Why the UFC’s Support of Sports Betting May Actually Keep MMA Honest


(Owning a sports promotion *and* a gambling conglomerate seems like a conflict of interest. But in reality, legal sports gambling actually makes suspicious behavior easier to spot. / Photo via Getty)

The UFC’s public support of expanding regulated sports betting in the United States should come as a surprise to no one. UFC co-owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III are heirs to the Station Casinos empire — with Frank currently serving as Station Casinos’ Chairman & CEO — and UFC President Dana White has a famous gambling habit that occasionally affects the promotion’s business relationships. UFC broadcasts feature gambling lines during fighter introductions, and the pre-fight panel show often features a Vegas bookmaker discussing lines.

The UFC revealed its stance on sports betting to ESPN on Thursday, who framed the story within the legal situation ongoing in New Jersey. On October 17th, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation repealing the state’s ban on sports gambling. One week later, federal judge Michael Shipp issued a restraining order preventing local racetracks and casinos from taking bets on sports. The restraining order comes by request of the four major sports organizations in the U.S., who have a pending lawsuit to permanently prevent the state from allowing sports betting.

Shipp said the leagues demonstrated they would suffer “irreparable harm” if New Jersey allowed race tracks and casinos to accept wagers, adding: “More legal gambling leads to more total gambling, which in turns leads to an increased incentive to fix plaintiffs’ matches.”

This is horseshit.

The sports betting industry will thrive whether it’s legal in brick-and-mortar casinos outside of Nevada or not. Joe Sports Fan can find someone to book his action, whether it’s an offshore, online book or his kinda-shady buddy at work. And as long as there’s some financial incentive riding on a game (and this includes a league’s own incentives), there’s some risk for match fixing. Increasing the legal availability of sports betting doesn’t change that risk.

It does, however, affect the ability to police it.


(Owning a sports promotion *and* a gambling conglomerate seems like a conflict of interest. But in reality, legal sports gambling actually makes suspicious behavior easier to spot. / Photo via Getty)

The UFC’s public support of expanding regulated sports betting in the United States should come as a surprise to no one. UFC co-owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III are heirs to the Station Casinos empire — with Frank currently serving as Station Casinos’ Chairman & CEO — and UFC President Dana White has a famous gambling habit that occasionally affects the promotion’s business relationships. UFC broadcasts feature gambling lines during fighter introductions, and the pre-fight panel show often features a Vegas bookmaker discussing lines.

The UFC revealed its stance on sports betting to ESPN on Thursday, who framed the story within the legal situation ongoing in New Jersey. On October 17th, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation repealing the state’s ban on sports gambling. One week later, federal judge Michael Shipp issued a restraining order preventing local racetracks and casinos from taking bets on sports. The restraining order comes by request of the four major sports organizations in the U.S., who have a pending lawsuit to permanently prevent the state from allowing sports betting.

Shipp said the leagues demonstrated they would suffer “irreparable harm” if New Jersey allowed race tracks and casinos to accept wagers, adding: “More legal gambling leads to more total gambling, which in turns leads to an increased incentive to fix plaintiffs’ matches.”

This is horseshit.

The sports betting industry will thrive whether it’s legal in brick-and-mortar casinos outside of Nevada or not. Joe Sports Fan can find someone to book his action, whether it’s an offshore, online book or his kinda-shady buddy at work. And as long as there’s some financial incentive riding on a game (and this includes a league’s own incentives), there’s some risk for match fixing. Increasing the legal availability of sports betting doesn’t change that risk.

It does, however, affect the ability to police it. While Shipp buys into the match fixing fallacy, regulated sports betting makes it easier to detect suspicious activity. The UFC understands this. UFC Executive Vice President and COO Lawrence Epstein told ESPN, “Sports wagering done in a way, like Nevada, that is properly regulated will give more confidence to fans that games and fights aren’t fixed.”

