The UFC could have a gambling problem brewing.
At the current time, the UFC does not seem to have any rules when it comes to UFC fighters, or anyone related to those fighters, wagering on UFC fights. Or, at the very least, the promotion does not enforce those rules if it does have them.
Evidence of this is easy to find.
In 2011, Diego Sanchez told ESPN that he had bet $100 on Tito Ortiz to defeat Ryan Bader.
After his second-round TKO win over Naoyuki Kotani at UFC Fight Night 46, Norman Parke told UFC commentator Dan Hardy that he thought his bet on himself had earned him five grand from Paddy Power.
In 2018, James Vick told MMA Junkie he was waiting until the last minute to bet on himself against Justin Gaethje.
More recently, Anthony Rocco Martin took a photo of seven losing betting slips worth $9,600 from UFC 245. Martin wrote that he was going to stick to betting on himself in the future.
So in other words. I’ll stick to betting on myself. And I need a fight lmao pic.twitter.com/UL9s90TlFV— Anthony Rocco Martin (@TonyRoccoMartin) December 16, 2019
With the UFC preparing a live-betting product that, according to Bloomberg News, “will feature more than 50 betting opportunities per bout, including 20 new types of wagers updated in real time.”
Some of these new betting options are concerning because they could open up the UFC and its fighters to questions of fight-fixing or stat-fixing.
To eliminate or reduce those questions, the UFC will likely need to come up with clear and concise rules on wagering on UFC fights for UFC employees, the fighters and their teams. Those rules might need to include others outside of the fighters and their immediate camps.
Rules on gambling are not uncommon in other major U.S. sports.
The NBA Constitution states:
“Any person who, directly or indirectly, wagers money or anything of value on the outcome of any game played by a Team in the league operated by the Association shall, on being charged with such wagering, be given an opportunity to answer such charges after due notice, and the decision of the Commissioner shall be final, binding, conclusive, and unappealable. The penalty for such offense shall be within the absolute and sole discretion of the Commissioner and may include a fine, suspension, expulsion and/or perpetual disqualification from further association with the Association or any of its Members.”
The NFL Gambling Policy forbids illegal gambling. It also has 10 restrictions on legal gambling. The first two of those constraints make it clear that the NFL is serious about any legal sports betting for its employees.
1. Betting on Football: All NFL Personnel are prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating any bet, whether directly or indirectly through third-party, on any NFL game, practice or other event. This includes betting on game outcome, statistics, score, performance of any individual participant, or any other kind of “proposition bet” on which wagering is offered.
2. Betting on Other Sports: All NFL Personnel other than Players are further prohibited from placing, soliciting, or facilitating bets on any other professional (e.g., NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA, USTA, MLS), college (e.g., NCAA basketball), international (e.g., World Baseball Classic World Cup), or Olympic sports competition, tournament or event.
The NFL goes so far as to prohibit personnel from even visiting a Sportsbook during the season.
MLB has Rule 21, which covers wagering:
(1) Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform, shall be declared ineligible for one year.
(2) Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.
(3) Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who places bets with illegal book makers or agents for illegal book makers, shall be subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct. Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who operates or works for an illegal bookmaking business shall be subject to a minimum of a one-year suspension by the Commissioner.
The NHL has a much more succinct mention gambling in its collective bargaining agreement. It merely states, “Gambling on any NHL Game is prohibited.”
According to Bloomberg, any Sportsbook that uses the app “will pay a licensing fee for the software, and a share of gross gaming yield for access to the data.” The UFC did not reveal those costs to Bloomberg.
If the UFC wants to appear above the board when it comes to live-betting, it’s going to need to come up with some written — and enforced — rules when it comes to wagering on fights.
The UFC was asked about its gambling rules, but did not reply. This story will be updated if the UFC does respond.