At UFC 235 this past weekend in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, veteran welterweight fighter Robbie Lawler nearly pounded former Olympic wrestler and 2/1 favorite Ben Askren into a first-round TKO success. But Askren, making his first UFC look, managed to endure Lawler’s early onslaught of head and body shots, and about two minutes later, at 3:20 in the first round, finished the comeback, finishing it with a bulldog choke.
Respected referee Herb Dean watched Lawler’s arm 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 controversial and unlucky for Lawler (along with his backers), it was clear, 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 combined martial arts provides something different, in some ways much better and more intriguing, and indeed controversial at times, same as every sport. Certain events, even to get a marginally market sport now in its very first year of a supply deal on ESPN platforms, can create the gambling handle seen in a good NFL game.
“Everyone understands a struggle”
Exposure to more mainstream audiences through ESPN and FOX Sports 1, through a previous deal, continues to increase MMA’s profile. To get to this this point, UFC and other promotions such as Bellator have embraced and understood the participation value of sports betting.
“The UFC was on the forefront of sport wagering content,” Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, told Sports Handle. “They embraced it by including odds on the websites on telecasts. And the announcers will cite the gambling favorites during the fights. Also they have their personal 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 federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering out Nevada. Each of the commissioners of those leagues currently tout the merits of increased engagement anyhow sports wagering, manufacture new monetization opportunities, and delight in the ones that have come.
However, while every one of these leagues, particularly MLB, attempt to build new sports gambling bridges with proprietary Statcast figures, as an example, there’s no learning curve to start gambling on combined martial arts.
“I think it comes down to it turned into a fight. And what I mean by that is that when you are managing a lot of different sports, then you are handling a lot of variables, the principles of football, baseball, basketball,” veteran MMA writer-reporter Damon Martin told Sports Handle. “And there’s a guttural instinct in everyone when it comes down to it.
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