At UFC 235 this past weekend in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, veteran welterweight fighter Robbie Lawler nearly pounded former Olympic wrestler and 2/1 favourite Ben Askren into a first-round TKO success. 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 initial round, completed the comeback, finishing it with a bulldog choke.
Respected referee Herb Dean saw Lawler’s arm dangle limp while he attempted to extricate himself from the choke, causing Dean to halt the fight in what goes down as a entry win for Askren. While contentious and unlucky for Lawler (and his backers), it was understandable, and also the popular Lawler immediately turned from aggrieved to praising Dean and expressing his understanding (transcript here.)
The NFL is the king of U.S sports betting, but combined martial arts offers something different, in some ways better and more exciting, and indeed controversial at times, same as every game. Certain events, even to get a marginally niche game now in its first year of a distribution deal on ESPN platforms, can create the gambling handle seen in an excellent NFL game.
“Everyone knows a struggle”
Exposure to more mainstream audiences via ESPN and FOX Sports 1, via a previous deal, continues to increase MMA’s profile. To get to this point, UFC and other promotions like Bellator have long embraced and understood the engagement value of sports gambling.
“The UFC was on the forefront of sport wagering content,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, informed Sports Manage. “They embraced it by adding odds on the sites on telecasts. And the announcers will mention the gambling favorites throughout the conflicts. Also they have their personal produced betting show that airs before every pay-per-view on UFC Fight Pass, which assists.”
The PGA Tour, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League likewise have”evolved” because the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering outside Nevada. Each of the commissioners of those leagues currently tout the virtues of increased involvement courtesy sports wagering, fabricate new monetization opportunities, and delight in those that have already come.
But while each of those leagues, particularly MLB, seek to build new sports gambling bridges using proprietary Statcast figures, as an example, there’s no learning curve to start gambling on mixed martial arts.
“I think it comes down to it being a fight. And what I mean by that is that when you are dealing with a lot of different sports, then you are handling a lot of variables, the principles of football, baseball, basketball,” veteran MMA writer-reporter Damon Martin told Sports Handle. “And there is a guttural instinct in everybody when it comes down to it.