We’ve already seen this scenario play out in professional tennis. Tennis and MMA may seem to have little in common on a base level, but they are very comparable for our purposes. Both sports feature two individuals (ignoring doubles in tennis and two-on-two MMA), there’s a market for wagering (this Sports on Earth article notes that tennis is the third-most popular sport to gamble on in Europe, Asia, and Australia), and a meritocratic pay model which rewards the top athletes with the lion’s share of the prize money.

Tennis has seen a rash of match-fixing scandals over the last few years, including the most recent scandal featuring Italian players Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace. While Bracciali and Starace were done in by intercepted Internet communications, analyzing betting patterns can detect abnormalities in play.

A study of over 6,200 first-round matches on both the men and women’s tours suggested an average of 23 matches are fixed each year. The study looked for betting market prices that varied widely from the study’s two predictive models. The study found 20 cases that deviated from the models by 16 to 29 percent, which could have resulted from wagers amounting to as little as $100,000 on lower-ranked players.

Betfair, the world’s largest internet betting exchange,* closed wagering and refused to settle bets in a 2007 match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. At one point during the match, Arguello, then-ranked 87th in the ATP rankings, was still an 11-8 favorite after losing the first set 6-2 to Davydenko, ranked 4th in the ATP and the tournament’s top seed. Davydenko retired from the match in the third set. An ATP investigation cleared Davydenko and Arguello, though “investigators were unable to review phone records that were first withheld and then destroyed.” However, the overwhelming wagering evidence seems to indicate something was up.

* An exchange differs from a traditional sportsbook. Bettors set their own odds and the exchange matches up gamblers who take opposing sides.

A similar, if more damning case, took place this past August in a match between Boy Westerhof and Antal van der Duim. Early betting on the match favored van der Duim as a 75.7% favorite, and the match drew more than eight times as much money wagered than other matches in the tournament. After losing the first set, the odds on van der Duim dropped to 71.9%. From the article: “In other words, losing the first set has made no difference to his chance of winning the match.” This shady betting pattern continued throughout the match until van der Duim – surprise! – won 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

If you’re still unconvinced that betting markets can help snuff out match fixing, the Guardian’s article on Davydenko and Arguello notes that the ATP has an information exchange agreement with Betfair and other UK and European books.

It shouldn’t take much prodding to see how the UFC could be vulnerable to fight fixing. One need only look at the purse numbers for prelim fighters. Considering their connections in the gaming world, it’s likely the UFC has access to wagering information as well, if not an official information exchange. And the integrity of the sport is important given its association to both boxing and professional wrestling.

Of course, the company probably also recognizes that betting on a fight can make even Darren Elkins vs. Lucas Martins a must-see affair.

UFC Fight Night 30 Betting: Machida Favored over Munoz

The next challenger for the UFC middleweight strap will probably be decided on Saturday when Mark Munoz and Lyoto Machida clash at UFC Fight Night 30 in England.
And the underdog Munoz is a very tempting play at more than 3-1 odds, according to MMA han…

The next challenger for the UFC middleweight strap will probably be decided on Saturday when Mark Munoz and Lyoto Machida clash at UFC Fight Night 30 in England.

And the underdog Munoz is a very tempting play at more than 3-1 odds, according to MMA handicappers at Odds Shark.

“If Munoz can get a hold of Machida and use his wrestling, then this is a fight where Munoz bettors can profit,” said Jack Randall of Odds Shark in an interview with me on Friday. “But Machida is slick and elusive and he is also the bigger man in this fight.”

Indeed, Machida is a former UFC champion at 205 pounds who has to cut weight to make his debut at 185 pounds. He has been in the Octagon against the best light heavyweights (Jon Jones, Shogun Rua, Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson, to name a few), and the fear for Munoz backers is that “The Dragon” will be both more elusive and more powerful.

Machida naysayers point to the fact that all four of his career losses have come in his last seven fights as evidence of the Brazilian’s decline. His lame loss to Phil Davis at UFC 163 and uninspired win over Henderson in recent fights have fueled this opinion.

