UFC Return Provides Big Boost for Sportsbooks, Third Card in Eight Days Coming Saturday

Posted on: May 14, 2020, 08:23h. 

Last updated on: May 15, 2020, 09:31h.

The UFC typically generates modest business for sportsbooks when compared to heavy hitters like the NFL or March Madness. But when UFC 249 provided bettors with the first major sporting event in months last Saturday, it proved that gamblers were hungry to wager on live sports.

UFC 249 record handle
Justin Gaethje (left) throws a punch at Tony Ferguson (right) during the main event of UFC 249 on May 9, 2020. (Image: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

UFC 249 generated record handle for sportsbooks across the United States, with some operators reporting betting on the level of a full weekend of major sports.

Bettors Flock to Sportsbooks for UFC 249

Several sportsbooks reported that UFC 249 was attracting more action than any other UFC card ever. But that only begins to describe just how much bettors were spending, even on preliminary fights that generally attract very little attention.

“UFC 249 is officially the most-bet MMA event in DraftKings Sportsbook history – and the main card hasn’t even started yet,” DraftKings’ Stephen Miraglia told the Action Network.

After the show ended, it was clear to many oddsmakers that UFC 249 would go down in the record books.

On overall handle, this UFC 249 card ended up slightly outperforming Conor McGregor’s return to the Octagon in UFC 246,” PointsBet director of communications Patrick Eichner told multiple media outlets. “Those two events have blown every other UFC event to date out of the water, with handles comparable to a full weekend’s worth of NBA games.”

Oddsmakers made out well in large part because of an upset in the main event. Justin Gaethje scored a fifth-round knockout of Tony Ferguson in their interim lightweight title fight after coming in as a +160 underdog, according to William Hill. Several sportsbooks reported heavy liability on Ferguson heading into the main event.

Action Continues Saturday with Overeem vs. Harris

While sportsbooks haven’t reported total handle on Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Teixeira show, it was clear that there was bigger betting than for a typical non-pay-per-view card.

William Hill reported that one bettor put down $16,500 on Michael Johnson (-110) to beat Thiago Moises. The bookmaker won big on that wager, as Moises submitted Johnson with a heel hook. The sportsbook also noted that 92 percent of the handle on the main event was on Anthony Smith. Glover Teixeira upset Smith by fifth-round TKO after a dominant display.

The UFC action continues on Saturday with the third event in just eight days. While it’s another standard show without any title fights, UFC on ESPN: Overeem vs. Harris features another deep card with several intriguing bouts that feature ranked fighters.

No. 9 ranked heavyweight Walt Harris enters the main event as a -160 favorite over No. 8 ranked Alistair Overeem (+128). In the co-main event, No. 6 contender Claudia Gadelha (-200) takes on Angela Hill (+160) in women’s strawweight action.

Other main card fights include a featherweight clash between Dan Ige (+108) and Edson Barboza (-135), as well as a middleweight fight featuring Eryk Anders (+132) and Krzysztof Jotko (-165).