Sportsbooks Report Largest Handle in Gambling History after UFC Events

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  • With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down most major American sports leagues, the UFC was the first to return with three events in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • UFC 249, UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira, and UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris were all held within seven days.
  • The UFC is the first major sports promotion in the United States to operate under strict quarantine protocols.

UFC President Dana White and his team have been vocal about bringing sports back into the viewer’s home, despite strict protocols on large-scale events across the United States. Where most major sports leagues suspended their schedules entirely, the UFC has been the frontrunner when trying to keep their promotion running.

While the UFC did their best to resist canceling their scheduled fight cards, even displaying their March 14th Brasilia card to an empty audience, recommendations by the government and health officials forced them to suspend five scheduled cards between the dates of March 21st and May 2nd.

Upon the promotion’s return, beginning with UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje, sportsbooks were expecting their revenues to buoy, but not quite at the rate that was seen. The UFC’s first event back generated handle that sets records for many major sportsbooks.

UFC 249 Sets Sportsbook Records

Director of Communications Patrick Eichner of PointsBet spoke to the UFC’s return at their UFC 249 event in Jacksonville, Florida.

“On overall handle, this UFC 249 card ended up slightly outperforming Conor McGregor’s return to the octagon in UFC 246. Those two events have blown every other UFC event to date out of the water, with handles comparable to a full weekend’s worth of NBA games.”

To put that in perspective, UFC 249 was a one-off event that aired for approximately five hours including the undercard. A typical weekend in the NBA consists of 20 to 30 games, with 48-minute matches across 30 different teams. Suffice to say, sports bettors were prepared for the UFC to return and were liberal in their wagers.

Names Don’t Matter

One of the biggest contending factors for the return of sports is the opinion of the athletes themselves. Few want to put themselves at risk of a return to play, so when the UFC returned none expected the biggest names to be put into play.

UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris pitted a 40-year-old veteran in Alistair Overeem against journeyman heavyweight Walt Harris whose name has become more popular due to the nationwide story behind his family tragedy.

UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira saw a Light Heavyweight contender in Anthony Smith, face off against 40-year-old Glover Teixeira. Even the biggest card of the week, UFC 249, saw it’s main event shuffled as Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov had to pull out of the match in favor of Justin Gaethje, due to issues with Russian air travel.

Despite the lack of big-name fighters, it didn’t detract sports bettors who more than welcomed the opportunity to put wagers down on a well-recognized promotion.

Is the UFC A Model for What’s to Come?

Many sports leagues across the United States are hoping to return to play quickly. The NFL and the MLB are looking to bring their seasons into play as soon as possible, while the NBA, NHL, and MLS are trying to come to an agreement on how to resume their seasons.

A tournament format behind closed doors seems to be the most common suggestion when it comes to resuming suspended seasons. The MLS recently came together to lay a preliminary outline for a season-concluding tournament.

The UFC has the benefit of being an individual promotion. Representing singularly contracted individuals, versus the franchise format of major league sports teams. The likes of the NBA and the MLS have been open with their players regarding compensation and a return to play, but it doesn’t seem as if they are close.

How Did the Sportsbooks Fare?

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Colorado, stated that UFC 249 alone accounted for one-third of their total MMA handle for 2020 so far. That is almost four times more than what the UFC’s March 7th, UFC 248 card generated.

William Hill reported the largest bet of the weekend, with a high-roller wagering more than $100,00 on Tony Ferguson at -210.

The UFC has been smart in how they are approaching their continued programming during this dead time in sports. Sportsbooks are feeling optimistic, with an expected influx of new bettors as major leagues come back into play one-by-one.

UFC Sports Betting FAQs

What are the most bet on UFC events?

UFC 249 took the top spot for most sportsbooks as the most bet on Mixed Martial Arts event across promotions. It overtook UFC 229: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor.

What is the most bet on UFC matchup?

The most bet on UFC matchup was at UFC 229: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor. The marquee matchup between Dagestani Khabib Nurmagomedov and Irishman Conor McGregor remains the most bet on matchup in UFC history.

Who are the highest-paid UFC Fighters?

UFC Fighters are not paid on a salary but based on scheduled fights and performance bonuses. The following are some of the top earners:

  1. Conor McGregor (Ireland) – $15.2 Million
  2. Alistair Overeem (UK/Netherlands) – $9.8 Million
  3. Khabib Nurmagomedov (Russia) – $8.6 Million
  4. Anderson Silva (Brazil) – $8.1 Million
  5. Michael Bisping (UK)/Georges St-Pierre (Canada) – $7 Million

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