The co-main event on the card from Manchester is a scrap between former lightweight contenders who are trying to remain relevant at 155 pounds.

Ross Pearson is a small underdog but will have the home crowd on his side when he faces explosive Melvin Guillard. Pearson was plus-115 at most sportsbooks as of Friday and has won two straight since getting knocked out by Cub Swanson at UFC on FX 4.

Guillard meanwhile can win quickly with a flurry of kicks and punches or lose quickly via submission when he gets sloppy. He has lost four of six overall and tends to lose whenever he steps up in class.

The biggest underdog on the card is UFC newcomer Robert Whiteford, who challenges American Jimy Hettes as a minus-525 favorite. Both men are 10-1; Whiteford has won 10 straight, while Hettes is coming off a 13-month layoff since losing his first pro fight last September.

 

UFC Fight Night 30 Odds (courtesy of BestUFCOdds.com)              

Michael Kuiper  (-275)  Brad Scott (+235) 
Jim Hettes (-525)      Robert Whiteford (+415)    
Cole Miller (-190) Andy Ogle (+165) 
Rosi Sexton (-120)  Jessica Andrade (+100)
Al Iaquinta (-145) Piotr Hallmann (+125)
Andrew Craig (-185) Luke Barnatt (+160)
John Lineker (-380) Phil Harris (+315)   
Alessio Sakara (-210) Nicholas Musoke (+175)
Norman Parke (-155)  Jon Tuck (+135) 
Jimi Manuwa (-165)  Ryan Jimmo (+145)
Melvin Guillard (-135) Ross Pearson (+115)
Lyoto Machida (-380) Mark Munoz (+315)  

      

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UFC 159: Money Line and Predictions for Entire Fight Card

UFC 159 will begin Sunday evening in New Jersey, and here’s a preview of things to come.Just at a first glance of the card, it looks like this will be an entertaining night in the Octagon. There will be good bouts all night, so be sure to follow the ac…

UFC 159 will begin Sunday evening in New Jersey, and here’s a preview of things to come.

Just at a first glance of the card, it looks like this will be an entertaining night in the Octagon. There will be good bouts all night, so be sure to follow the action.

Fans want to know who’s fighting who and how to watch. They also want to know who the favorite is going into the fight, so continue reading to find out more information on the card.

 

Betting lines via bovada.lv as of 4/26/2013.

 

Main Card

Jon Jones (-800) vs. Chael Sonnen (+500)

Michael Bisping (-175) vs. Alan Belcher (+145)

Roy Nelson (-250) vs. Cheick Kongo (+195)

Phil Davis (-335) vs. Vinny Magalhaes (+255)

Jim Miller (-325) vs. Pat Healy (+250)

The picks: Jones, Bisping, Nelson, Davis and Miller

It would be a shocker if Jones didn’t win. He is 17-1 because he is so versatile. He uses his length extremely well, and he is just an overall great fighter. Bisping is a solid fighter because he wears down his opponents.

Nelson versus Kongo has the chance to be the best fight. These two heavyweights can use power to win. Nelson wants to get the fight over as quickly as possible, but Kongo has the endurance to go for a while. Nelson is better, so he gets the nod.

Healy is making his UFC debut, and Miller is one of the best lightweights. Miller is 22-4, which is very impressive. Miller will cool off Healy, who is coming in on a six-fight winning streak.

 

FX Card

Bantamweight: Johnny Bedford (-160) vs. Bryan Caraway (+130)

Light Heavyweight: Gian Villante (+155) vs. Ovince St. Preux (-190)

Women’s Bantamweight: Sara McMann (-700) vs. Sheila Gaff (+450)

Lightweight: Rustam Khabilov (-310) vs. Yancy Medeiros (+240)

The picks: Bedford, St. Preux, McMann and Khabilov

The bantamweight matchup is the best of this group. Bedford is a great wrestler, so the advantage goes to him. It’s the opening fight of the night for this card, so it will be full of energy. Gaff is fighting up a weight class, so McMann is going to be the big favorite.


