The UFC made headlines recently with the announcement that they had inserted language to the promotion’s ‘Code of Conduct’ banning contracted fighters from gambling on MMA. Already considered illegal in most states, it’s hard to know what exactly prompted the change just now. It could be that the move is motivated by plans the Endeavor-owned organization announced several years ago, to introduce their own sports betting app to the market.
Whatever the reasoning, and whatever the overarching legality of the practice, however, it’s not surprising that the news wouldn’t be well received by fighters—many of whom regularly bet both on MMA fights in general, and sometimes even on themselves to win upcoming bouts.
Former UFC double-champ Henry Cejudo recently got wind of the news, and gave his thoughts on a YouTube Q&A session. From the sound of things, he’s not a fan.
“So we cannot bet? That’s crazy, man!” Cejudo exclaimed (transcript via Sportskeeda). “There has to be a—I don’t, I mean, whatever dude. So we can’t bet on any fights? None? Yeah, but how does that make it legal? Did we sign a contract? Did we sign a waiver or something along the lines that doesn’t let us bet? I don’t get it.”
The couple things Cejudo seems to be missing here are, first off, that when fighters sign on to fight for the UFC, they’re automatically agreeing to the ‘Code of Conduct’ as part of that contract. Just like they are also agreeing to the UFC’s outfitting policy and the USADA drug testing policy. By signing their contracts, fighters have essentially given the promotion free reign to change these agreements at any time.
Also, in terms of the legality ‘Triple C’ had questions about, as the UFC’s memo noted, the kind of gambling fighters have been doing and that the UFC is now banning is already illegal in many parts of the US. Just because fighters haven’t been getting prosecuted for it, doesn’t make it a legal right that’s being taken away. It’s hard to see how fighters could petition a court to fight a contract stipulation telling them not to engage in illegal activity.
No doubt this will all still come as a hard slap in the face to many of these athletes who see gambling on their sport as a great secondary source of income, but at least for now, it seems like a reality they’re going to have to take without a fight.