At UFC 235 last weekend in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, veteran welterweight fighter Robbie Lawler nearly pounded former Olympic wrestler and 2/1 favourite Ben Askren into a first-round TKO victory. However Askren, making his first UFC appearance, managed to endure Lawler’s early onslaught of head and body shots, and about two minutes after, at 3:20 in the initial round, completed the comeback, ending it with a bulldog choke.
Respected referee Herb Dean saw Lawler’s arm dangle limp while he tried to extricate himself from the choke, causing Dean to halt the struggle in what goes down as a submission win for Askren. While contentious and unlucky for Lawler (and his backers), it was understandable, and also the popular Lawler quickly turned from aggrieved to praising Dean and expressing his comprehension (transcript here.)
The NFL is the king of U.S sports gambling, but mixed martial arts offers something different, in some ways better and more intriguing, and indeed controversial occasionally, same as every sport. Certain events, even for a marginally niche game now in its first year of a distribution deal on ESPN platforms, can create the betting handle seen in a good NFL game.
“Everyone understands a struggle”
Exposure to more mainstream audiences via ESPN and FOX Sports 1, via an earlier deal, continues to raise MMA’s profile. For to this this point, UFC and other promotions such as Bellator have long embraced and understood the engagement value of sports gambling.
“The UFC has been on the forefront of sport wagering content,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, told Sports Handle. “They chased it by including odds on the websites on telecasts. And the announcers will mention the gambling favorites during the conflicts. They also have their own produced gaming show which airs before each pay-per-view on UFC Fight Pass, which helps.”
The PGA Tour, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League likewise have”evolved” since the Supreme Court struck down the 1992 national ban on full scale sports wagering outside Nevada. Every one of the commissioners of those leagues now tout the merits of greater involvement courtesy sports wagering, fabricate new monetization opportunities, and delight in the ones that have already come.
But while every one of these leagues, especially MLB, attempt to build new sports gambling bridges using proprietary Statcast figures, as an instance, there’s no learning curve to start gambling on combined martial arts.
“I think it comes right down to it turned into a fight. And what I mean by that is that if you are dealing with a lot of different sports, you’re handling a lot of variables, the nuances of football, baseball, basketball,” veteran MMA writer-reporter Damon Martin told Sports Handle. “And there’s a guttural instinct in everybody when it comes down to it.
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