Facebook Card

Featherweight: Leonard Garcia (-185) vs. Cody McKenzie (+150)

Welterweight: Nick Catone (+120) vs. James Head (-150)

Featherweight: Steven Siler (-130) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (even)

The picks: Garcia, Head and Siler

This card could have the closest fights. These bouts all seem evenly matched, especially Garcia versus McKenzie. That fight is a toss-up, but Garcia gets the nod. He’s the better striker and wrestler. Head has good length and submissions, and Catone is struggling right now. Head is the pick in this one. 

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GSP vs. Diaz Fight Card: Final Odds and Predictions for UFC 158

UFC 158 is upon us. With a trio of high-profile welterweight fights leading the card, the UFC’s latest foray into Canada promises to excite and to satisfy.In addition, plenty of fighters on the night’s card will enjoy a significant home-court (hom…

UFC 158 is upon us. 

With a trio of high-profile welterweight fights leading the card, the UFC’s latest foray into Canada promises to excite and to satisfy.

In addition, plenty of fighters on the night’s card will enjoy a significant home-court (home-cage?) advantage, and the crowd’s enthusiastic cheers and boos will define the fights on tap.

Who will seize the moment and emerge victorious? 

Who will falter under the bright lights?

Start the slideshow to check out the final betting odds and predictions for the UFC 158 main-card fights. 

 

Note: All betting lines pulled from sports.bovada.lv

Begin Slideshow

NFL Player Wallace Gilberry Bets Rolls-Royce Against a Michael Bisping Knockout

Sometimes on this crazy blue marble of ours, you have to go bold. Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry knows the truth of that assertion. He lives it. Gilberry, who recorded 15 total tackles and 6.5 sacks in 14 games last season …

Sometimes on this crazy blue marble of ours, you have to go bold. 

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry knows the truth of that assertion. He lives it. Gilberry, who recorded 15 total tackles and 6.5 sacks in 14 games last season in Cincy, may not be a household name in many casual NFL fan circles. However, other circles may know him better. In fact, there may be entire circles out there that Gilberry is indirectly putting on a path to early retirement.

One prime candidate: the luxury automobile dealers of the greater Ohio Valley. One can almost hear them ah-oo-gahing in the boulevard after seeing Gilberry announce on YouTube over the weekend that he is betting his Rolls-Royce Phantom that UFC middleweight Michael “The Count” Bisping won’t knock out Alan Belcher in the first round when they fight April 27 at UFC 159.

“Word on the street is this Bisping guy’s been running his mouth,” Gilberry observed in the video, speaking from the back seat of the presumed Phantom in question with Belcher seated alongside him. “This is my guy right here. And I don’t appreciate it…I got a $300,000 car. We got the slips. I’m sure [Bisping’s] got something to that value, so you put your slips up, or whatever, and I’ll put the Phantom up. If you knock him out in the first round, it’s yours.”

So far, no direct public response from Bisping on the offer. However, on Sunday Bisping’s Twitter account had reposted a fan response to the bet, with the fan opining that “this is why 90% of NFL players are bankrupt within 3 years of retiring from playing.” Bisping responded to the fan Monday with a tweet of his own:

 

 

Belcher and Gilberry’s video was posted by Immunity MMA, Belcher’s training program.  

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UFC 157: The Biggest Potential Gambling Locks from Rousey vs. Carmouche

I don’t pretend to be a gambling expert. Well, I do, but all of you know that I’m pretty terrible at it.So that’s why I brought in an expert: R.J. Clifford of Sirius XM Fight Club radio joined me to take a look at the biggest lock from the upcoming UFC…

I don’t pretend to be a gambling expert. Well, I do, but all of you know that I’m pretty terrible at it.

So that’s why I brought in an expert: R.J. Clifford of Sirius XM Fight Club radio joined me to take a look at the biggest lock from the upcoming UFC 157 fight card. I went in one obvious direction, while R.J. goes in a different one.

Check out the video above and let me know YOUR biggest UFC 157 lock below!

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