MMA Betting Interest Grows, But Is This Really a Problem?

Dana WhiteMixed Martial Arts is what boxing used to be, an intriguing sport featuring individuals fighting each other for prize money and rewarding bettors who back them.  While MMA is certainly not horse racing, where wagering is not only accepted but promoted, its biggest organization – the UFC – is run by the Fertitta family who also owns interests in Las Vegas-based Station Casinos.  If you watched the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, you probably saw the commercial for a horse betting website.  MMA is not to that point yet and may never be, but betting on it only continues to grow. There is simply no hiding the fact that MMA and gambling are linked to some degree even though the UFC has recently tried to downplay the connection after UFC president Dana White was jokingly portrayed as betting on light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones when he defended his title against “Suga” Rashad Evans at UFC 145 on April 21.  The joke went too far, as White denied the allegations and had to talk to Evans about the situation to assure him he would never do such a thing. Still, White has made it a point to announce MMA odds on his Twitter account and is happy Las Vegas casinos put betting lines up on his fights.  He does not believe the sport’s relationship to gambling hurts its legitimacy, especially since the UFC’s home base is in Vegas, where betting on sports is legal.  The challenge lies in trying to convince other big states like New York to sanction future UFC events because betting on MMA and other sports is illegal there. Other major sports such as the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB do not support betting despite the fact that millions wager on their games every year.  But does the UFC and other MMA organizations really fit into that same category?  Definitely not.  UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen openly talked about MMA betting on Joe Rogan’s podcast, and the first question of the press conference promoting Saturday’s Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Final dealt with MMA odds.  There is no way around it because it is a big part of MMA just like boxing and has been accepted at the top by prominent figures like White. The bigger MMA gets, the more the issue of betting on it will be discussed.  Online gambling overall continues to be a hot topic as well, and it will get even hotter if legislation is passed in the United States sometime in the near future that makes it legal to bet on sports anywhere, anytime.  As the popularity of the UFC grows, so will the interest in MMA betting. And as long as White embraces it and does not participate in that part of the action himself, it should not be considered a problem.

Written by Matty

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