NFL football may still be king of the mountain, but the UFC and MMA have certainly taken the sports betting world by storm. A recent article in the Las Vegas Sun says that the UFC has far exceeded boxing at the Vegas sports books and continues to be a favorite among gamblers.
“The action has gone up like you wouldn’t believe in UFC,” said Mike Colbert, sports book director of Cantor Gaming, which operates books at The M, Hard Rock, The Cosmopolitan and Tropicana. “You’re talking to an absolute boxing guy here, and I will be the first to admit that UFC is more popular betting-wise,” Colbert said. “I never thought I’d see the day where it’s this popular.”
It is a pretty amazing phenomenon if you think about it. MMA, well the UFC is still a fairly young sport compared to American standards like professional boxing, the NFL, and MLB betting. While MMA has been around for years as has the UFC, it only began to break out in 2005 after The Ultimate Fighter 1 finale. That is slightly more than six years ago. The idea that gamblers have preferred to place their bets on MMA over a sport like boxing which is centuries old is almost unbelievable.
Rob Akers, assistant sports book director at the Venetian and Lagasse’s Stadium agrees with his peer. “I think it’s directly related to boxing’s downfall over the last few years,” Akers said. “Pacquiao is a one-man show. He’s the only guy who can bring any handle, and people want to bet on a combat sport. They are always going to find some way to bet on one, and lately it’s been the UFC.”
I think the statement about Pacquiao is a big part of it. In boxing, you don’t have that weekly coverage of big fights that I had growing up in the 80s and 1990s. If it isn’t Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, the general public really doesn’t care. In the UFC you have dozens of recognizable names to casual MMA fans that may inspire even a novice UFC fan to place a small wager in Las Vegas. The depth of the sport is really a big reason in my opinion that the tide had turned in the favor of the UFC.
I also believe a lot of it has to do with where the fights are being aired. Fight fans need to pony up for HBO or Showtime to follow high profile championship boxers. On the other hand, the UFC fans can tune into Spike TV on a random Thursday or Sunday afternoon and watch four hours of UFC Unleashed and become instantly exposed to the top fighters in MMA. Yes I know that there is always Friday Night Boxing, but you need to put down the $5-15 a month on a premium channel to watch enough boxing that inspires you to place a boxing wager on an upcoming fight. That is just the way it is in 2011.
I also think that there are still a lot of skeptics when it comes to placing boxing bets on mid-card fights. We have all heard or read about a fixed fight in boxing which may scare off novice gamblers, where as the UFC has never had that kind of schedule. Plus, there are a lot more high profile UFC events over the year than boxing. In some cases a gambler can try and win back a UFC loss in days rather than the weeks or months that casual boxing fans have to wait for another high profile matchup.
Beyond the scandals, television, and exposure, I think the MMA fans and book makers’ lack of MMA understanding are the biggest reasons that the UFC has become more popular than boxing. I really don’t think that the general public understands MMA which make the odds very favorable to anyone who does study up and try to learn the sport.
I am not a gambler but if I was, I’d be betting MMA every weekend. If you understand the sport you can make a killing on MMA betting thanks to the rise in MMA gambling by casual fans. Until fans and Vegas smarten up, of course the UFC will remain more popular at the sports books than boxing. And with the potential loss of some regular season NFL games in the fall, MMA gambling has the potential to rise to heights never seen before in combat sports.
Read more about this at the Las Vegas Sun website.
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