have come.
But while every one of these leagues, particularly MLB, attempt to build new sports betting bridges with proprietary Statcast figures, for instance, there’s no learning curve to begin betting on mixed martial arts.
“I think it comes down to it being a fight. And what I mean by that is that if you’re managing a lot of different sports, then you are handling lots of factors, the principles of soccer, baseball, basketball,” veteran MMA writer-reporter Damon Martin told Sports Manage. “And there’s a guttural instinct in everybody when it comes down to it.