Getting a Grip on MMA and UFC Betting Trends
by Richard Gardner | Bookmaker, Bodog Sportsbook - 8/26/2009
Although betting on basketball, baseball and football is still well ahead of mixed martial arts in terms of volume, there's no denying the recent surge in popularity of MMA - thanks in large part to the massive marketing machine behind the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
MMA betting has already surpassed NASCAR, which has been on the decline for a few years. And this may come as a surprise to a few fans of the sport, but these days UFC betting volume is 60 to 70 percent greater than boxing.
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With only a few super-fights a year staged in attractive locations like Las Vegas, top draws like Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya haven't done much to bring boxing up to the level of betting it once enjoyed. And now that the Golden Boy has retired from the sport, boxing fans will have to look to fights like the upcoming Nov. 14 bout between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. Neither of those guys draws much of an American audience, but over at the Bodog Sportsbook we expect to see a decent amount of action regardless of their mass U.S. appeal (or lack thereof).
Make no mistake, the UFC knows marketing and as such it is not afraid to go into the betting ring the same night as the Pacquiao-Hatton fight. Case in point? UFC 105.
UFC president Dana White has agreed to show UFC 105 via tape-delay on Spike TV that very night. Which brings to mind the rising interest in the undercard fights - another trend in MMA betting that we're seeing at Bodog.
In boxing, the undercards are usually not televised and therefore forgotten about and not seen on by a majority of bettors, as they wait for the main event. In MMA, the betting is spread out among all the undercards.
Overall, there has been only one month this year where our boxing handle was higher than MMA and that was May, which saw a big boxing fight between Pacquiao, the pound-for-pound king, and Ricky Hatton, among others.
White also has UFC 103 scheduled for Sept. 19 (the undercard on Spike with no commercial interruptions, the main events on pay-per-view), which just so happens to be Mayweather's return to the ring against Juan Manuel Marquez.
In an attempt to fight back, boxing promoters are hoping to get more views of the Mayweather-Marquez matchup by showing the bout live in about 170 theaters nationwide, with ticket prices expected to be about $15.
It'll be interesting to see how that marketing strategy stands up at the end of the night. The rise and profitability of pay-per-view ended what was a long-time U.S. trend of showing big fights in theaters. Among the last fights widely shown in them was Sugar Ray Leonard's "no mas" victory over Roberto Duran in November 1980.
So other than fancy marketing backed by a ballsy president, what has been the key to UFC's success? Besides talent and audience reach, I'd have to say frequency. The UFC usually has a great card every month or so.
Take this Saturday's UFC 102, with the main fight pitting UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champ Randy Couture against former PRIDE heavyweight and UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Couture has opened as the sizable favorite despite the fact he is 46, and the early public action seems to be all over him. Both guys enter off a loss.
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