The UFC has added language to its fighter code of conduct to strengthen – and clarify – betting on UFC fights. In addition, the UFC has partnered with one of the most respected sports wagering monitoring firms, U.S. Integrity.
These moves, along with the decision to no longer allow fighters to bet on their own fights, are good news for UFC bettors in Maryland and beyond.
UFC fighter code of conduct updates good for sports betting
Now that Maryland online sports betting is live, Marylanders can finally bet on UFC fights via their phone, tablet or laptop. And so far, bettors have overwhelmingly responded.
The problem, however, is that UFC fighters have long since been responding likewise.
Up until October 2021, UFC fighters could bet on matches they fought in — something no athlete in the NFL, NHL, MLB or NBA has ever been able to do.
This led some to question the integrity of the sport — and rightly so, as it turned out.
Past UFC rules led to integrity questions
Last November, U.S. Integrity, which identifies “suspicious behavior by analyzing changes in betting data against a benchmark of normal betting activity,” informed sportsbooks about unusual UFC betting activities.
The alert had to do with the Nov. 5 UFC fight between the James Krause-coached Darrick Minner and Shayilan Nuerdanbieke.
In the hours leading up to the fight, Nuerdanbieke moved from a -220 favorite to -420. Some out-of-the-ordinary action on the fight included wagers for Nuerdanbieke to win via first-round knockout and for the fight to last fewer than 2-1/2 rounds.
The bets that came in for Nuerdanbieke — who had no previous finishes with the UFC — cashed in when he capitalized on a pre-existing injury to Minner’s leg. He scored a knockout win 67 seconds into the fight.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Krause, Minner and another UFC fighter with ties to Krause, Jeff Molina. The suspensions will remain in place until investigators conclude ongoing investigations into the betting activity around that fight.
Changes made to the UFC code of conduct
In mid-October 2022, the UFC made its first major change to the fighter code of conduct. The UFC sent fighters a memo concerning wagering on fights that read:
“Athletes are prohibited from placing any wagers (directly or through a third party) on any UFC match, including placing any wagers on themselves. In most states with legalized sports betting, wagering by an athlete (directly or through a third party) on any MMA match put on by a promoter with which they are affiliated is illegal and may result in criminal sanction.”
The memo also discussed people around fighters who might be betting on matches.
“Athletes should also be aware that in most states, these same prohibitions apply to some or all of (i) relatives living in the same household as an athlete, (ii) an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, medical professionals and staff, and (iii) any other person with access to non-public information regarding participants in any MMA match. An athlete that becomes aware or has knowledge of any wagering in violation of these restrictions must immediately notify UFC of such incident in accordance with this UFC Athlete Conduct Policy.”
In mid-January 2023, more language was added to the UFC code of conduct related to betting on events.
The announcement read:
“We have also expanded our discussion of so-called ‘UFC Insiders’ to make clear that these same prohibitions against wagering apply to an athlete’s coaches, managers, handlers, athletic trainers, and other individuals affiliated with the athletes or UFC, and that violations by these insiders may result in disciplinary action against related contract athletes.”
What this means for UFC bettors
To date, there has only been one public investigation into UFC fight fixing. Investigators found that in November 2015, Tae Hyun Bang was offered money to throw a fight against Leo Kuntz in South Korea. He did not do so, but he was found guilty of accepting the money. Bang and the three people who gave him money were sent to prison.
Despite just one investigation, the idea of UFC fighters betting on their own fights never offered a good visual for the sport. The UFC’s actions are all positive steps for bettors.
- UFC changing its policy on fighters wagering on their fights
- UFC strengthening its language on wagering
- The body hiring U.S. Integrity
- UFC cutting ties with Krause and all UFC fighters he coaches while investigations are ongoing
While the UFC was slow to catch up with other major American sporting organizations, it is closing the gap.
That fact should make UFC bettors feel more confident that their bets are made in good faith and that there are safeguards in place to avoid nefarious actions.