This year marked the beginning of the Professional Fighters League’s Challenger Series, which provides a platform for up-and-coming MMA prospects to compete for developmental contracts and spots in PFL’s main tournaments. The PFL Challenger Series has been airing on FuboTV from Universal Studios, but the most recent show is now the center of a gambling controversy.
ESPN reports that the card broadcast on April 1st, while advertised as a live event both by FuboTV and PFL’s own weigh-ins press release, was actually taped a week in advance. This resulted in betting odds moving heavily in favor of the eventual winning fighters.
On Saturday, U.S. Integrity, a Las Vegas-based company that monitors betting markets, sent an alert to sportsbooks saying it confirmed with the PFL that the fights were pre-taped on March 25.
“As such, it’s very possible that any potentially suspicious wagering activity is indicative of nefarious behavior,” U.S. Integrity wrote in the alert, obtained by ESPN, and recommended that sportsbooks that offered wagering on the event notify state regulators.
Arizona’s Department of Gaming has removed PFL from its wagering catalogue, while other states such as Nevada, New Hampshire, and Colorado are either investigating the matter or are aware of the situation.
PFL didn’t explain why this particular event was shown on a delay.
“Any sportsbooks that took bets on the prerecorded program did so without the consent or knowledge of the PFL,” Mack wrote in an email, adding that the PFL “will further evaluate the matter.” According to a statement from the PFL included in U.S. Integrity’s alert, the league “entered confidentiality agreements with everyone involved.”
Mack also wrote that the “PFL did not include any betting lines, content, or promotion in connection with the program.” But the league posted several teases to the event on Twitter, including one tweet on Friday evening that posted photos of fighters in the octagon and said “checking out tonight’s office,” and directed people to the streaming link on fuboTV.
“The PFL Challenger Series is typically streamed live on Fubo Sports Network,” Jennifer Press, senior vice president of communications for fuboTV, told ESPN. “The April 1 event was the lone exception and pre-taped. We inadvertently used the same promo copy for the April 1 show as we did for previous shows, which was a mistake. We regret the error.”
BetMGM listed heavyweight Rakim Talley as a -295 favorite, but he soared all the way up to -2500 ahead of his eventual win over Santino Zurita.
One bettor, Kyle Miller, said he was told that this event had already been recorded, but since he didn’t find any evidence of his own to suggest that it was true, he placed wagers on PFL Challengers 7 but as of this writing, the winnings that were credited to his account have since been revoked.
“The bets that I placed won. They all won,” Miller said. “The money was in my account ... everything was good. Then I log in [Sunday] to place some more bets on UFC this week, and that money was gone.”
DraftKings Sportsbook, which has a multiyear gambling and daily fantasy partnership with PFL, offered betting odds on PFL Challengers 7 in several states, and told ESPN that they operated under the pretense that it was a live show.
“At the time we believed the event in question was live. After noticing unusual activity on a number of fights, DraftKings removed the markets,” according to the statement. “We are working with regulatory bodies to determine the appropriate course of action.”
This certainly isn’t the type of attention or issue that PFL wants on its hands as the promotion prepares for its 2022 regular season on April 20th.